Failure to publish report on rape of three children in foster care condemned in Dáil
Taoiseach said he would have to check with Minister for Children on the report
Independent TD Catherine Connolly said two-and-a-half years later the report had yet to be published. File photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan
A TD was so angry with the Taoiseach’s reply to her question in the Dáil about a child sexual abuse report that she told him “a dignified silence for your three minutes might have been a better response”.
Independent TD Catherine Connolly accused the Taoiseach of adopting a “Pontius Pilate” approach in relation to a case he was fully familiar with and of washing his hands of his duty to ensure the system for investigating child abuse is accountable.
She said there had been an “abject failure” to complete and publish a report on the systematic rape of three young children. The document was to be completed and published by the national review panel, established to investigate cases where children were involved in serious incidents or died while in State care.
Ms Connolly said two-and-a-half years later the report had yet to be published into the cases of Rachel, Amy and Sarah, now adults who had been raped by Keith Burke while in foster care.
Burke (29) was sentenced in April to seven and a half years in prison, with a year suspended, after he was found guilty of raping the then three foster children between 2003 and 2007.
She said it was an RTÉ Investigates programme that highlighted the case where the children were forced to give evidence because the accused pleaded not guilty.
At the time the Taoiseach had commended their bravery but Ms Connolly accused the Taoiseach of “actively standing over a system that is failing the young women”.
There was still no report despite promises that it would be published in October and then last month.
Mr Varadkar told her he had not anticipated her question and did not have an up to date report but he would check with Minister for Children Katherine Zappone as to why the report could not be published.
The Taoiseach then listed a number of “good reasons” why reports might not be published and “not necessarily because someone does not want them to be published”.
He also referred to the 2017 annual Tusla report of the national review panel published last month but said it did not deal with the cases Ms Connolly was raising.
In an angry response Ms Connolly said a better response from the Taoiseach would have been a dignified silence.
“It is entirely unacceptable as Taoiseach of this country to stand up in the manner you have stood up and quote inane quotes from reports.
“As Taoiseach you have a duty to ensure that the system is accountable. You cannot do a Pontius Pilate and wash your hands of it,” she said
She reminded him that “it has been raised many times and you are fully familiar with the case and you are fully familiar with the independent review mechanism.”
Mr Varadkar replied that the appropriate action would be for him to ask Ms Zappone to update Ms Connolly. He told the TD “I don’t want to insult you or anger you any further by giving a different response to that”.