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Tuesday 20 March 2018

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

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

Finance Minister Michael Noonan has admitted that he knew about abuse allegations at a foster home in the southeast area as far back as twenty years ago.

Mr Noonan today confirmed that he received a letter written by the foster father in the controversy directly to himself in 1996.

Mr Noonan said he "had no clear memory of it" but he said he has reviewed the records where he found that he did receive the correspondence.

"I did check the position with the Department of Health and seemingly two letters arrived - one to me and one to the junior minister of health Austin Currie," he told RTE News At One today.

"And the letter to me, I got my officials to contact the southeastern health board and my understanding of it was that the person would be removed from foster care, but subsequently, information came through that there was some kind of appeal, and that that [the removal of the person] didn't happen."

Minister Noonan said that after the "data" was sent to the Minister for State at the time, he had no further contact in relation to the case.

"After that, because it was concerning the possible abuse of a child, the data went to the Minister of State who had responsibility for Children , and I'm not sure what happened after that."

"I had no further contact after that and I have the power to direct and I didn't direct, but the initial information I got was: yes there was an issue, that a child was removed, and then subsequently then I forget the detail but it was some kind of appeal process and the decision of whoever took it down in the southeast wasn't implemented at that point, and then it went on to Minister Austin Currie."

Dozens of children with disabilities, including a girl known only as 'Grace' were placed at the home between 1983 and 1995. Concerns about alleged abuse there were first raised in 1992, Dáil's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has heard. Although the then health board stopped further referrals in 1995, Grace remained there until 2009.

The State's child protection agency is currently seeking answers over why it was not informed by the HSE of any concerns about the conduct of employees who were involved in the foster home abuse scandal. 

Former health board staff involved in the foster home abuse scandal are now working for the State's child protection agency.

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