Wednesday 24 January 2018

Individual accountability difficult in shock child report, says Minister Frances Fitzgerald

Mark Hilliard

CHILDREN’S Minister Frances Fitzgerald has said the report into child deaths in State care examined case files and not the people working on them, making individual accountability more difficult.

However, she said that in a situation where there was evidence of wrongdoing and where a professional had the chance to respond, a prosecution or serious sanction could not be ruled out.

Ms Fitzgerald was responding to numerous calls for disciplinary action following the publication of a damning report by the Independent Child Death Review Group at a Joint Oireachtas Committee meeting on Health and Children earlier today.

The hearing also focused on the issue of financial resources and a re-thinking of structures in order to deliver better services in the future.

Ms Fitzgerald revealed she had a preliminary discussion with Justice Minister Alan Shatter with a view to changing the ‘in camera’ laws surrounding legal hearings regarding children.

It is commonly held that such a move would increase transparency in how the State processes child welfare cases.

However, the issue of disciplinary action in the wake of the publication of the report by the Independent Child Death Review Group remained a central theme in the discussion.

Ms Fitzgerald said there were industrial relations issues to consider but that normal disciplinary processes are in place.

Amongst the more vocal on the subject was Dublin Fine Gael TD Catherine Byrne who said: “Heads should role. It’s very simple; it’s very factual; heads should role.

“People went into the care of the State and they died. All these people in these jobs were all highly paid professionals, or we were told they were professional.”

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