HSE boss says it ‘wouldn’t be fair’ to force staff to step aside amid inquiry into foster home abuse claims
A senior HSE official has said it “wouldn’t be fair” to force colleagues involved in the ‘Grace’ foster home abuse scandal to step down while an inquiry takes place, despite fresh calls from whistleblowers for the move to occur.
The HSE’s head of social care provision Dr Cathal Morgan made the comment as Disabilities Minister Finian McGrath confirmed he has written to the HSE seeking the immediate release of two unpublished reports into what happened.
Mr Morgan — who took up his position in September and is entirely unconnected to the Grace controversy — said while there is understandable anger over what took place, the HSE cannot at this stage remove anyone from their posts.
In yesterday’s Irish Examiner, the whistleblower who first revealed the controversy said senior HSE and Tusla employees who failed to protect Grace should step down while a now imminent State inquiry takes place.
The position was echoed by Fine Gael TD John Deasy and Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness, who were central to uncovering what happened during the previous Dáil’s cross-party Public Accounts Committee investigation into the case.
However, despite the calls, Dr Morgan said the HSE cannot act on the requests at this stage as it “wouldn’t be fair”to the officials involved.
“The Conor Dignam report doesn’t make any findings of wrongdoing,” he told RTÉ Radio’s News at One. “It wouldn’t be fair [to ask officials to temporarily step aside] because I think everybody’s entitled to due process,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mr McGrath has asked the HSE to release two still-unpublished HSE-commissioned reports into the scandal within two weeks in a bid to ensure full transparency in the case.
Speaking after the publication of the Government-backed 309-page Dignam report, the minister said regardless of legal concerns, it was his “gut feeling” all files must now be released.
The reports, by Resilience Ireland and Conal Devine Associates, have provoked criticism in the Dignam report as the tight terms of reference they were given by the HSE meant serious claims of a cover-up and documents explaining what happened to Grace being destroyed were not examined.
In addition, Mr Dignam’s report has raised serious questions over the previous reports’ procurement process as some were written by individuals who previously worked for the HSE in the area where the abuse is alleged to have occurred.
However, Dr Morgan said “there is no mal-intent” in not publishing the records and while the HSE would like to do so, the reality is the HSE must still take account of the fact there is a “current live” Garda investigation which must not be derailed.
Mr Dignam’s report said while such a view has “merit”, it is his opinion publication would not “fatally” impede a Garda inquiry and that there is “no civil law bar” to publication.
In a statement to the Irish Examiner
last night, Sinéad Carroll of Cantillons Solicitors — a firm which represents some of those allegedly abuse at the foster home at the centre of the inquiry — said it supports Mr Dignam’s view entirely.
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