The full horror and torment suffered by ‘Grace’, the person at the heart of the foster care sex abuse scandal over a 20-year period, is revealed today.
Grace, the intellectually disabled child, who is now in her 40s, was sent back to the foster home she was abused in after she was hospitalised for bruising on her thighs and breasts because of confusion over what to do with her.
This is just one of a litany of abuse incidents and catastrophic failures by health officials detailed in two reports to be published today. Their publication has been delayed by up to five years.
They include allegations that another resident at the home was locked in a cupboard under the stairs.
The details of these two reports are revealed in today’s Irish Examiner.
Last night, former Public Accounts Committee chairman John McGuinness who, along with TD John Deasy, led the charge to expose the scandal, called for a full public inquiry into what he called the “cover up” of the abuse by senior health officials.
The 2012 Conal Devine Report and the Resilience Ireland Report into the foster abuse scandal reveal Grace suffered significant physical injuries before being removed from the home in 2009. The two reports are due to be published today.
The injuries include black eyes, bruises to limbs, and carpet burns on her back, while she also suffered horrendous neglect in terms of her physical condition.
The Devine Report details how an original 1996 decision to remove Grace from the home, amid allegations of sexual abuse, was overturned following representations to the then health minister Michael Noonan.
It shows that a seperate allegation of “sexual molestation” against a second child in 1995 was not properly investigated because of the absence of a formal complaint to gardaí.
The report details how Grace would begin stripping off her clothes in front of her day carers or on the bus from the foster home. It has transpired that she would do so on foot of a particular word or phrase being uttered.
The report found that, despite mounting concerns as to her safety, health officials could not agree what course of action to take, and therefore she languished in the home at risk for years.
“The staff could not agree and it took longer than it should have for action to be taken,” the report found.
In one of the most disturbing incidents on March 27, 2009, Grace was found by her day carers with bruises on her thighs and breasts.
She was sent to hospital, where staff reported the bruising to the gardaí and the Sexual Assualt Treatment Unit.
The staff did not think it would be suitable for her to stay in hospital overnight.
Staff tried to find a different place for her to stay that night but there was confusion about what was available, the report states.
Despite her injuries, she was returned to the foster home that night, which was considered the “least worst option”.
The two reports have only been published after the Irish Examiner revealed that Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan had no objection to their publication. The HSE had for several years insisted that the reports could not be published because of warnings from the gardaí.
The Cabinet today is to discuss the two reports ahead of next week, when minister of state for disability issues Finian McGrath is expected to bring the terms of reference for the Commission of Inquiry into the Grace scandal for approval.
According to the memorandum for the Cabinet this morning, Mr McGrath said the matter is of “grave concern”. “The minister intends to bring a memorandum to Government next week seeking the Government’s agreement to the establishment of the Commission of Investigation, together with the draft resolution to be laid before each House of the Oireachtas,” the memo seen by the Irish Examiner states.
The Resilience Ireland report, which will also be published today, said “potentially serious” cases involving other vulnerable adults also occurred at the home.
The report, which was drawn up in 2015 and focussed on the experiences of other people placed at the home, said a joint garda and UK police investigation was launched into claims at least one other vulnerable child who now lives in Britain was seriously abused.
Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Mr McGuinness said “a public inquiry” is now needed into what happened.
He said the five-year failure to publish the reports was “an exercise in delay”, adding that the imminent commission of investigation into the case must name who is responsible and include a full examination of still unaddressed cover-up claims.
“No one cried stop and no one accepts responsibility,” said Mr McGuinness. “That’s the headline for me. The two reports have details, but they are typical of how the HSE does its business.
“There is no doubt in my mind there has to be a public inquiry. Certainly, the allegation of a cover up hasn’t been dealt with.”
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