Whistleblower criticises delay in foster home abuse inquiry

Social worker who worked with ‘Grace’ fears commission could take years to complete

Senior counsel Conor Dignam was appointed by the Government in June 2015 to examine the treatment of “Grace”, who spent 20 years in a foster home in the southeast. Photograph: Collins Courts

Senior counsel Conor Dignam was appointed by the Government in June 2015 to examine the treatment of “Grace”, who spent 20 years in a foster home in the southeast. Photograph: Collins Courts

 

The whistleblower at the centre of abuse allegations at a foster home in the southeast has criticised the delay in establishing a statutory inquiry into the case.

The Government appointed senior counsel Conor Dignam in June 2015 to examine the treatment of “Grace”, an intellectually disabled girl, at a foster home.

In February of this year Taoiseach Enda Kenny committed to establishing a Commission of Investigation into the case.

However, Mr Dignam’s report and the terms of reference for an inquiry have still not been considered by Government.

Speaking to The Irish Times, the whistleblower, a social worker who worked with Grace, said they were frustrated and disappointed at the lack of progress to date.

“My concern is that it has taken 16 months from the time [former minister of state at the Department of Health] Kathleen Lynch announced Conor Dignam’s review.

“We do not even have the terms of reference for the commission, and I am concerned that the commission could take years to complete. We will not have answers any time soon and that is not satisfactory.”

The commission will examine why Grace was left for almost 20 years in a foster home which was the subject of serious concerns over sexual abuse.

She was placed in the home in 1989 and remained there until 2009, despite the fact that other foster children had been removed by 1996.

A total of 47 highly vulnerable children and young adults with intellectual disabilities were placed in the same foster home between 1983 and 2013.

Interviews

It is understood Mr Dignam interviewed fewer than 10 people for his inquiry.

He also met three people who made protected disclosures about Grace’s case.

Minister for State at the Department of Health Finian McGrath is expected to bring Mr Dignam’s report to Cabinet within the next two weeks.

Mr McGrath has stressed to his Government colleagues two legal procedural matters had to be dealt with before the report could be considered.

The terms of reference for the commission will not be decided for a number of weeks. Mr Dignam’s report contains a number of recommended terms but Mr McGrath is expected to add to them.

Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness has also strongly criticised the delay. “It is deeply concerning. We accept that Conor Dignam needed time and space to complete his work but there is no explanation for why there has been such an extraordinary delay.”