Barrister Garry O’Halloran, who is a former Fine Gael councillor and also a former chairman of the South Eastern Health Board accused Mr Noonan of “doing a runner” in 1997 from a meeting to discuss concerns about sex abuse involving children. Mr O’Halloran said he resigned from Fine Gael because of Mr Noonan’s actions.
The veteran minister is under fire amid the ongoing controversy about the mishandling of sexual abuse allegations at a foster home in Co Waterford by health officials as far back as 1995.
Recent reports in the Irish Examiner have led to the establishment of a Commission of Investigation into the foster home at which a young intellectually disabled woman, referred to as Grace, was allegedly sexually abused.
Yesterday, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said he is “not sure” what action if any then health minister Michael Noonan and former junior minister Austin Currie took two decades ago after allegations surrounding the family at the centre of the south east foster abuse scandal were first brought to their attention.
In a statement to the Irish Examiner, Mr O’Halloran said at the 1997 Fine Gael Ard Fheis, Mr Noonan had arranged to meet him and some abuse victims.
“We arrived, he kept us waiting for hours, eventually I spotted him leaving the stage and heading for a door about 40m away, I was about 60m away and started to follow him in the direction of the door,” Mr O’Halloran has said. “He spotted me and ran, I then ran but he got to the door and when I arrived I was met with a cloud of black smoke as his garda driver sped away,” he added.
Mr O’Halloran and his delegation then met junior minister Austin Currie who concluded there was no substance to the claims of abuse.
“I went to the taoiseach, John Bruton, who said it was a matter for the minister for health. When I got no place, I then submitted by resignation from FG,” he added.
Yesterday, the Irish Examiner first attempted to put queries about this matter to the Fine Gael press office, but we were directed to the Department of Finance.
The Department of Finance said as this was a health matter, they could not comment.
A Department of Health spokesman said he could not speak for Mr Noonan and referred us back to the Department of Finance, but also suggested we speak to the Department of Children.
At the time of going to print, no comment was forthcoming from Mr Noonan.
But Mr Kenny said he does not know if either senior politician properly examined the concerns after a former party colleague said at the weekend he resigned from the party in protest after nothing was done in response to his attempts to have the matter investigation.