Austin Currie defends handling of sex-abuse allegations in the 1990s

Austin Currie, a former junior health minister, insists he acted appropriately in the handling of sex-abuse allegations in the 1990s.

Austin Currie defends handling of sex-abuse allegations in the 1990s

Mr Currie and current Finance Minister Michael Noonan are under fire after it emerged that they knew of sex-abuse allegations in relation to a Waterford foster home in 1995.

Mr Noonan has refused to respond to claims he “did a runner” from abuse victims at Fine Gael’s 1997 ard fheis. “Minister Noonan has no additional information other than was provided at that time,” said a spokesman.

That foster home is now the subject of a government commission of inquiry, which was announced following a series of reports in the Irish Examiner.

Mr Noonan has confirmed he and Mr Currie each received a letter from the foster father after the South Eastern Health Board decided to stop placing vulnerable people in the house in 1995.

The foster father wanted a non-verbal woman with an intellectual disability, who has been given the pseudonym Grace, to remain in the house despite a decision to remove her. She remained there for another 13 years.

Mr Noonan has said his “understanding was that the person would be removed but subsequently there was an appeal and it did not happen”.

“After that, data was given to Austin Currie. I’m not sure what happened after that. I had no further contact. There was some kind of an appeal process and the decision, whoever took it down in the South-East, it wasn’t implemented at that stage.”

Barrister Garry O’Halloran, a former Fine Gael councillor and ex-chairman of the South Eastern Health Board, accused Mr Noonan of “doing a runner” from a meeting in 1997 to discuss concerns about sex abuse involving children.

Mr O’Halloran said he resigned from Fine Gael because of Mr Noonan’s actions. He said Mr Noonan had arranged to meet him and some abuse victims at Fine Gael’s ard fheis in 1997.

“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.”

Mr O’Halloran and his delegation then met Mr Currie, the junior health minister, who later concluded there was no substance to the claims of abuse.

Mr Currie yesterday insisted he acted appropriately in dealing with the allegations: “If there is a commission coming I will wait. I saw this situation was clarified 20 years ago, and there was publicity about it at the time and I have nothing further to say.”

Asked if he feels he handled the matter appropriately, Mr Currie said: “Absolutely, yes, absolutely”.

Mr Noonan said he will “co-operate” with the commission of inquiry.

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