Sunday 4 December 2016

PAC TD claims HSE staff swept rape allegations under the carpet

Shane Phelan Public Affairs Editor

Published 23/04/2015 | 14:05

John Deasy
John Deasy

The Dail’s spending watchdog has called for an independent inquiry into allegations that dozens of children were sexually abused in the same foster home over two decades and that HSE staff helped cover up the abuse.

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Senior figures on the Public Accounts Committee are seeking the establishment of a commission of investigation into the scandal.

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.

Public Accounts Committee vice chairman John Deasy said there were allegations dozens of children were raped in a foster home home in the southeast.

Speaking at a committee hearing today, the Fine Gael TD said two 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 he rejected any suggestion that the HSE had ever dealt with the issue in an urgent manner.

“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,” he said.

“To actually characterise any of this as being in any respect urgent within your organisation is false.”

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However, it remains unpublished.

The HSE’s national director for social care, Pat Healy, told the committee that gardai had asked that the report not be published as they are continuing to investigate the allegations.

Mr Deasy said the HSE and its predecessor had mishandled the case for 23 years and should no longer have any involvement with it.

“It is astonishing,” he said.

The Waterford TD said there had been “prevarication at every junction” 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.”

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