Finance Minister Michael Noonan has branded suggestions he should resign due to his role in the Grace foster abuse case as “ridiculous”, insisting he has “nothing to do” with the scandal, writes Fiachra O'Cionnaith and Daniel McConnell
Mr Noonan’s comments came as the terms of reference of the inquiry in Grace’s care will, among other issues, include an examination of his role in what happened.
As the Irish Examiner revealed last year, Mr Noonan was lobbied by the father at the foster home at the centre of Grace’s care weeks before a 1996 decision to remove her from the home was reversed for still unknown reasons.
While there is no evidence Mr Noonan directly interfered, the issue has led to repeated questions over whether his decision to revert the foster family’s query to health board officials involved in the planned decision led to it being reversed.
Speaking to the Limerick Leader, Mr Noonan insisted he has “nothing to do” with the scandal and that it is a “coincidence” the decision to remove Grace was reversed after he was lobbied while health minister.
He said calls for him to step down from his position, made repeatedly on social media in recent weeks, are “ridiculous” and “very unfair”, stressing “I don’t see the connection” between his actions and the case.
“That’s a ridiculous question [whether he should resign]. I have nothing to do with the Grace case. I have made public statements on this already, and I have nothing to add to the statements I’ve made already. I always co-operate with any commission of inquiry.
“It was a coincidence I was minister for health at the time. I have had no direct involvement whatsoever in the Grace case,” he said.
Mr Noonan also controversially confirmed he was aware of the Grace case in 1996 and that the matter had been passed onto his junior minister at the time, Austin Currie.
However, while he initially said he was told Grace would be removed, “some weeks later it transpired the South Eastern Health Board had reversed the decision for some reason”.
Asked about Monday’s RTÉ interview with the mother of Grace, who described what happened as “a living hell”, Mr Noonan said he did not watch the broadcast and made no further comment.
Mr Noonan’s actions in relation to the Grace case while health minister in the mid-1990s have been the subject of repeated questions.
The terms of reference for the Grace inquiry into her case and that of 46 other people will specifically examine the matter.
In particular, this part of the inquiry will focus on what impact Mr Noonan’s decision to revert the lobbying letter to health board officials looking after the case had on the decision, and whether it inadvertently played a role in the U-turn.
However, while being the cabinet member who drew up the terms, Disabilities Minister Finian McGrath has recently said he has already spoken to Mr Noonan and personally believes that he does not have a case to answer.
This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner.