The Irish Examiner has learned the complex legal situation is blocking the possibility of examining whether the individuals pose any potential risks to other children, four months after their names were first sought by child protection watchdog Tusla.
During a Dáil meeting last February, HSE director general Tony O’Brien confirmed that senior Tusla staff were involved in the ‘Grace’ controversy while working with the South Eastern Health Board in the 1990s.
As previously reported by this newspaper, the case involves claims a woman with severe intellectual disabilities called ‘Grace’ suffered sexual abuse at a foster home between the late 1980s and 2009.
While all placements with the family were meant to end in 1995, ‘Grace’ continued to stay at the home until 2009 while a second woman called ‘Anne’ stayed for respite care until 2013.
As a result of Mr O Brien’s comments in February, Tusla requested the names of the individuals involved in order to ensure there was no risk to other children in its care.
This information was sought because of allegations made under Dáil privilege that senior South Eastern Health Board officials failed to remove ‘Grace’ in 1995 and then attempted to cover up the situation when it emerged in 2009.
However, in a statement to the Irish Examiner, a spokesperson for the child protection group said because of ongoing legal difficulties the HSE has been unable to provide it with the names — meaning no “risk assessment” has taken place.
“The information furnished by the HSE on the handling of the case of the woman known as ‘Grace’ did not include the names of the staff members involved, due to the Garda investigation.
“The primary concern for Tusla and the HSE is to ensure no child is put at risk while the investigation is ongoing.
“Legal advice has been sought in order to identify a solution that would allow Tusla to conduct a risk assessment of the staff and, if necessary, to ensure appropriate safeguards are in place without adversely affecting the ongoing garda investigations,” the spokesperson said.
It is understood that while Tusla has been unable to carry out any risk assessment, its own internal structures mean no one individual has sole control over any case file.
.In a statement , a HSE spokesperson said the organisation is prevented from sharing the information due to ongoing “live” Garda investigations: “The Conal Devine and Resilience Ireland reports, with permission of An Garda Síochána, have been provided to Tusla.
“The HSE has sought permission from An Garda Síochána that the actual names of the individuals could be provided to Tusla in circumstances where Conal Devine presented those names in an anonymised format.
“The HSE is willing to provide the identification key used in the Conal Devine Report to Tusla once An Garda Síochána has given permission for this to happen.”
A report central to establishing a promised commission of inquiry into the case will be finished in the coming days.
The Irish Examiner understands senior counsel Conor Dignam — who has spent a year examining the Conal Devine and Resilience Ireland reports, and cover-up claims made in the Dáil — is due to provide his findings to Health Minister Simon Harris and Disability Minister Finian McGrath.