It comes as the child protection agency, Tusla, officially remains in the dark as to the exact nature of the allegations surrounding the abuse scandal. The agency has not received a copy of two internal HSE reports into the abuse allegations, despite those allegations first being raised in 2009.
Also, several senior Tusla officials are among those being called on to step aside, as they were in situ when failings in the care of a mentally disabled woman, Grace, took place. But because no concerns have been made known to the agency, no Tulsa official has stepped aside. The Fine Gael minister also said he first heard about the abuse scandal in late 2014 and later met whistleblowers who have highlighted concerns about care at the foster home.
Speaking to reporters in Dublin, Mr Varadkar said: “I think it is important to point out that a lot of these issues go back a very long time, some go back to decisions made in the 1990s.”
He said he understood from HSE director general Tony O’Brien that the people who decided not to remove Grace from the foster home were no longer in the public service.
“But, that said, there are people who may have had a role on other levels who are now senior people in Tusla. Some in the HSE as well,” he said.
“Obviously anybody in any walk of life should reflect on the decisions they make and consider what the right thing to do is. But at the same time it’s important to not forget that these are just allegations. And allegations have to be properly investigated. People have a right to a fair hearing.”
Mr Varadkar said people were held accountable in the health system, but added: “Neither politicians or the media should sit in judgement on individuals.”
He said he first heard about the abuse allegations by letter in September 2014, which was followed up at official level and then a meeting he had with one of the whistleblowers in January 2015.
He said the first thing that they had sought to establish was that nobody was still at risk.
In a statement yesterday, Tusla said its chief executive, Gordon Jeyes, made contact with the HSE to clarify the exact nature of Mr O’Brien’s comments to the PAC.
A spokeswoman said: “In early 2014, Tusla was briefed by the HSE on investigations into the care of Grace and others at a care facility in the South-East.
“At this briefing, Tusla requested that the HSE refer any child protection concerns to the agency.
“Tusla requested a copy of the report. To date, Tusla has not received a copy of the report and understands that this is a consequence of the Garda investigation.
“In addition, no concerns about the conduct of staff that have transferred to the agency have been brought to Tusla’s attention.
“Chief executive Gordon Jeyes has been in touch with the HSE to seek clarification about comments made to PAC.”