Latest: New terms of reference for 'Grace' inquiry to go before Dáil tomorrow

Latest: New terms of reference for 'Grace' inquiry to go before Dáil tomorrow

Update 9.20pm: The Cabinet has agreed to revise the terms of reference for the so-called 'Grace' inquiry.

It is after opposition parties insisted that what they were being asked to approve would see other alleged victims in the South East foster home overlooked.

The new terms of reference will go before the Dáil tomorrow to allow for the inquiry to get underway immediately.

Update 7.30pm: Members of the Cabinet are meeting 'by phone' this evening, to approve revised terms of reference for the so-called 'Grace' inquiry.

The almost unprecedented procedure is taking place after Junior minister Finian McGrath agreed to a redraft earlier, when opposition parties insisted that what they were being asked to approve would see other alleged victims in the South East foster home overlooked.

He is insisting that no victim of abuse will be ignored.

Once Cabinet agrees to the new terms of reference tonight, they will go before the Dáil tomorrow to allow for the inquiry to get underway immediately.

Update 4pm: The Government has proposed new terms of reference into the Grace foster abuse scandal which will see the other 46 children and young adults who stayed at the home included in the Commission of Investigation, writes Daniel McConnell.

Significantly, the new terms of reference will permit investigation of allegations of a systemic cover-up by the HSE in relation to failings of care of those who stayed in the home.

The new terms, seen by the Irish Examiner, were presented to and discussed with Opposition TDs a a meeting with Minister Finian McGrath this afternoon.

Finian McGrath.
Finian McGrath.

According to sources at the meeting, the new terms were deemed acceptable to the Opposition.

This followed somewhat chaotic scenes this morning after Mr McGrath performed a u-turn and withdrew the original terms of reference to address Opposition concerns.

Mr McGrath had been severely criticised by TDs including John Deasy and John McGuinness for limiting the new inquiry to the case of Grace, while only committing to a scoping excerise after that for the other victims.

The new terms have allowed for more than one phase of the Commission's work, which will mean the Grace module will proceed first followed by the investigation into the other matters.

Significantly, the new revised terms reinstate earlier proposed terms of reference which were included in the Conor Dignam report.

“For the avoidance of doubt, this includes recommendations of the Conor Dignam report concerning actions of the HSE in terms of investigating/protecting others and the HSE's treatment of whistleblowers,” the new terms state.

Earlier in the Dail, Mr Deasy said: “Members of the Dáil should perhaps hold off from accepting anything said by the HSE on this matter. Deputy McGuinness and myself discovered that, in dealing with the HSE on this issue, the first casualty was always the truth. I would like to give some examples of what is, and was, a cover-up.”

Mr McGuinness said: “We need to find out what happened in the HSE which covered up this scandal from 1982.”

“We need to go back to the time before Grace and humanise this story. What about the 12 year old girl who was taken out of the foster home in question before Grace because her mother was told that she was attending school bruised, beaten and neglected?

"When she made complaints to the South Eastern Health Board in 1992 she was told to shut up and not to repeat the stories and she was threatened legally.”

“When she removed her child from care she had to seek care for her in Northern Ireland because the health board would not support her. How disgusting is that, yet this case will not be included in the commission of inquiry's remit. Let us put real words on this case.

"The child was battered, bruised, financially abused and sexually abused anally so that today, as an adult, she leads a life of pain and suffering. Despite this, the Minister of State does not propose to have her case investigated. We should be ashamed of ourselves,” Mr McGuinness said.

Update: 2pm: A special cabinet meeting is likely this afternoon to sign off on changes to the terms of reference for the Grace inquiry.

It is after junior minister Finian McGrath bowed to opposition pressure to include more scrutiny of other people from the same home.

Meanwhile the Dáil's heard claims that the HSE ran a conspiracy to hide the extent of the Grace case, or its problems handling it.

Fine Gael TD John Deasy outlined a series of cases where the Public Accounts Committee was misled on the case: “They told us that the people who decided to keep Grace in placement in 96 had retired, they had not.

“They told us the Gardaí had stopped them publishing the report, they had not.

“They told us they had apologised to Grace and her mother, they had not.

“So was this a conspiracy, a cover up, yes it was.”

Update 1.10pm: The Taoiseach is confident that agreement can be reached on reworked terms of reference for the Grace inquiry today, writes Elaine O'Loughlin.

Speaking in the Dáil this morning, Mr Kenny confirmed that Minister Finian McGrath is redrafting the terms of reference and will have them back by tomorrow.

All 47 children that stayed in the foster home will now be included in the commission of inquiry.

Mr Kenny told the Dáil that Mr McGrath "wants to get it right" and said "he can do that today by consultation" with opposition parties. He added that it may only take "a very small adjustment to satisfy people's demands".

Calling on the terms of reference to be expanded Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin said "it stretches credibility" to assume that Grace was the only person who was abused in the foster home in the South East.

Latest: New terms of reference for 'Grace' inquiry to go before Dáil tomorrow

He said the treatment of Grace had "shocked the nation". Mr Martin said he had spoken to the whistle-blowers last night and they were "genuinely concerned " about the terms of reference.

He said the "suppression of information and the alleged cover-up" by health workers and other officials also needs to be addressed in the terms of reference.

Mr Martin pointed out that the report compiled by Conor Dignan had recommended that an inquiry look into whether or not there was any supression or attempted suppression of information between 1996 and 2016. However, the commission has only been asked to examine the period between 2009 and 2016.

"There is no explanation as to why there is that variation between Dignam and the terms of reference," Mr Martin said.

Mr Kenny told the Dáil that he was adamant that "we will get to the bottom of what happened to Grace".

He added: "This is not the past, this is present."

Mr Kenny said Government had agreed to set up a Commission of Investigation and wanted to make sure that it is "right and proper".

"It's a matter of genuine public interest and considerable public concern," he said.

Update: 12.07pm: Minister Finian McGrath has informed the Dail he will revise the terms of reference of the Grace Commission of Inquiry to include all 47 children who stayed in the foster home, writes Daniel McConnell.

This morning during the debate, TDs John Deasy and John McGuinness claimed a systemic cover-up by the HSE in relation to the case.

Mr McGrath came under fire from all sides of the House to ensure the other children, some of whom suffered savage abuse, are included.

In a passionate speech, Mr McGrath said no one will be left behind.

“I don't do exclusions. No one will be left behind,” he said.

Latest: New terms of reference for 'Grace' inquiry to go before Dáil tomorrow

Formally, Mr McGrath was forced to withdraw the original terms of reference and will today circulate amended terms of referernce later this afternoon.

Mr McGrath was savaged in the Dail during the debate last night by Opposition TDs who described as a “betrayal” the fact the other 46 intellectually disabled people who went through the home are not included in the Inquiry's body of work, as approved by Cabinet yesterday.

Solicitors for the whistleblowers involved in Grace's case wrote to Mr McGrath last night calling for all of the others in the home to be included as well as the treatment of them and other whistleblowers by State officials.

The Irish Examiner understands the detailed 15-page letter was sent to Disabilities Minister Finian McGrath last night amid a growing backlash over the failure to formally ensure 46 other cases will also be included in the inquiry.

In a statement to this newspaper, the solicitor Mark Walsh of Kenny, Stephenson and Chapman confirmed the letter has been sent and said his clients believe the Government terms fall far short of what is required.

The second girl, who was removed from the home at the age of 12, was raped with implements over a prolonged period of time at the home, according to Waterford TD John Deasy in the Dail.

“Today, this young woman cannot be operated on because so much damage was done that to operate would threaten perforation of her bowel, which might kill her,” he said.

Earlier: The Dáil has heard claims that the foster family at the centre of the Grace case still had children in its care until 2015.

That is six years after Grace was withdrawn from the home over fears of alleged sexual abuse at the home in the south-east.

It was previously thought that the final person had been removed from the home in 2013 - but Independents4Change TDs Clare Daly and Mick Wallace said someone was there for two further years.

Deputy Wallace said that the HSE washed its hands of the problem, because the final girl in the family's care was put there privately.

Latest: New terms of reference for 'Grace' inquiry to go before Dáil tomorrow

"For the HSE to actually say 'Oh, we didn't put anyone… there's no-one in that home now…' - there was a girl there in 2015! They wouldn't tell the family … 'Oh, we wouldn't recommend you put her there'," he said.

"They didn't tell her why. Because they didn't want to lift the lid!"

If the claims are true, it would mean the foster family was continuing to take people into its care, a full six years after Grace was removed.

The Dáil is due to continue debating the terms of reference this morning.

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