Staff who failed in duties will ‘face the consequences’

HEALTH service staff who failed in their duties to six children in the Roscommon abuse case will “face the consequences,” Children’s Minister Barry Andrews said last night.

A Health Service Executive (HSE) disciplinary hearing has begun after a report into the case found local care staff repeatedly failed to prevent the litany of abuse and neglect of the children in their family home.

Mr Andrews said there would be a “quick turnaround” and if sanctions are needed against staff, they will be imposed “shortly”.

During a special debate on the case in the Dáil, Mr Andrews said he believed the HSE is currently “fit for purpose” in relation to child protection.

But he said the disciplinary process “will result in those who are found to have not met a minimum professional standard, who have not discharged that to the people they propose to serve, that they will have to face the consequences”.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen yesterday described the abuse as an “appalling vista” which was “doubly awful” because it involved the parents of the children.

He insisted there was “no constitutional problems with the children being taken into care sooner” after a report on the case this week said a High Court injunction restraining the health board from removing the children from their parents was “very significant”.

With the help of a Catholic, right wing organisation, the mother of the children cited the Constitution to state that she and her husband had “inalienable and imprescriptible rights over our children”.

But speaking from Brussels yesterday, Mr Cowen said: “What has emerged in this case is for the children concerned an appalling vista and I empathise and sympathise with them and hope they can recover from a most traumatic experience — and I would say that as a parent also.”

He said: “What has been made clear by those that are expert in this area is that there is no constitutional hindrance to these children being taken into care so there was not a Constitutional problem here.”

But Fine Gael spokesperson on children, Charlie Flanagan, said the Constitution was used as a “sword” by the abusers to prevent the health services from taking the children into their care.

“The current wording of the Constitution does not protect children like those that are the subject of this report,” he said.

Mr Cowen could not give a time frame for the proposed referendum on the rights of children but Mr Andrews said he would shortly bring to cabinet the wording of the constitutional amendment.

Mr Flanagan said the referendum should be held immediately: “Every day that goes by without a date being set for the referendum this Government is failing vulnerable children.”

Sinn Fein’s Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said it would be “totally unacceptable” if health staff who failed in the case are still working in the HSE.


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