Report due on foster home abuse

A long-awaited independent report to decide on whether a state commission of inquiry is needed due to the alleged cover-up of serious foster care abuse in the South-East is expected to be given to Government before the weekend.

The Irish Examiner understands the report into the HSE’s reaction to claims officials covered-up how a woman with severe intellectual disabilities was left at an abusive home is due to be handed to Disabilities Minister Finian McGrath in the next 48 hours.

The report, drawn up by senior counsel Conor Dignam, is specifically examining two unpublished HSE-commissioned reports into the scandal and questions over why former health service managers were considered independent enough to examine the matter.

It is also examining whether a vulnerable woman given the pseudonym ‘Grace’ in media reports suffered severe sexual abuse at the South-East foster home between the late 1980s and 2009, a full 14 years after the family in question were meant to have been barred from taking in individuals.

The file was first sought by then disabilities minister Kathleen Lynch early last summer before a number of extensions were sought due to the scale of the work involved.

It is widely expected the report will recommend a commission of inquiry be set up into what happened to ‘Grace’ and a second woman given the pseudonym ‘Anne’ who also continued to be placed with the family after ‘Grace’ left the home.

However, while all government and opposition parties have said they are in favour of such an inquiry, the move cannot occur before the report — and recommended terms of reference for a wider inquiry — are provided to Mr McGrath.

It is to date unclear whether any likely commission of inquiry will be limited to examining the ‘Grace’ case by itself or examines wider abuse claims involving other cases in the same region in recent decades after the issues were highlighted by RTÉ’s Prime Time programme last week.

However, speaking during a Dáil debate on giving extra powers to state watchdog the Health Information Quality Authority to ensure care standards in residential settings are met, Mr McGrath said he wants to see a full inquiry set up into the scandals.

“I’m expecting to receive the report from Conor Dignam, senior counsel, very shortly, which will feed into the terms of reference for a statutory commission of investigation,” the Independent Alliance TD said.

“This will be established as a priority, following agreement on the terms of reference, and with the approval of the Oireachtas.

“I will be looking for support, cross-party support for this, in relation to the commission of inquiry and also in relation to the terms of reference,” he said.


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