Michael Noonan ‘aware of abuse claims in 1996’

Finance Minister Michael Noonan knew of abuse allegations at a foster home in the southeast as far back as 20 years ago, he has revealed.
Michael Noonan ‘aware of abuse claims in 1996’

Mr Noonan last night confirmed that he received a letter written by the foster father in the controversy directly to himself in 1996, as then minister for health.

The Government moved to establish a Commission of Inquiry on foot of reports in the abuse scandal in the Irish Examiner in recent weeks.

Two nights ago, Independent TD Clare Daly told the Dáil allegations had been brought to Mr Noonan’s attention at that time, and called on him to clarify his actions after Department of Health officials said “representations” from the family were received in the 1990s.

Central to the scandal is the alleged rape, abuse, and neglect of a woman with intellectual disability — referred to as ‘Grace’ — at the foster home, and the failure of health officials to remove her and at least one other woman until 2013, despite knowing of the allegations.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio One’s News at One programme, Mr Noonan insisted he “had no clear memory of it”.

“I did check the position with the Department of Health and seemingly two letters arrived — one to me and one to the junior minister of health Austin Currie,” he said.

“And the letter to me, I got my officials to contact the southeastern health board and my understanding of it was that the person would be removed from foster care, but subsequently, information came through that there was some kind of appeal, and that [the removal of the person] didn’t happen.”

Mr Noonan added that after the “data” was sent to the minister of state at the time, he had no further contact in relation to the case.

“After that, because it was concerning the possible abuse of a child, the data went to the minister of state who had responsibility for children, and I’m not sure what happened after that,” he said.

“I had no further contact after that and I have the power to direct and I didn’t direct, but the initial information I got was: yes there was an issue, that a child was removed, and then subsequently then, I forget the detail, but it was some kind of appeal process and the decision of whoever took it down in the southeast wasn’t implemented at that point, and then it went on to Minister Austin Currie.”

A total of 48 children with disabilities, including a girl known only as Grace, were placed at the home between 1983 and 1995. Concerns about alleged abuse there were first raised in 1992, Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee has heard.

Meanwhile, the chief executive of the child and family agency Tusla, Gordon Jeyes, says he does not know if any of the staff involved with a case of alleged abuse at a foster home are still working in the system.

“No names have been provided to me, and no allegations against staff in Tusla”, said Mr Jeyes.

“I have not been provided with any names [of those] who have been named in the Conor Devine or the Resilience Ireland report.”

However, Mr Jeyes says he is trying to get the names of those allegedly involved.

Asked if he thought there maybe other cases like this out there, Mr Jeyes said: “I think in terms of the history of it, that’s possible”.

Meanwhile, Hiqa has confirmed 177 child abuse cases referred to Tusla were still awaiting social workers last August in Dublin south east and Wicklow, an issue blamed on a lack of staff in the system.

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