PAC Hearings: Report on foster care family sex abuse cannot be published

A harrowing HSE report into decades of horrendous sexual abuse of up to 40 children with severe intellectual disabilities — including some who were mute — by a foster care family cannot be published for legal reasons, senior health service officials have claimed.

The HSE director general, Tony O’Brien, yesterday told the Public Accounts Committee the graphiccase — previously the subject of PAC claims a “clique of HSE managers” attempted to cover up what happened — has been blocked from publication by gardaí and lawyers due to the impact it could have on ongoing investigations.

As previously reported by the Irish Examiner, the report relates to abuse from the 1980s until 2008 by one foster care family in the South-East, who allegedly repeatedly sexually assaulted a large number of children and teenagers in their care and made some live in cubby holes.

When the abuse was uncovered in 1992, up to 40 children with severe intellectual disabilities had already been placed at the home by the State and religious groups. In 1995, officials told senior social workers to stop placing children with the family and find alternative places for those already there.

However, one mute woman, who suffered repeated sexual assaults with items and now has multiple internal injuries, was left there for another 13 years.

The HSE subsequently spent hundreds of thousands on reports to uncover what happened, which showed officials — some of whom are now in senior childcare and health service management — were at fault and what reforms are needed.

Fine Gael’s John Deasy
Fine Gael’s John Deasy

A final 2012 document was due to be published early this year.

However, Mr O’Brien said that despite the organisation being “in a position of wanting to publish”, the gardaí and lawyers have prevented the move.

After months of discussions, Mr O’Brien said gardaí wrote to the HSE in August saying publication “may affect ongoing investigations”.

The HSE subsequently sought an update last month. “That’s the most up-to-date position we have,” he said.

While the HSE has told the Irish Examiner that recommendations from the case — continually raised by Fine Gael’s John Deasy and Fianna Fáil’s John McGuinness — are being implemented, it has repeatedly refused to clarify what these are.

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