Until people are held to account, such apologies are meaningless, writes Daniel McConnell.
How loud ring the hollow apologies of the State?
Yesterday, we saw the publication of two reports into the Grace foster abuse scandal. At the launch of the reports, HSE official Dr Cathal Morgan offered a “heartfelt and unreserved” apology to the victims.
His apology was profuse as were his expressions of regret as to the failures in Grace’s care over 20 years: “We know lots of things went wrong. We know there were many opportunities that were missed to ensure Grace was made safe.”
But on went the questioning. Who was responsible for leaving Grace in the home when a decision had been taken to remove her?
Dr Morgan said there were severe deficiencies in record-keeping and the Devine report team were not able to conclude exactly what happened.
Does Dr Morgan know who sat on the three-person panel; and were they asked why they felt it was appropriate to leave Grace in the home in 1996, overturning the earlier decision to remove her?
“Those persons are no longer in the service, the reports do not answer those questions. Those involved in the inquiry were unable to get to the bottom of it. We do not have powers of compellability,” was his response.
In layman’s terms, the HSE has never been able to/never bothered to ask its former employees why Grace was left in the home.
Next question: Are any of the people who were involved in the catastrophic failures around this foster home still employed in the HSE and associated agencies? “There are other people. We have done a risk assessment which tells us that there is no risk currently.
They [some of the HSE staff involved] still work in the health service and have not done anything that would cause us concern.
“The persons who made the decision [other HSE staff] are no longer with us, they were involved in the case conference but are now out of the service.”
He went on to urge against rushing to judgement on those who played a role as there is an ongoing Garda investigation and internal HSE processes.
No one has ever been fired in relation to what happened to Grace. No one has even been suspended. No one has stepped aside. No accountability for mistakes made. But we have seen plenty examples of the system looking after itself.
In the Dáil , the Taoiseach issued a similar apology to Grace and the other victims.
But anyone who watched it could be struck as to how disinterested and casual the Taoiseach seemed to sound when he delivered it.
Relying on stock cliches about the shocking nature of the case, he at one stage struggled to remember when his own Government committed to a Commission of Inquiry.
He knew nothing of anyone being held accountable. He was unable to answer specific “pertinent” questions posed by Mary Lou McDonald and Róisín Shortall.
Until people are held to account, such apologies are meaningless.
Yesterday, was a fine example of just how rotten our little State can be.
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