Wednesday 24 May 2017

Claim that HSE misled the PAC over Grace case

HSE boss Tony O’Brien was before the PAC
HSE boss Tony O’Brien was before the PAC
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

HSE boss Tony O'Brien is being accused of providing "inaccurate or misleading" information to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) about the 'Grace' foster home case.

It came as the Oireachtas approved the terms of a Commission of Investigation into the controversy over why Grace was allowed to remain in a home in the south east for 13 years, after allegations of sexual abuse were made against her foster father.

Mr O'Brien was appearing before the PAC to be quizzed on the HSE's fair-deal scheme .

However, the committee's chairman, Fianna Fáil's Seán Fleming, began the session by challenging him on his previous remarks on the foster home issue.

Mr Fleming said media reports last weekend indicated the HSE waited three years after the completion of a report about Grace's treatment before contacting gardaí about publishing the report.

He said that Mr O'Brien last year told the PAC that the HSE had been in "close liaison" with the gardaí from the outset of the Conal Devine report.

"I want you to come back within seven days to clarify the accuracy or otherwise of your previous statement," said Mr Fleming.

Sinn Féin's Mary Lou McDonald also challenged Mr O'Brien on the issue.

"I am very concerned that inaccurate, or misleading, information has been given to this committee by yourself in respect of the Devine Report, and what you claimed was a Garda insistence that reports couldn't be published, and disciplinary actions could not be taken against HSE staff on the instruction or advice of An Garda Síochána," she said.

She also referred to the RTÉ report that stated there was no communication with the gardaí for three years.

"I am very concerned that you weren't complete in the information that you gave to this committee," she said.

"I am concerned also that misleading information has been given to the committee in respect of those staff who were responsible for keeping Grace in that foster home," she said.

"Is it the case that one or all of those responsible still work within the public sector? We need to know."

Mr O'Brien said that he hadn't had an opportunity to re-read the transcripts of his previous PAC appearance and that he would need to do so to equip himself fully "to give the most complete answers".

It was agreed that he would have a week to supply information to the PAC and that he would reappear before the committee within another seven days to discuss the matter.

The Oireachtas last night approved expanded terms of reference for the Commission of Investigation into the abuse of Grace.

The second part of the inquiry will examine the cases of 46 other children that stayed in the foster home.

Irish Independent

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