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Friday 19 September 2014

Focus on Justice department's role in controversy intensifies

Published 21/08/2014 | 02:30

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Hollie Leddy Flood from Drimnagh &Fiona O Neill from Dundrum  during a Choice Ireland demonstration in protest at treatment of a suicidal pregnant woman who was refused an abortion on O' Connell Street, Dublin.
Photo:  Gareth Chaney Collins
Hollie Leddy Flood from Drimnagh &Fiona O Neill from Dundrum during a Choice Ireland demonstration in protest at treatment of a suicidal pregnant woman who was refused an abortion on O' Connell Street, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald plans to play a strong role in the campaign according to insiders

The Department of Justice is refusing to say when it learned about the case of the asylum seeker at the centre of the latest abortion controversy.

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The move comes just a month after a review of the Department found a "closed, secretive" culture in operation.

Although the Department has largely managed to evade the spotlight in the case, Government sources say its role in the treatment of the asylum seeker is not yet clear.

The Department is directly responsible for the welfare of asylum seekers in the country as they await the processing of their applications. The HSE is responsible for the medical needs of asylum seekers so it has been the focus of the inquiries into the young woman's treatment.

However, the role of the Department and Reception and Integration Agency (RIA), which coordinates the provision of services, including health, to asylum seekers is also expected to come under increasing scrutiny.

"It is widely believed Justice has questions to answer here. If Justice are not worried, they should be, because a lot of issues arose at early stages," a Government source said.

But the Department is refusing even to say when the case of the asylum seeker came to its attention.

"We won't be commenting," a spokesman said.

The Department said it does not comment on individual cases and referred repeatedly to the role of the HSE in health requirements of asylum seekers.

"Once asylum seekers come into the country they are medically assessed by the HSE and appropriate referrals are then made to the relevant agencies and services by the HSE.

"Medical issues for asylum seekers are a matter for the individual and the HSE. The Department of Justice and Equality and the Reception and Integration Agency have no role in the medical treatment of asylum seekers.

"The details of medical information given to any particular individual is a matter between that individual and the relevant services, not the RIA.

"The Department of Justice assists asylum seekers to obtain travel documents if they are requested in particular circumstances that warrant travel," the Department said in response to a series of queries from the Irish Independent.

Last month, the review of the Department's operations was also critical of its failed interactions with the media.

"In recent years, there would appear to have been inadequate constructive relationships or interactions with the media, which are vital in a world where the pace and nature of media interactions are growing exponentially," the review said.

The woman was the subject of a High Court motion taken by the HSE on August 2, where the health service sought a care order to allow it to rehydrate her if she went on hunger strike.

She was again the subject of a brief court hearing on August 5. The Department said it did not have legal representation in court for this case on the day.

"The Department of Justice was not a party to the proceedings, nor was the Department represented in Court on either day," a spokesman said.

Irish Independent

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