Disabilities Minister Finian McGrath will meet attorney general Máire Whelan on Thursday to discuss the draft terms of reference for the state inquiry into alleged foster-care abuse.
The talks will take place days before a ministerial-imposed deadline on when the HSE must respond to a report into the scandal. The Government last week published the Conor Dignam report into alleged serious sexual and physical abuse of vulnerable children and teenagers at a state-funded foster home in Waterford.
The alleged abuse, which is said to have taken place for more than two decades, involved 47 people with severe intellectual disabilities, including some who were mute. The most prominent individual is a woman who has been given the pseudonym ‘Grace’. Despite the fact abuse concerns emerged in 1992 and all placements were meant to cease in 1995, Grace remained at the home until 2009 due to a series of still unexplained decisions which whistleblowers allege were covered up by managers involved in what happened.
The report, conducted over 16 months by independent senior counsel Mr Dignam, was focused specifically on the HSE’s response to the allegations and in particular two still unpublished reports sought by the health body into the matter.
In response to the 309-page Dignam report, Mr McGrath said he wants the HSE to confirm if it will publish its previous Conal Devine Associates and Resilience Ireland reports by the middle of next week.
In a separate move, he has confirmed a commission of inquiry into the alleged abuse will be launched by the end of this month or the start of December, with Mr McGrath due to set out his proposed terms of reference in the coming days.
Mr McGrath will meet Ms Whelan to finalise draft terms of reference designed to clarify the extent of the investigation. The terms are expected to include cover-up claims, suggestions files may have been destroyed, and why Grace remained at the home for 14 years after all placements were due to end.
In his recommendations last week, Mr Dignam proposed that the inquiry specifically examine if there was “any deliberate suppression or attempted suppression of information” by HSE officials with a “particular reference” to the period since 2009.
The whistleblowers who have brought the case into the spotlight first raised their concerns in 2009. Mr Dignam also called for background information as to who first decided the foster family was fit to take in people.
Among more than 30 terms of reference recommendations, he also said the inquiry should clarify if the foster family father’s ‘representations’ to the Department of Health in 1996 led to the U-turn on Grace’s removal. As reported by the Irish Examiner, the Dignam report notes files recording the U-turn cannot be found.
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