Saturday 18 November 2017

'My daughter has no voice, I will not stop fighting for justice' - Grace's mother speaks out for the first time

(Stock picture)
(Stock picture)
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

The birth mother of Grace, the young woman left in a foster home for years after allegations of abuse, were made has said she will never stop fighting for justice for her daughter.

Speaking exclusively to RTÉ Investigates, which was aired on the Claire Byrne show tonight, the heartbroken mother revealed details of her decision to place Grace under the care of the HSE.

 "I was pregnant with Grace and I was so young and I had no support and I was in no fit state to look after her so I put her in the care of the SEHB and I thought that was the best thing to do at the time, that she’d be well looked after and cared for," she said.

It has since emerged that Grace was allowed stay in the home for 20 years, 13 of which came after allegations of abuse in the home were made by the family of another child.

During that time several opportunities to remove her from the home were not followed through with, despite evidence of bruising, black eyes and disturbing behaviour suggestive of sexual abuse.

She was always under the impression that her daughter was well cared for and didn't learn about the sexual abuse allegations until 2009 she said.

During that call she learned that her daughter had been brought to hospital "to get checked out that there was bruising to breasts and to her thighs and I was totally devastated.... totally, totally devastated. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, I said I wanted her removed immediately," she said.

"I thought how could they do this, how could anyone …. cover up all this from me and to keep her you know, and have her in danger – it was just totally awful, I couldn’t believe it," she said.

"I felt very suicidal, I just wanted it all to go away, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Even now I can’t read, I can’t read the freedom of information, I just read clippings of it and that’s enough to send me over the edge. I don’t know when I’ll be able to pick it up, that’s if I’ll ever be able to read it because the bits I did read was just too much, too much to take in," she added.

"I won’t rest and I’ll keep going, I’ll keep going until – and I want answers, I want answers and I’m going to keep going until I get these answers because I’ve never gave up on my daughter and I never, ever will...I will never stop fighting for justice."

"I’ve sat here today because my daughter hasn’t got a voice and I’m here to give her that, I’m here for that voice for my daughter … and I just never want another child to suffer like that ever, I think it’s wrong, it’s wrong," she said.

"So I will not rest until I get answers and I’ll keep going until I get answers."

Grace's mother said she has a number of questions she wants answered via the the Commission of Inquiry.

"Why they failed her, why they never monitored her, just basically why they left her for 20 years without checking up on her, they’re the answers I want," she said.

The mum said she saw her daughter recently and spent  the day with her.

"It was very emotional but it was lovely yeah, it was a lovely day. We took pictures and it’s the first thing, it’s the last thing I look at, at night before I close my eyes, is her pictures on my phone. It was a lovely day but it’ll be the first of many days," she said.

When asked what her plans for the future are she said she won't be able to move on until she gets answers.

"I hope I’ll be in a better place when all this is over to enjoy my time with her...I just cannot move on until I get all the answers that I want. I feel that it has ruined my life, all this, I have, it’s ruined my life, the lies, the constant lies and the suffering of my daughter has ruined my life," she said,

"I hope someday like that they’ll be held accounted for and knowing that no one else is going to suffer again that I can move on and be happy.

The Government is to establish a Commission of Investigation to examine the disturbing case, with Disabilities Minister Finian McGrath bringing terms of reference to Cabinet tomorrow.

In the interview she also rejected an apology from the HSE.

"I don’t accept their apology. I don’t trust them, I don’t trust what they have to say. The past five years have been a living hell for me, and that’s the only way I can describe it.

It comes after two reports into the issue were released last week.

The Devine report detailed how health board staff failed to remove Grace form the home even though health workers noted in the mid-1990s that the girl would strip off her clothes and engage in other "chaotic behaviour", such as wolfing down her food, stealing dinners and headbutting other children.

The Resilience Ireland report looked into the cases of over 30 other children who were placed at the foster home.

It found one case where there were allegations a child was locked in a cupboard at the home by the foster mother. Other children complained about overcrowding.

However, the reports have failed to shed light on why a three-person health board committee decided in 1996 to overturn an earlier decision to remove Grace from the home. The HSE has clarified that the three people on this panel are now retired and in receipt of a pension.

An initial decision to remove her came after a sexual abuse allegation was made against the male foster carer.

The Devine report said the decision to remove her was overturned that October and the reasons why remain in dispute.

It was noted at the case conference where the decision was taken that there was "no evidence" Grace’s welfare was not being met.

Yet a decision was taken at the same meeting not to place any other children there.

Plans in later years to remove Grace were resisted by the foster mother, who said she depended on the placement for income.

Grace was even returned to the foster home despite being admitted to a sexual assault unit for an examination in 2009.

She was eventually removed from the home later that year following the intervention of social workers at a day service she was attending.

Grace's mother told RTE she cannot yet bring herself to read Grace’s full file as it is too disturbing and upsetting for her.

In a statement in response to Grace's mothers interview the HSE said:

"It is genuinely to our regret but we understand why Grace’s mother cannot accept our apology now.  We do hope that in the future she may be in a position to do so.  What is most important is that any questions she has which remain to be answered, that she will get those answers from the objective viewpoint of the upcoming Commission of Inquiry. 

"Once again the HSE can only apologise to Grace and her mother and say that we genuinely are very sorry for all of the failings in her care and in our system."

The HSE said it would co-operate fully with the investigation. The fact Grace's mother and others still have questions was "indicative of just how complex this matter is over a twenty year period" the statement said.

The statement also moved to clarify that the HSE has co-operated with gardaí since 2011.

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