Former PAC chairman accuses HSE officials of ‘blatant lies’ in ‘Grace’ abuse case

Two more disability cases in southeast under review in addition to ‘Grace’ and ‘Brandon’ cases

Fianna Fáil Carlow-Kilkenny TD John McGuinness said he was ‘sickened to the pit of my stomach’ by the details of the Grace case. File photo: David Sleator

Fianna Fáil Carlow-Kilkenny TD John McGuinness said he was ‘sickened to the pit of my stomach’ by the details of the Grace case. File photo: David Sleator

 

Independent reviews are ongoing in two more disability cases in the southeast region in addition to the investigations into the “Grace” sexual abuse case in the southeast and the “Brandon” abuse case in Co Donegal, the Dáil has been told.

Minister of State for Disability Anne Rabbitte said there were two more National Independent Review Panel “look-back”cases ongoing in the Community Health Outreach area 5, which covers South Tipperary, Carlow/Kilkenny, Waterford and Wexford.

Ms Rabbitte was speaking during a Dáil debate on the Farrelly Commission of Investigation into the sexual abuse of an intellectually disabled woman identified only as “Grace”, who was left in foster care for almost two decades despite ongoing concerns about physical and sexual abuse.

The Minister also said she is “incredibly disappointed” that the commission, which was established in 2017, was taking so long and she was not confident the work would be completed by June next year.

The commission was established to investigate the care and protection of Grace and 46 others in a former foster home in the southeast between 1989 and 1996, when Grace reached adulthood. She remained in the foster home until 2009.

‘Substantive’

The commission, which received four 12-month extensions, has produced two “substantive” reports and has cost more than €7,022,820 to date.

Ms Rabbitte said there were similarities with the “Brandon” case into 108 incidents of inappropriate sexual behaviour by a resident, identified as “Brandon”, over 13 years at a HSE-run disability centre in Stranorlar, Co Donegal.

Ms Rabbitte said that if the commission were now scrapped, however, “we would have spent €7 million and not have a final report to show for it”. There must be accountability, she said.

But former chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) John McGuinness said he was “shocked and appalled” at what was happening because “we are completely ignoring the fact that there are reports within the HSE that clearly outline what happened to Grace”.

‘Sickened’

The Fianna Fáil Carlow-Kilkenny TD said of the case that it was the first time in his 24 years in the Dáil “that I have been sickened to the pit of my stomach”.

He accused his own party of favouring a “lesser type of debate, which is pretty typical, because it wanted to protect the institutions and the agencies”.

Speaking under Dáil privilege, he said that officials appearing before the committee at the time “told blatant lies” and should be called back before the Oireachtas and “put through the wringer”. He said: “They are criminals. They should be brought to court and prosecuted”.

Mr McGuinness said when sexual abuse of Grace was reported, “the HSE called to the house and inspected it and found that she lived there with three male residents. There were people found locked under the stairs.

“There were children in outhouses. There were men of the road, as they were called at the time, calling to and leaving that house, but nothing was done.”

He cited one incident where Grace was attending a day care centre and “stripped off her clothes and presented lying on the floor in a sexual position. She was non-verbal and intellectually and physically challenged. Nobody reported the abuse.”