Leo Varadkar urged to ‘take charge’ of foster abuse case

Health Minister Leo Varadkar has been urged to “personally take charge” of the investigation into claims people with disabilities suffered decades of state foster care home abuse amid claims the HSE is trying to cover up the scandal.

Leading children’s rights campaigner and Barnardos CEO Fergus Finlay insisted it is time that the minister intervenes due to growing concern surrounding the long-running case.

As previously reported by the Irish Examiner, over Christmas, the Dáil public accounts committee received a significantly curtailed 24-page version of a 200-page report into south east foster home allegations.

The report is based on claims a single foster care family, with whom more than 40 vulnerable children and adults with severe intellectual disabilities were placed between 1983 and 2009, abused a number in their care. After concerns were first aired in 1992, the then South Eastern Health Board ended all summer respite and longer-term placements by 1995.

However, one woman who is mute and has a severe intellectual disability, was left there until 2009.

Between 2010 and 2014, the HSE commissioned three investigations costing almost €300,000. However, none of the reports have been published, a position the HSE says is because of ongoing Garda investigations which are now centring on the possibility of a “reckless endangerment” case being taken against HSE personnel.

Speaking on Newstalk’s Breakfast programme yesterday, Mr Finlaysaid regardless of the fact the issue falls under the control of minister of state for disabilities Kathleen Lynch, Mr Varadkar must take responsibility to find out what is happening.

“For my money and in my view this is something the minister for health has to personally take charge of, he has to find out what happened and why it happened, and tell us why it happened,”he said. “That’s not going to happen in the HSE, that seems clear, they seem to be fighting some rear-guard action. The minister for health has to take control of this, he has to demand all the papers, all the files.

”Mr Varadkar yesterday told reporters it is “important we allow gardaí to do their jobs, that means I’m limited in what I can say”.

He said there are a number of whistleblowers who “say different things” and give “conflicting accounts”, before stressing his colleague Ms Lynch is “responsible for this area”. Ms Lynch did not respond last night.

Mr Varadkar’s multiple whistleblowers reference relates to the original whistle-blower, and at least one other individual who only made a protected disclosure two years after first learning happened, and after the case became public.

Meanwhile, the Irish Examiner understands the senior counsel review of the case, established by the Department of Health last June, will not be completed until at least June 2016.

Fergus Finlay: 12


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