Grace files: Publication only the beginning of the end of Grace saga

Today’s publication of the Conal Devine and Resilience Ireland reports after years of repeated legal blockages is a vital step towards finding out who is responsible for what happened to Grace and other vulnerable children who were in State care.

However, with the long-promised Government-backed commission of investigation yet to take place, their release marks the end of the beginning of the case rather than the beginning of the end.

After the scandalous nature of Grace’s treatment was uncovered by a whistleblower looking after her in 2009, in addition to cover-up claims involving health and social services officials, the HSE set up an investigation into the case in 2010.

The Conal Devine report, concluded in 2012 and only published today, detailed shocking allegations of what Grace experienced at the home — and how officials failed to protect her.

In response to the findings, a second Resilience Ireland report was commissioned in March 2014 to examine the care of 46 other vulnerable children placed at the home.

However, despite concluding in April 2015, the HSE was prevented from publishing either report until today, amid Garda concerns their release could cause damage to a criminal investigation.

Last year, a third state review of the reports by senior counsel Conor Dignam highlighted significant shortcomings in the documents — including concerns that files crucial to their work may have been “deliberately destroyed” by unknown persons.

Crucially, it also found there are legitimate concerns the reports’ terms of reference were drawn up to specifically avoid examining repeated claims that now senior HSE and Tusla officials covered up what happened - an issue previously raised by the Dáil’s public accounts committee alongside the way in which the reports’ authors were chosen.

As such, Mr Dignam said the reports and Grace’s experience warranted a full-blown commission of investigation which had been promised by Taoiseach Enda Kenny more than 12 months ago.

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