Families ‘utterly let down’ by Grace scandal probe

The State commission into the Grace foster abuse scandal has been severely criticised by the families of victims for being overly “hostile and adversarial”.

It comes as the Government published an interim report from the Farrelly Commission, which has requested a 12-month extention to complete its work. 

Ministers have approved the extension sought by the sole member of the commission, Marjorie Farrelly, because of the volume of work involved and a difficulty in taking testimony.

It has emerged a number of the families of the victims of abuse at the foster home are deeply upset at the “highly confrontational and adversarial” nature of the commission so far. 

The Irish Examiner has spoken to a number of victims’ relatives who feel “utterly let down” by the tone and nature of the interviews with the commission.

“We are shocked at how we have been attacked, accused almost of telling mistruths. This was not what we were expected. It has been horrendous,” said one.

At Cabinet, Disability Minister Finian McGrath is said to have brought a memo to Government seeking to approve the extension to the commission. 

Finian McGrath

Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Mr McGrath said he understood the reasons for the delays but insisted everything must be done to understand what happened and to ensure it never happens again.

“It is regrettable that the Commission will not be in a position to submit its phase 1 final report by today, as specified in the terms of reference. However, I recognise that this has not been possible due to the issues identified by the commission,” he said.

John McGuinness

Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness, who has led the way in bringing the scandal to light, criticised the delay, saying it was “typical of the lack of respect the State has for its own women”. 

Speaking to the Irish Examiner, he said: “How long more must they wait for the truth and justice?”

The interim report said the “ill health, frailty or age of some important witnesses whose evidence is desired by the Commission continues to present significant challenges to the Commission’s investigation”.

“Many of the persons the Commission believes would have had important evidence were dead before the Commission was established. A number of hearings have been adjourned,” it said.

The commission was established on foot of reports in the Irish Examiner about the deficiencies in the care of Grace and 46 other intellectually disabled people who passed through the home in the 1980s and 1990s.

Grace, a pseudonym, was placed with the foster family in 1989 when she was a child.

She remained there until 2009, despite a 1995 decision by the South Eastern Health Board to cease using the family for placements and to remove other vulnerable young people.

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