Saturday 3 December 2016

Foster home abuse probe costs top €500,000

Shane Phela

Published 30/05/2015 | 02:30

Mr Varadkar is currently considering establishing a commission of investigation into the alleged abuse and the apparent failure of health board officials to intervene
Mr Varadkar is currently considering establishing a commission of investigation into the alleged abuse and the apparent failure of health board officials to intervene

The cost of inquiries into the alleged rape of dozens of children in a foster home, including a girl with intellectual disabilities, has topped €500,000.

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New figures released by the HSE reveal the huge consultancy and legal fees being paid out in connection with probes it commissioned into the allegations.

Although the first of these inquiries was launched five years ago, no report has been published to date.

Decades

The allegations relate to a single foster home in the southeast and cover a period of two decades.

Fine Gael TD John Deasy has alleged "a clique of HSE managers" helped cover up the claims.

A briefing report prepared by the HSE for the Dáil Public Accounts Committee (PAC) outlined the cost of the inquiries. They include:

  • €124,797 paid to a consultancy firm run by former IMO industrial relations director Conal Devine for a report on the care of an intellectually disabled girl who lived with the foster family, completed in 2012;
  • €30,060 paid to consultancy firm Resilience Ireland for a "desktop review" of placements at the foster home, completed last year;
  • A further €99,390 paid to date to Resilience Ireland for a tracing and "look back" inquiry. This report, delivered in April, is set to have a maximum cost of €149,000;
  • €52,000 spent on child protection experts to assist the Resilience Ireland inquiry;
  • Legal fees of €33,502 associated with the Conal Devine inquiry;
  • Further legal fees of €178,759 paid to Arthur Cox in relation to the Resilience Ireland probe.

The sums paid to Mr Devine's company and Resilience Ireland were inclusive of VAT.

Mr Devine's firm was paid a day rate of €1,145, while at one point Resilience Ireland lead consultant Ger Crowley received a day rate of €900 and his colleague Tom O'Dwyer was paid a day rate of €850.

Mr Crowley's and Mr O'Dwyer's fees were reduced to €800 and €750-a-day respectively in January.

Mr Crowley is a former HSE employee, while Mr O'Dwyer previously worked for the Southern Health Board.

The HSE said gardaí had requested that it not publish the reports until an ongoing criminal investigation has concluded.

Although health board officials were informed of serious allegations in the 1990s, the foster home remained in operation for some time afterwards and children continued to live there.

Probes were only launched by the HSE after two whistleblowers made protected disclosures in 2009 and 2010.

One of the whistleblowers met with Health Minister Leo Varadkar and Disability Minister Kathleen Lynch in recent weeks.

Mr Varadkar is currently considering establishing a commission of investigation into the alleged abuse and the apparent failure of health board officials to intervene.

The PAC has recommended an investigation take place independent of the HSE.

A report by the committee has also recommended that former health service staff be disqualified from conducting investigations involves a systemic failure on the part of the HSE.

Irish Independent

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