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Saturday 19 January 2019

'This needs to be a watershed moment' - Solicitor acting for woman raped while in care of foster parents

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Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

MANY ‘unanswered questions’ remain about the way the authorities handled the care of three young girls who were raped while in the care of foster parents, a solicitor for one of the girls has said.

Ronan Hynes, acting for the girl known as 'Sarah', said that his client and her family have in the past been met by “a wall of silence” from the HSE and Tusla.

And he said the HSE unreserved apology in no way diminished their determination to seek a full independent inquiry into the sexual child abuse which occurred at the foster care home in Co Galway.

“We strongly believe that these cases should now be fully investigated by way of a Commission of Investigation,” Mr Hynes said.

He said that on behalf of his client and her family, they had today written to the Ministers for Health and Children and Youth Affairs, to request that a Commission of Investigation be established immediately to ensure accountability within State agencies, and “most importantly, that the victims of abuse and their families get the answers they are looking for.”

“Sarah and her family do not believe for one second that a review by the National Review Panel, which is commissioned by Tusla, will lead to a full independent and transparent inquiry,” he said.

He said this needs to be a watershed moment for the foster care system in Ireland and, in particular, the responsible state agencies.

Meanwhile, the Chief Executive of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre has described the abuse survivors who came forward to expose abuse at the Galway foster home as "heroes".

Noeline Blackwell said the HSE must have known there was a risk of abuse and that the house where Keith Burke was allowed unsupervised access was not safe.

This was about prevention and sanction, she said.

Rachel Barry was raped by Keith Burke (29) of Addergoolemore, Dunmore, Co Galway at a foster home where she was just nine years old and she waived her anonymity to name Burke as her abuser for an RTÉ Investigates programme broadcast last night. Two other girls who were fostered by Mr Burke’s parents were also raped by him and are known only as “Sarah” and “Amy.”

Burke was jailed last week for seven and a half years.

Speaking to RTÉ, Rachel described how Burke had taken her virginity away at the age of nine.

She also told how she was forced to watch as Burke had sex with the girl known as ‘Amy’ and that on one occasion he had ‘swapped’ them around, raping each in turn.

At the age of 11, Rachel had plucked up the courage to tell her biological mother what was going on and her disclosure was deemed ‘credible’ by the HSE – but because ‘Amy’ did not tell the authorities about the rape, the DPP chose not to prosecute.

The HSE chose not to remove Amy or another young boy from the care of the Burkes but said Keith should not have unsupervised access to the children.

During the sentence hearing last week however, gardaí told the court that this had taken place regardless and he had been left alone with the children.

If you have been affected by the content of this article, the National Rape Crisis Centre 24-hour helpline can be reached on 1800 77 88 88 or visit

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