Taoiseach supports call for publication of Donegal abuse report

Prolonged sexual abuse of 18 intellectually disabled patients at care home ‘unforgivable’

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he supports the demands made by families that an independent investigation into the sexual abuse of their intellectually disabled loved ones in an HSE-run care home be published.

Speaking in Cork on Friday Mr Martin was responding to the news that at least 18 intellectually disabled adults were subjected to prolonged sexual abuse by another now-deceased resident of the Ard Gréine Court complex, part of St Joseph's Hospital, in Stranorlar, Co Donegal between 2003 and 2016.

Minister of State for Disabilities Anne Rabbitte was in Ballybofey on Friday to meet families and brief TDs on the case.

An unpublished review by the HSE's National Independent Review Panel (NIRP), which gives the perpetrator the pseudonym "Brandon", finds he carried out at least 108 sexual assaults on mainly non-verbal peers, with the "full knowledge" of management.


It finds HSE management at both service and regional level “had neither the management skills nor competence to deal with the serious problems Brandon’s behaviour presented”.

Commissioned in 2018 by the HSE national office, and titled Independent Review of the Management of Brandon, it says the "common strategy" to manage Brandon – to move him from ward to ward – "simply gave him access to a new cohort of clients whom he proceeded to assault until he was moved on again".

None of the families was told about the abuse of their loved ones until December 2018 – a decade after the abuse in some cases.

Families of five of the victims met Ms Rabbitte in Ballybofey on Friday. The brother of one of the victims, who is still living in Ard Gréine, said he was “glad” to have met her and that “it’s going somewhere at last”.


Ms Rabbitte said she wanted the families to know of her support for them and their loved ones. A spokesman said: “She is acutely aware of the sensitive nature of the subject matter of the report and the possible varying views of families regarding privacy and space at this time.

“The HSE has assured the Minister that there is no ongoing risk to service users and that the national governance and accountability structures to oversee implementation of the recommendations arising from the report are in place.”

In a statement on Friday the HSE said what happened in the “Brandon” case “fell far short” of the standards its staff seeks to provide, which is “safe, high-quality health and social care with compassion”.

"We apologise sincerely for that," it said. The executive received the report from the NIRP in August 2020. "An Garda Síochána have asked us to delay publication at this point while their investigations continue," it said.

Mr Martin, asked if he supported the families’ call for its publication, said “yes”. There was “no excuse” for the abuse. “Nobody should be that length of time in any institution being abused. It’s unforgivable.

“I will work with Minister Rabbitte and others to accelerate that [publication of the report],” he said.

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times