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Monday 18 December 2017

Families of victims demand answers in care scandal

Edel Kennedy, ine Kerr and Michael Brennan

Last night the families of children who died in state care called on the Government to "cease the cover-up" and publish the reports into their deaths.

They spoke out after Children's Minister Barry Andrews could not tell an emergency Dail debate when the reports would finally be made public.

Yesterday it emerged that at least 23 children had died while in state care over the past decade.

However, the HSE has failed to publish a single report on any of these deaths since it was established in 2005.

The families of two teenagers who died in state care last night said children were continuing to die because of the failure to protect the most vulnerable in society.

Danny Talbot (19) died of a drugs overdose while in the care of the HSE last year.

New details of his tragic death came to light yesterday after Fine Gael TD Alan Shatter leaked a report into the death of 18-year-old mother-of-two Tracey Fay, who also died while in the care of the State.

"There are lots of other Tracey Fays and Danny Talbots and we're not going to sit back and wait seven years like the Fay family for a report," Danny's aunt Donna Lamb told the Irish Independent.

Tracey's uncle said it was a "scandal" that the report into the death of his niece took six years to complete and had only now come into the public domain.

"In the eight years since Tracey died, quite a lot of kids have died," Damien Fay said last night.

"Barry Andrews claimed last year that it would be published within a month and that didn't happen. All of a sudden he's now concerned about us because the report was leaked but who is he to speak on behalf of the family when we had no input? It's ridiculous.

"What happened Tracey is still happening today and it's an abuse of the child by the State."

Responding to the families' comments, Mr Shatter last night said: "The suppression of reports must end now."

He added: "There is an absolute necessity to publish all the reports without further delay. It is essential the HSE stops hiding behind the pretext that reports are being delayed for publication because they need to contact families."

Mr Andrews came under pressure to outline the causes of the 23 deaths and reveal exactly what stage each of the reports were at during an emergency Dail debate last night.

He denied opposition claims of a "cover-up" and pledged to publish "so far as is possible" all of the reports.

The minister also warned that future inquiries could be jeopardised if Fine Gael's action of publishing a HSE report was repeated.

"You can be sure that if the precedent set yesterday is set to continue then nobody will co-operate with inquiries as they can safely assume that some member of the House of Oireachtas will publish a report that is not meant for the public," Mr Andrews said.

However, Mr Fay last night praised Mr Shatter for publicly releasing the report on his niece's death.

He said it was a "scandal" it had not been published earlier.

Mr Fay revealed that Tracey had lived with him for a period before her death, but he was never once contacted by the HSE when they were carrying out the report on her death.

Ms Lamb claimed the Government's inaction was putting children's lives at risk.

"The minister and the HSE need to go out on to the boardwalk or the hostels and see the young people who are drugged up to their eyeballs and have nothing to do for the day," she told the Irish Independent.

The HSE refused to say exactly when the children died because it wanted to protect their identities.

Statement

In a statement released last night, it said that out of the 10 cases considered by the HSE's review group, six were currently "in progress".

Two are going though due process in preparation for publication and are expected to be published in a matter of weeks.

Another two are currently subject to legal constraints that have delayed their publication.

HSE Assistant National Director for Children and Families Phil Garland also highlighted the inconsistency in work carried out on the reports after he admitted that health authorities had originally planned to publish the Fay and Foley reports together.

This is despite a three-year gap between their deaths.

There are currently 5,300 children under the care of the HSE. An estimated 90pc of these are being looked after by foster parents.

Irish Independent

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