Creche owner who left children unsupervised and failed to vet staff given six months to quit
A CRECHE owner who pleaded guilty to a litany of offences, including leaving children alone and unsupervised and failing to garda-vet staff, has been told she has six months to remove herself from the running of the premises.
Marie McGrath, owner of the Sunny Days Creche in Manulla, Co Mayo, had pleaded guilty to 10 separate charges after being brought to court by the HSE under the 2006 Pre-School Services Regulations.
Yesterday, Judge Mary Devins informed Ms McGrath that she had six months to implement a range of managerial changes following a "stark statement" from a HSE inspector as to the running practices of the creche.
Judge Devins pointed out that since the creche was opened by Ms McGrath in 2006 it had been the subject of five complaints in seven years.
Stating that the strict regulations were in place for a reason, she added that young children and infants were "utterly vulnerable".
The judge said she was taking into account the statement of HSE inspector Breda Cloney, who said she believed Ms McGrath was not a suitable person to operate a creche and that in her opinion the creche should be closed down.
The judge also referred to the evidence of Sandra Loftus – a consultant who had been brought on board to assist the creche in implementing the necessary changes – who described Ms McGrath's experience in the creche as "a learning process".
Adjourning the matter for a period of six months, Judge Devins stressed that she expected that within that period "Ms McGrath will have removed herself from the day-to-day running of the creche".
The court had previously heard from Ms Cloney that she had witnessed babies left unattended, children repeatedly grabbed forcibly by their arms and shouted at when they failed to stand in perfectly straight lines and, in one instance, a two-year-old being left to cry inconsolably until she intervened.
Other issues of concern that were raised by Ms Cloney included her being let into the creche by a child of about 12, where she found a pre-school child on their own in the hallway.
This was despite an advanced system, which saw parents use a fingerprint scanner to gain entry.
She also raised concerns about children being given horse oats instead of porridge oats to play with; a bed pushed against a dangerously hot radiator; dirt on the creche floors, which had not been swept or washed, and bins left in front of the wash handbasin, making it impossible for children to use them.
The creche is facing possible closure and a fine of more than €12,000 – €1,269 for each of the offences.