'Grace' inquiry to be extended amid claims of a cover-up by HSE
The inquiry into the abuse of 'Grace' is to be extended to include 46 other potential victims amid claims of a "major HSE cover-up".
Disabilities Minister Finian McGrath withdrew a motion on the Commission of Investigation yesterday, after Fianna Fáil joined other Opposition parties in arguing that they fell short of the probe required.
Fianna Fáil deputy John McGuinness told the Dáil that TDs should be "ashamed" if they passed the original terms of reference which focused heavily on the Grace case, while leaving space for senior counsel Marjorie Farrelly to 'scope out' other cases.
Mr McGrath argued the inquiry would deal with all potential abuse at a foster home in south-east, but later agreed to rewrite part of the commission's instructions to "clarify" that Ms Farrelly will investigate all cases.
Fianna Fáil's spokesperson on disability, Margaret Murphy O'Mahony, said the new terms of reference "are now explicit in the need to cover all those who were living in the home in question, and not just Grace herself". "In addition, the terms of reference provide clear and explicit recognition of the need to include the whistleblowers that brought these allegations into the public domain."
In the Dáil, Fine Gael TD for Waterford John Deasy cautioned colleagues against "accepting anything said by the HSE on this matter".
"Deputy McGuinness and myself discovered that, in dealing with the HSE on this issue, the first casualty was always the truth," he said.
Mr Deasy alleged that while the HSE was given legal advice to make Grace a ward of court, they avoided this "because they had concerns about a judge asking awkward questions".
He said the HSE was faced with choices but chose to avoid "a disastrous day in court, as it would appear the HSE had done nothing".
"It is pretty twisted stuff. It is almost Kafkaesque," he said. "It was a concerted and organised attempt to hide information and conceal the truth by a clique of HSE managers.
"It was an orchestrated attempt to protect officials and an organisation who failed people in State care in a catastrophic manner on a number of levels."
Mr McGuinness said Grace "was battered, bruised, sexually abused ... deprived of her money and neglected".
Meanwhile, in a statement issued through their solicitors, the whistleblowers who highlighted Grace's plight criticised the original terms of reference proposed by the Government.
The two social workers said the commission was only being allowed examine an alleged cover-up between 2009 and 2016, when a report by Conor Dignam SC had recommended this should be looked at back as far as 1996.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said: "There is no point, on a matter of such sensitivity and personal tragedy, in having political differences of opinion.
"Let us make sure that it is right and proper, comprehensive and that it covers all of the issues that deputies have quite rightly raised.
"This is a matter of genuine public interest and considerable public concern," he said.