Letter shows 'Grace' remained in home after foster father lobbied Michael Noonan

The foster father of Grace directly lobbied Michael Noonan when he was minister for health, claiming she was in a “happy and secure” home.

The Irish Examiner has seen a copy of the letter, which was sent following a decision by health officials to remove her, amid concerns about alleged sexual abuse of minors at the home in 1996.

Documents seen by this newspaper show how the foster family, in a breach of the rules, sought Mr Noonan to intervene to keep Grace — an intellectually disabled minor — in the home.

Crucially, a letter from Mr Noonan’s private secretary confirms that, on foot of the foster father’s request, Grace’s removal from the foster home was delayed.

“The minister understands that the health board, at your request, agreed not to remove ‘Grace’ until the end of the summer period,” the letter from Mr Noonan’s secretary states.

The delay followed a request for an update report from Mr Noonan’s department to the health board.

However, in his letter to Mr Noonan, the foster father paints a picture of serenity in terms of Grace’s care.

“At present, she resides in a family home, enjoys a happy and secure life, goes to the sea side, shopping and out for a meal and gets individual treatment for her special needs,” he wrote.

Two months later, junior health minister Austin Currie made enquiries and found the case was “currently under consideration” — seven months after the initial decision to remove Grace was taken. Mr Currie was assured by an official that representations made in support of the foster family would be considered.

At the same time, a note of correspondence between department officials and the health board showed Grace’s removal had been stalled “since September 25”, the date a health board programme manager wrote to the department saying the previously decided case was now “currently under consideration”.

Grace remained in the home until 2009 and the HSE has recently apologised for the failings in the standards of care in her case. It has also apologised to 46 other alleged victims of abuse, who also stayed at the foster home.

As reported in the Irish Examiner, Grace, who is non-verbal, is said to have suffered horrendous sexual abuse and neglect at the home before being removed. The matter is now to be subject to a Statutory Commission of Investigation.

A spokesman for Mr Noonan last night said that he had nothing to add to his previous comments on the matter.

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