HSE clique swept abuse concerns under the carpet, TD claims
The Dáil's spending watchdog has called for an independent inquiry into allegations that dozens of children were sexually abused in the same foster home over a period of two decades and that HSE staff helped cover up the scandal.
Senior figures on the Public Accounts Committee are seeking the establishment of a commission of investigation into the affair.
The call came after a Government TD alleged that "a clique of HSE managers" had helped to cover up the allegations, many of which involve intellectually disabled children.
The claims have been denied by the HSE.
Public Accounts Committee vice chairman John Deasy said there were allegations dozens of children were raped in a foster home in the southeast.
Speaking at a committee hearing, the Fine Gael TD said social workers who had raised concerns were ignored by health service management.
The concerns first came to the attention of health board officials in the early 1990s, but Mr Deasy alleged there had been "no urgency" within the HSE to investigate the issue.
"I believe there was a clique in the HSE which swept all this under the carpet," said Mr Deasy.
"The issue we are dealing with concerns the alleged sexual abuse of mentally disabled children. There were dozens of children involved and the allegations go back 24 years."
Addressing HSE director general Tony O'Brien, Mr Deasy said: "It is quite clear there was no urgency. In fact it was the exact opposite. There was a resistance to deal with this from start to finish within your organisation."
Mr Deasy said one of the children involved had remained in care at the foster home for 15 years after it had been determined she should be taken out of the home.
A report commissioned by the HSE into the allegations was completed three years ago.
However, it remains unpublished.
The HSE's national director for social care, Pat Healy, told the committee that gardaí had asked that the report not be published yet as they are continuing to investigate the allegations.
He admitted that once it is published, it would pinpoint failings.
"There will clearly be seen to be deficiencies. Some of that will be in relation to information that was available at the time and the question of whether it was appropriately followed up or not," said Mr Healy.
However, he said that the report would show that "there was in no way a cover up of what was done".
The Waterford TD said there had been considerable prevarication and asked whether there was an attitude in the HSE that the passage of time and the statute of limitations would "take care" of the issue.
Committee chairman John McGuinness said he supported Mr Deasy's comments.
Both Mr McGuinness and Mr Deasy raised concerns about the manner in which former health service employees had been appointed by the HSE to investigate the allegations.
The hearing was told no tendering process was used.
HSE director general Tony O'Brien said it was not unusual for former HSE staff who had worked in other geographical areas to be appointed to such inquiries.
Mr McGuinness said: "I think the use of former employees of the health service is not best practice and should not go on."