Minister was told of Ms Y case two days before baby was born

Email to private secretary referred to ‘hot topics’ of abortion and direct provision

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald: asked if the Department of Health had been notified of the case. Photograph: Eric Luke

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald: asked if the Department of Health had been notified of the case. Photograph: Eric Luke

 

The Minister for Justice was warned “a combination of two ‘hot topics’ – abortion and direct provision” meant the case of Ms Y could become a “significant media story” over a week before it entered the public domain, internal records show.

A series of emails, seen by The Irish Times, reveal Noel Dowling, principal officer at the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) – part of the Department of Justice – wrote to Minister Frances Fitzgerald’s private secretary in early August outlining his concerns.

The documents indicate Ms Fitzgerald was informed of the case of Ms Y – the young woman at the centre of the latest abortion controversy – two days before her baby was delivered by Caesarean section.

Ms Y arrived in the State at the end of March. Finding out she was pregnant soon after, she sought an abortion. She said she had been raped before she came here. She came to the HSE’s attention in late July and was deemed suicidal under the terms of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act. Her baby boy was delivered at 26 weeks’ gestation on August 6th.

The emails and notes seen by The Irish Times passed between senior officials in the Department of Justice, and between the department and the Chief State Solicitor’s office, in the period between August 4th and August 6th. They confirm involvement of the Attorney General’s office.

Social worker

Ann Gill, manager of the RIA’s child and family services section, notified Mr Dowling of the request. He instructed her to provide the information requested.

On August 4th he emailed the then secretary general of the Department of Justice, Brian Purcell, and Noel Waters, director general of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service. “From the odd nature of the query Ann had received I guessed that something was going on. In essence it seems to be about how the HSE handled the matter once this woman arrived and told them she was pregnant and had been raped.”

Court action

On August 5th Mr Dowling emailed Karen Walker, principal solicitor at the Chief State Solicitor’s office: “It appears that a court action has been initiated in relation to the abortion issue in this case.”

On the same day, he wrote a briefing note to Christopher Quattrociocchi, private secretary to Ms Fitzgerald. He says Liam O’Daly, director general of the Office of the Attorney General, had phoned Mr Purcell the previous day to say a court case “has been initiated regarding the refusal of a hospital in . . . to provide an abortion to a pregnant . . . asylum seeker”.

“The combination of two ‘hot topics’ – abortion and direct provision – means this case may become a significant media story during the week . . . I feel it’s necessary to bring this matter to the Minister’s attention.”

At 5.04pm that day, Mr Quattrociocchi forwarded a short reply from Ms Fitzgerald in which she says: “Please keep me informed of any further contact, assume health [Department of Health] have been notified? F”

A spokesman for Minister for Health Leo Varadkar said last week officials in his department had been concerned about the HSE’s approach in the Ms Y case.