Two sisters of a woman placed in a foster care home at the centre of serious abuse allegations have urged affected families to contact them to pool information on the case.
Bridget and Margaret, whose second names have not been released to protect the identity of their sister, made the call after criticising officials for not keeping them informed — a claim the HSE last night rejected, saying families have been offered support.
Speaking on RTÉ radio, the women, from the south-east, said their sister was given respite placements at the home on three occasions, in 1983, 1987, and 1989, when she was aged 12, 16, and 18. She has limited speech and has the mental capacity of a two-year-old.
The sisters said they do not know if she suffered any abuse at the home. They said they grew concerned during one of the placements when the foster family left her alone outside after cancelling the placement.
“I never met them [the foster family] but I know that on one occasion they rang my parents and said they didn’t want her any more, to come and get her. My parents found her there at the end of the road with her bag,” said Bridget.
“They just said they didn’t want her any more. When the parents arrived she was just there at the end of the drive, no social worker contacted.
“She was very distressed [after the placements], she was crying and later on became very anxious. We just thought it was because she’d been separated from us. We didn’t realise what we know now [the abuse claims].”
Margaret, said other than a general apology letter from the HSE, and the gardaí calling 18 months ago due to a “minor” complaint about the home, they have been given no information about wider investigations of the facility.
The HSE insists it has offered all affected families support, and continues to do so.
Margaret said as a result of their belief that they have not been supported, both sisters are now calling on affected families to contact them through the Liveline programme in order to pool their experiences and information about the home.
Bridget said: “It’s about support, really. We wonder was my sister in the same situation [as ‘Grace’, who is alleged to have suffered years of abuse at the home]. We hope she wasn’t but we don’t know. If other families want to get in contact and sit down and talk about it, share any information they want to deal with, that’s what we want.”
Meanwhile, the Department of Health has said Finance Minister Michael Noonan, who was health minister when ‘Grace’ was meant to be removed from the home in 1996, was not involved in the decision to allow her placement to continue.
As revealed by the Irish Examiner, Mr Noonan was lobbied by the foster father at the time, with the department subsequently contacting the then South Eastern Health Board to find out about the case.
It has yet to be clarified what information was sought.
In a statement, the department said Mr Noonan was not involved in the U-turn on removing ‘Grace’ and that he “never sought to direct or influence the decision”.
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