The HSE has called on the Government’s most senior legal official to provide it with evidence showing why it must publish two detailed reports into the Grace foster abuse scandal, amid an ongoing stand-off between the State bodies.

A HSE spokesperson made the request after it emerged that the attorney general, Máire Whelan, has concluded there is no legal impediment to publishing either report.

The Irish Examiner yesterday revealed that Ms Whelan has told cabinet there is nothing preventing the HSE from publishing the 2012 Conal Devine and 2015 Resilience Ireland reports into claims serious sexual abuse claims were covered up by health service officials for two decades. The claims relate to the case of a woman with severe mental and physical disabilities given the pseudonym ‘Grace’, who was allegedly subjected to repeated extreme sexual abuse from the early 1990s until 2009 while at a Waterford-based foster home.

While all other placements ended in 1995, due to concerns about the family which were first raised in 1992, ‘Grace’ remained at the home for unknown reasons. Separate opportunities to remove her in the early 2000s also failed to be taken.

Despite commissioning two independent reports to examine what happened, the HSE has said it cannot publish the files as a garda investigation is continuing.

However, during a meeting between Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Independent Alliance ministers after Tuesday’s cabinet meeting, it emerged that attorney general Máire Whelan has concluded there is no reason for non-publication — a position the HSE insists is backed up with legal evidence.

“The HSE has, to date, received no legal opinion from the attorney general,” a HSE spokesperson said.

“The HSE would be happy to receive any such legal opinion from the attorney general, should it be available, to assist the HSE with its independent decision around the publication of both reports. The Minister is aware that the HSE has written to An Garda Siochana and is awaiting its response as to whether the publication of these reports will impede an investigation. The HSE is committed to the publication of these reports at the earliest opportunity,” the spokesperson added.

The stand-off is the latest in a growing series of clashes between Government and the HSE over the issue which has resulted in repeated delays in the commencement of a State inquiry which was promised in early February.

Despite promises to fast-track the State investigation backed up by a lengthy Government-commissioned report into the merits of doing so by senior counsel Conor Dignam, the coalition has to date failed to publish the terms for such an inquiry.

In a statement yesterday, Disabilities Minister Finian McGrath — who has been criticised by Fine Gael TD John Deasy for failing to act on the issue — said he wants progress “at the earliest possible date”.

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