Concerns over Grace probe time extension

Grave concerns have been expressed in the Dáil over the year-long delay to the commission of inquiry into the Grace foster abuse scandal.

Brendan Howlin: "Could I ask the minister please to update us on exactly the state of play in relation to the Grace commission?"

Following on from reports in yesterday’s Irish Examiner that serious issues have arisen with the families of the victims, opposition leaders sought answers from Government.

Grace is the name given to an intellectually disabled woman who was left in a foster home in the South-East for 20 years despite allegations of serious sexual and physical abuse surrounding it. Grace is one of 47 people who went through the home during 1989 and 2009.

Labour leader Brendan Howlin called on the Government to explain why the delay has come about and when it is expected the commission, headed by senior counsel Marjorie Farrelly, will be completed.

We understand that the commission of investigation into the Grace case was granted a 12-month extension yesterday,” he said.

“It has been under way for a year now under Marjorie Farrelly and was due to submit its phase one final report around this time.

“We understand issues have been identified about possible witnesses and examining all of the necessary documents. We also understand concerns have been expressed by victims’ families of the highly confrontational and, indeed, adversarial nature of the commission’s work. This is an issue of grave concern that this House debated at some length a year ago.

“The (health) minister [who granted the extension] will know that there is a group of very vulnerable people who were to be subject to further work once the first phase was completed,” said Mr Howlin.

“There are a lot of concerned individuals who are very anxious that there would be further delay in investigating their treatment. Could I ask the minister please to update us on exactly the state of play in relation to the Grace commission?”

Education Minister Richard Bruton, standing in for the Taoiseach, said the request for the extension was on the basis of the enormous volume of documentation disclosed to it from a wide range of public bodies, organisations, and individuals, as well as the number of potential witnesses involved.

The commission believes that a further 12-month period would be consistent with the objective of having the investigation for the first phase of its work conducted and the report submitted as expeditiously as possible. The minister has granted that extension of time for 12 months,” said Mr Bruton.

He told Mr Howlin he had not received details of any requests for additional resources.

Disabilities Minister Finian McGrath expressed his “disappointment” at the delay in the commission finalising its work but said it is important Ms Farrelly be allowed time to conclude it. He said problems interviewing some of the witnesses in the Grace case could not have been predicted.

He said the extension had been sought and had been granted due to the volume of material the commission was being asked to deal with and said there had been a large number of adjournments to witness interviews as many of them were elderly and sick.

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