HSE apologises over rape of three girls while in foster care

Call for investigation as teenager son of foster parents is jailed for sexual assaults

In 2005, at just 8 years old, Rachel Barry was sent to a foster home in Dunmore, Co Galway for monthly respite care. During her time there she was repeatedly raped by Keith Burke, the teenage biological son of the family. Photograph: RTÉ

In 2005, at just 8 years old, Rachel Barry was sent to a foster home in Dunmore, Co Galway for monthly respite care. During her time there she was repeatedly raped by Keith Burke, the teenage biological son of the family. Photograph: RTÉ

 

The Health Service Executive has apologised unreservedly for failings in the care of three girls who were repeatedly raped by a teenager over seven years while in the foster care of his parents.

The circumstances in which the boy raped and sexually assaulted the three girls must be fully investigated, a solicitor acting for one of them has said.

Ronan Hynes was speaking in advance of the broadcast on Tuesday night of an RTÉ Investigates programme on the case.

Keith Burke (29) of Addergoolemore, Dunmore, Co Galway was jailed for 7½ years earlier this month at the Central Criminal Court for the rape of the three girls between 2003 and 2007. He was between 14 and 18 at the time, while the girls were all under 10.

The first victim, who had been fostered by the family from six months old, told the court Burke would ask her to “do that thing for me” before he raped her. She outlined instances of rape in a field and on a tractor but mostly in a hut by the house.

A second girl, Rachel Barry, has waived her anonymity and is interviewed in the programme. She was placed in the family home for weekly respite care in 2005, from eight years of age. In the programme the first girl is referred to as “Amy”.

Ms Barry told RTÉ: “Myself and ‘Amy’ in turns had to strip down with nothing only our socks on and while he had obviously done it to ‘Amy’ before, he called her over and I had to watch what was happening to her.”

The court heard she had told her biological mother and gardaí in 2007 about the abuse and that “Amy” was being abused, but because “Amy” denied the abuse no prosecution was taken.

In 2011, “Amy” told a teacher about the abuse she was suffering and when a third foster daughter, “Sarah”, was interviewed by gardaí it emerged she too had been raped by Burke.

She told gardaí she had been eight years old and being minded by Burke when he raped her in his parents’ bedroom, having told her to put on his mother’s underwear.

Burke pleaded not guilty to the crimes, meaning the three young women had to give evidence in court. He accepted his guilt before sentencing.

Mr Hynes - solicitor for “Sarah” - called for the case to be fully investigated. “My client and her family feel incredibly let down by a system which really was designed to protect them and serious questions need to be answered regarding both the placement and safeguarding of ‘Sarah’ while she was in care.”

In a statement, the HSE said that while no apology could undo the harm inflicted on the girls, it was important that the HSE expressed a heartfelt apology at this time.

“The HSE has been in contact with Tusla in order to discuss how best to determine whether this case raises any concerns for HSE delivered services today.”

The Irish Society for the Protection of Children (ISPCC) commended the young women for coming forward, disclosing the abuse and seeing the case through.

“It is essential that children in foster care and their families, as well as the public, can be assured that they can trust the system. It is also essential that foster families and those considering becoming foster carers can have confidence in the system, its supports and its protections for those in care and for foster carers.”

A spokeswoman for Tusla said the agency may issue a statement after the programme is broadcast.