The Irish Times view on the ‘Brandon’ report: a devastating situation

Residents at a care centre in Co Donegal still do not live in a rights-based environment, according to a troubling new report

Publication of the summary of the 'Brandon' report, into the sexual abuse of intellectually disabled adults at a HSE-run centre in Co Donegal, was an opportunity for the executive to put them and their families at the centre of their response to this devastating situation.

The 11-page executive summary of the report, from the National Independent Review Panel (NIRP), published yesterday, finds at least 18 vulnerable residents, many of them non-verbal, were subjected to at least 108 incidents of abuse by another resident, at the Ard Gréine Court complex in Stranorlar between 2003 and 2016.

It finds the abuse continued "with the full knowledge of staff and management of the facility at that time" while simultaneously there was "no evidence that any of the families of these residents were informed at the time of these assaults". Families were eventually told, before Christmas 2018, following completion of a "look back" review commissioned in 2016. It had been prompted by the actions of a whistleblower who had approached local Independent TD Thomas Pringle. He brought concerns to the then minister of state for disabilities, Finian McGrath.

Families said in October, when the abuse was first reported by The Irish Times, they didn’t believe they would have been told at all had it not been for the whistleblower and Pringle. They said in October they were “shocked”, “disappointed” and “very let down” that a HSE-run centre they believed they could trust had “failed” them and their vulnerable loved ones.


This week, having heard through media that the summary would be published, they were told they would be provided with a copy before it went live on the HSE website. That this did not happen does further damage to the trust the executive so badly needs to bring the families, and wider society, with it in addressing the failings that allowed Brandon’s abuse continue for so long.

The most significant factor in the prolonged abuse, says NIRP, was the “the clinical environment” in the Ard Gréine Court, where residents were treated like patients in hospital in need of treatment, rather than as residents in their home.

Troublingly, it says residents still don’t live in a rights-based environment, still lack control over their lives and remain “completely dependent on staff in the service to protect them”. Calling for a model of care centred on those living in the service, it says this would protect and empower people with intellectual disabilities to exercise choice and control over their lives.

Realising such a model will require the full participation of families and communities, and trust in those bodies involved in caring for our most vulnerable. The disregard shown to Brandon, those he abused, and their families over more than two decades has done little to build that trust.