Whistleblower who exposed poor conditions for disabled ‘vindicated’

Margaret Kennedy reaches settlement with HSE and Brothers of Charity

Dr Margaret Kennedy: the settlement included a letter from the Brothers of Charity and the HSE which unequivocally acknowledges her “professionalism and high standards”. Photograph: Cyril Byrne.

Dr Margaret Kennedy: the settlement included a letter from the Brothers of Charity and the HSE which unequivocally acknowledges her “professionalism and high standards”. Photograph: Cyril Byrne.

Fri, Jan 10, 2014, 01:00

A settlement has been agreed between whistleblower Dr Margaret Kennedy, the Brothers of Charity, the HSE and HSE West, following a High Court action by her.

Dr Kennedy, now retired due to illness, was contracted as an independent trainer and consultant on disability, abuse and client protection to Brothers of Charity staff in Galway between 2000 and 2003.

In 2003 she leaked a copy of the Kilcornan/McClean report, which was critical of conditions and practices at the Kilcornan residence for the intellectually disabled and run by the Brothers of Charity, to The Irish Times and then Minister for Health Micheál Martin.

It called for the centre to be closed due to adverse conditions and services. Dr Kennedy said then that anyone reading the report “cannot fail to see that the service is sub-standard, infringes human rights and is profoundly abusive”. Her contract with the Brothers of Charity was not renewed.


Professionalism
In 2006 a review of those events included adverse references to Dr Kennedy’s professionalism which Dr Kennedy considered defamatory. This Murphy-Mulvihill review also reported that Dr Kennedy did not share her concerns about practices with the Brothers of Charity in Galway when she had done so, verbally and in writing.

Under settlement terms agreed this week Dr Kennedy will receive a five-figure sum as well as a letter from the Brothers of Charity and the HSE which unequivocally acknowledges “the professionalism and high standards with which Dr Kennedy conducted her training courses” while working with Brothers of Charity staff between 2000 and 2003.


Commitment
The letter, seen by The Irish Times, acknowledges Dr Kennedy’s expertise “and her heartfelt commitment to the protection and wellbeing of people with intellectual disability”. Her work was “very beneficial and informed and influenced the policies and procedures adopted by the Brothers of Charity”.

They further acknowledge that Dr Kennedy “always raised with the Brothers of Charity concerns and issues which had been raised with her during the training sessions and about which she was concerned”.

They regret that the report stated she did not inform the Brothers of those concerns and implied she behaved in an unprofessional manner.

They acknowledge that Murphy-Mulvihill “did not interview Dr Kennedy in relation to any aspect of their report or afford her the opportunity to comment on it or make observation on it prior to publication.”

Speaking to The Irish Times yesterday, Dr Kennedy said she was pleased with the settlement and considered herself “vindicated”.

“I don’t think I could have asked for much more,” she said.