State inquiry into ‘Grace’ case moves a step closer

The Government has moved a step closer to setting up a long-awaited state investigation into foster home sexual abuse claims in the south-east after receiving a detailed independent report on the scandal.

Disabilities Minister Finian McGrath confirmed the situation last night after being handed the report by senior counsel Conor Dignam, which has been repeatedly delayed since the start of the year.

It was commissioned last year after serious allegations were made that a mute woman with significant mental disabilities was repeatedly raped and sexually abused at a foster home in the south east for almost two decades.

The woman, given the pseudonym ‘Grace’, was one of a number of vulnerable children and teenagers placed at the home between the mid-1980s and 2009.

However, despite authorities effectively banning the family from having any more vulnerable people placed with them in 1995, ‘Grace’ was left at the home for 14 more years, while the family of a second woman given the pseudonym ‘Ann’, left their relative at the same facility as they were not told what had happened.

After a whistleblower alleged a small number of HSE officials attempted to cover up what had occurred, Taoiseach Enda Kenny told the Dáil in February the next government would launch a commission of investigation.

However, the Government had been legally unable to set up the inquiry until the Conor Dignam report was completed — a document only handed over to Mr McGrath on Monday night.

The report — due to be completed by April before the scale of work involved meant this deadline had to be extended to June, July, and subsequently this month — was commissioned in December after an initial review by the same senior counsel last summer. It was tasked with examining:

  • The procedures and processes followed by the HSE in procuring two still unpublished reports by Conal Devine and Resilience Ireland into what happened;
  • The appropriateness or not of these reviews and those conducting them;
  • Reasons why the reports have not been published;
  • The identification of matters which would assist the framing of the terms of reference for a commission of investigation;

Mr McGrath said last night: “My overriding concern is for the safety and protection of vulnerable people in the care of the State. I want to repeat my determination that this historical issue will be comprehensively examined and addressed.”


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