Clarity on abuse allegations sought

Finance Minister Michael Noonan has been called on to clarify his knowledge of how sexual abuse allegations in the south east were handled.

Mr Noonan was minister for health in the Rainbow Government between 1994 and 1997, when concerns were brought to him by a former chairman of the South Eastern Health Board.

The Government has established a Commission of Investigation into the mishandling of abuse allegations in the south east, following a series of reports in the Irish Examiner.

Yesterday, Fianna Fáil spokesperson on children, Robert Troy, demanded clarity from Mr Noonan on the issue.

He said: “This is a very serious allegation and needs to be clarified immediately. Michael Noonan should clarify what happened to these complaints and what actions were taken.”

It emerged yesterday that Garry O’Halloran, then chairman of Waterford county council, brought abuse victims and their families to the Fine Gael ard fheis to meet Mr Noonan.

But Mr Noonan did not attend the meeting, and was represented by junior minister Austin Currie.

Mr Halloran has claimed the he and the victims were initially told by Mr Currie that an inquiry would be established, but that process was never initiated due to Mr Currie concluding there was a lack of substance to the allegations.

Mr Halloran said that he quit the party because of Mr Noonan’s inaction, The Sunday Times reported.

“I then went to John Bruton, the Taoiseach, to no avail. I quit the party because of Noonan’s behaviour in lobbing it onto Currie, and the failure to set up the inquiry,” he said.

Recalling the meeting, Mr Currie insisted that he made no promise of an inquiry.

Speaking last week, he said: “I got a request to meet Garry O’Halloran and others that night. I certainly did say I would inquire into the allegations they were making. I did not say there would be an inquiry. I have a pretty firm recollection of the meeting.”

A South Eastern Health Board report on the case, which was sent to the Department of Health, said a social worker visited Monageer national school on the day after its principal contacted officials about abuse allegations, which were validated a week later.

The Ferns report by Judge Frank Murphy, which was published in 2005, criticised the health board for failing to respond properly to the allegations. It also found that gardaí failed to conduct an investigation.


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