Saturday 3 December 2016

Vulnerable Grace left in home at the centre of sexual abuse concerns after foster father lobbied Michael Noonan

Published 23/02/2016 | 11:48

Finance minister Michael Noonan. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Finance minister Michael Noonan. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

The foster father of a vulnerable young woman who allegedly suffered years of horrendous sexual abuse while under his care wrote to former Health Minister Michael Noonan to request he intervene after health officials tried to remove her, claiming she lived in a “happy and secure” home.

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Grace, who is non-verbal and is intellectually disabled, remained in a foster home until 2009 despite fears about the sexual abuse of minors at the site dating back to 1996.

The HSE has since apologised to the vulnerable woman and to 46 other alleged victims of abuse, who also stayed at the foster home.

Read More: Former minister defends handling of foster home sex abuse concerns

The matter of Grace’s abuse is now to be subject of a Statutory Commission of Investigation.

Reported in the Irish Examiner, a letter by Grace’s foster father at the time was sent to then Health Minister Michael Noonan asking him to intervene after health officials in 1996 decided she should be removed amidst concerns of sexual abuse.

Documents seen by the newspaper show a letter from Mr Noonan’s private secretary confirms that, on foot of the foster father’s request, the young vulnerable woman’s removal from the foster home was delayed.

Read More: Whistleblower to meet HSE boss this week

“The minister understands that the health board, at your request, agreed not to remove ‘Grace’ until the end of the summer period,” the letter from Mr Noonan’s secretary states.

When allegations of sexual abuse were made by a former resident in 1995, the health authorities decided to place no more children there.

A decision to remove Grace from the family at the time was "countermanded" by a three-person panel of health board employees.

Read More: Finance Minister Michael Noonan admits he knew about foster home abuse allegations twenty years ago

In his letter to Mr Noonan, the foster father says Grace “enjoys a happy and secure life”.

“[She] goes to the sea side, shopping and out for a meal and gets individual treatment for her special needs,” it continues.

A spokesman for Mr Noonan said he had nothing to add to his previous comments on the matter.

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