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Gardai give green light for HSE inquiry at Aras Attracta

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A scene from the Prime Time programme about Aras Attracta

A scene from the Prime Time programme about Aras Attracta

A scene from the Prime Time programme about Aras Attracta

A DISCIPLINARY investigation into staff at the Aras Attracta care facility is finally under way after gardai gave health officials the green light to proceed.

Gardai had asked the Health Service Executive (HSE) to put a stay on an independent disciplinary probe launched after the controversy broke last month.

Detectives asked for the delay because they were afraid the HSE-ordered inquiry could impede the garda investigation into allegations of assault and abusive behaviour at the centre.

However, five weeks on, officers say they are now happy for the disciplinary probe to proceed.

It is set to focus on a dozen staff at the HSE-run care home, located in Swinford, Co Mayo, who were suspended without prejudice in connection with the controversy.

These include staff who apparently failed to intervene to stop abusive behaviour by colleagues.

Senior sources said the garda investigation had made significant progress.

Around 200 hours of footage, secretly filmed by an undercover RTE researcher, has now been viewed by detectives. Officers are currently interviewing a number of staff.

The footage showed residents being slapped, dragged and verbally abused.

"It is at a stage where there is no risk of a crossover between the garda and HSE investigations," a garda source said.

The Irish Independent understands the independent disciplinary inquiry team, chaired by disability services expert Christy Lynch, met last week to discuss how it will progress its work.

A spokesman for the HSE said: "We have been working closely with the guards since the broadcast. We were requested by the guards to pause the disciplinary proceedings, but we can confirm that at this stage the process has recommenced."

Separately, the HSE said it was still considering a proposal for the installation of surveillance cameras in care facilities.

In a previous statement, the HSE indicated the idea was not being favoured due to privacy concerns.

However, a clarifying statement said the idea had not been abandoned.

It said the HSE had now sought advice from expert consultants in the area of monitoring and surveillance.

"As the HSE has never undertaken such measures previously, and is conscious of potential difficulties in relation to privacy and data protection, expert consultants will advise on the best way to proceed," the statement said.

The use of undercover staff and other proposals are also being examined to help safeguard against the abuse of care home residents.

Irish Independent