Allegations of foster abuse cover-up by HSE to be referred to Garda Commissioner and Taoiseach

Allegations that people with severe intellectual disabilities suffered rape and extreme physical abuse in a state-backed foster care home over two decades are set to be referred to the Garda Commissioner and Taoiseach Enda Kenny amid disputed claims HSE officials tried to “cover it up”.

The cross-party Dáil Public Accounts Committee took the decision after members accused state authorities of failing to act and revealed gardaí are examining if they can take a “criminal negligence” case against health service managers over what happened.

Speaking at PAC’s latest meeting yesterday, TDs from all parties confirmed they want Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan to examine the matter personally due to the gravity of the issues involved.

They agreed the files should also be sent to the Department of the Taoiseach in order to keep Enda Kenny fully informed, and alleged the HSE has “concocted” a sequence of events to claim they are fully addressing concerns.

The PAC comments were made after the Irish Examiner revealed on Wednesday that over Christmas the committee received a significantly curtailed 24-page version of a long-awaited 200-page report into the south-east foster home allegations.

The report is based on claims a single foster care family, with whom more than 40 vulnerable children and adults with severe intellectual disabilities were placed between 1983 and 2009, abused a number in their care.

After concerns were first aired in 1992, the then South Eastern Health Board ended all summer respite and longer term placements by 1995.

However, one woman who is mute and has a severe intellectual disability was left there until 2009.

Over two decades the individual, it is alleged, suffered “savage” sexual, physical and financial abuse including being sexually assaulted with a blunt instrument resulting in damage to her internal organs, living in a cubby hole under the stairs and trained to assume sexual positions when certain words were spoken.

Between 2010 and 2014 the HSE commissioned three investigations costing almost €300,000, while the Department of Health last year commissioned a senior counsel review.

The HSE has repeatedly said it cannot publish its investigations — including which managers were responsible and what if any disciplinary actions took place — due to ongoing Garda investigations, hampered by the fact the alleged victim cannot speak.

However, PAC said the delays mean the issue must now be examined by the Garda Commissioner and the Taoiseach’s department.

After PAC chair and Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness recommended all files should be sent to Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Fine Gael TD John Deasy said “send it to the Garda Commissioner’s office as well” — a move backed by Mr McGuinness, Labour TDs Joe Costello and Robert Dowds, and Fine Gael TD Áine Collins.

Describing the case as a “nightmare”, Mr Deasy said he understands gardaí are examining whether to take a “criminal negligence” case against health service officials.

Meanwhile, after the Irish Examiner reported on Wednesday that the HSE’s formal apology in the 24 pages provided to the PAC over Christmas was not made to the victim — a matter confirmed by her social worker who was in the room — a HSE spokesperson wrote to the PAC saying the apology took place.

The spokesperson said during a “10-minute meeting” an apology was given, and was also made in a phone call to the woman’s birth mother, but was done in a way to make sure no “undue distress” was caused.

Mr Deasy told the PAC he knows “exactly the tenor and content” of the meetings.

“It didn’t occur. I’ve had it checked out,” he said, claiming the HSE has “concocted” a version of what happened.


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