The author of the State-sanctioned report into the Grace foster abuse scandal, senior counsel Conor Dignam has called for the now imminent commission of inquiry into the case to include a series of specific issues.
They include, but are not limited to:
- Whether there was “any deliberate suppression or attempted suppression of information during the period 1996-2016 with particular reference to the period from July 2009 to March 2016 in relation to Grace’s case”. Mr Dignam said this question includes but is not limited to “an alleged danger of deliberate destruction of files or alleged threats by the HSE to the funding of the agency whose staff made protected disclosures”.
- Why the foster home at the centre of the case became a foster home, respite placement and long-term foster placement; who if anyone approved it and when; and the extent of any independent inspections, if any occurred.
- To establish the extent of the abuse suffered by Grace and others.
- The extent to which individuals and State groups knew about concerns over the foster family, and what steps they took to address concerns from the early 1990s, if any steps were taken.
- To clarify why the HSE — which at the time was the South Eastern Health Board — considered moving Grace in November 1995 before choosing not to do so.
- To explain whether a request in May 1996 by the foster family’s father to the Department of Health and then health minister Michael Noonan not to move Grace had any impact on her remaining at the home.
- A full explanation for why Grace was not removed in 1996, despite concerns being raised and other placements ending.
- The facts surrounding a February 22, 2001, meeting during which a senior social worker said “previous allegations [about the foster family] were dealt with and cannot now be resurrected as grounds to justify any decisions made in relation to planning for Grace’s long-term care”. These “previous allegations” were in fact not addressed.
- Why a March 2001 decision to gradually move Grace to another home was taken, and subsequently not acted on.
- Why Grace was removed from a waiting list for a new placement in 2004/05 by the HSE, after the foster family said they were not in favour of her being moved.
- An explanation for why the HSE did not seek wardship of Grace between 1996 and 2009.
- Why a Freedom of Information Act request from Grace’s birth mother for documents relating to her daughter was delayed for two years.
- Why was the decision taken on July 17, 2009, to move Grace, by whom, and was this decision taken to protect the HSE or to protect Grace, or both.
- A full overall of other vulnerable children and teenagers placed with the foster family to clarify whether any were abused.
- An explanation of whether the HSE should have known another person, given the pseudonym Anne, was also at the home when Grace was removed, and the full circumstances surrounding Anne’s case.
- To fully investigate all issues raised by two whistle-blower reports first given to the Department of Health in 1996.
- Review social worker deficiencies in the area where the alleged abuse took place, and the impact if any this had on the cases.