Varadkar to consider foster home abuse probe
Published 29/04/2015 | 02:30
Health Minister Leo Varadkar is to consider establishing a commission of investigation into the alleged rape of dozens of children in a foster home and the handling of the affair by health service officials.
The move comes after the Dáil Public Accounts Committee (PAC) resolved to write to Mr Varadkar urging him to set up an independent inquiry.
Committee vice-chairman John Deasy has alleged "a clique of HSE managers" helped to cover up the allegations, which span two decades.
Many of the children at the centre of the claims had intellectual disabilities.
The HSE has denied any cover-up and said health officials stopped placing children with the foster home, which is in the south-east, after allegations were made in 1993.
However, some children at the home were not removed.
Sources close to Mr Varadkar indicated the minister was "favourably disposed" towards setting up an independent inquiry.
But his decision is likely to hinge on the outcome of an ongoing Garda investigation.
The PAC has recommended an investigation take place independent of the HSE.
Recently established commissions of investigation have been chaired by barristers or retired judges.
Although health officials were first informed of abuse allegations in the early 1990s, a formal inquiry was only launched by the HSE in 2010 after two social workers availed of protective disclosure legislation to voice concerns.
The inquiry report, by consultant Conal Devine, was completed in 2012, but has yet to be published.
A separate 'look back' review of all placements with the foster family, conducted by a firm called Resilience Ireland, has also yet to be published.
The HSE says it wants to publish both reports but is awaiting clearance from gardaí and the Wards of Court Office.
PAC chairman John McGuinness said: "We are formally writing to the Minister for Health to inform him of the committee's view on the situation and to request a commission of investigation. Separately, the committee will be doing its own report on procurement issues."
The PAC has been critical of the fact both the HSE-commissioned inquiry and the 'look back' review were not subject to tendering processes. The cost of these is set to top €355,000.
The Devine inquiry cost €124,797 and involved a daily rate of €1,145 being charged.
Resilience Ireland was paid €30,060 for an initial review and is set to be paid up to €149,000 for further work.
Its team includes a number of former health service personnel.
Child protection consultants assisting with the review are to be paid up to €52,000.