Grace, Noonan And Monageer

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Yesterday’s Irish Examiner showing the letter sent by the foster father of Grace to the then Minister for Health Michael Noonan, above, in August 1996

You may recall the story of Grace, the mute child – now a woman in her 40s – who remained in a foster home with an abusive family in the south east of Ireland for more than a decade after other children had been removed.

The other children were taken out of the home in 1995, after concerns were raised with the then Southern Health Board in 1992.

Yesterday’s Irish Examiner reported how – after the health board initially decided that Grace be removed – Grace’s foster family appealed against this decision but lost.

Following that, the foster father, in 1996, sent a letter lobbying the Minster for Health Michael Noonan to allow Grace stay in the home.

It’s unclear what exactly happened after this letter was sent but Grace did stay at the home for another 13 years.

Daniel McConnell, of the Irish Examiner, spoke with Matt Cooper on Today FM yesterday evening to explain the significance of the letter.

He said:

“Whether, it seems, by accident, or inadvertently, the intervention seems to have had a chilling effect because what’s detailed in the documents is that Grace’s removal was delayed on foot of the request from the foster father. Then that removal never happened.”

“…We put a series of detailed queries through the Fine Gael press office, to him [Noonan], last [Monday] night and he said he had nothing more to add…”

Separately.

Readers may also recall the allegations made by former Fine Gael councillor and barrister Garry O’Halloran in relation to Minister Noonan.

Mr O’Halloran has claimed that, at the 1997 Fine Gael Ard Fheis in Dublin, Michael Noonan ‘ran away’ from him even though Mr Noonan was scheduled to meet with him.

Mr O’Halloran wanted to speak with Mr Noonan – not about Grace – but about the late Fr Jim Grennan, who had abused several children in Monageer, Co. Wexford, the diocese of Ferns. One of Fr Grennan’s victims was with Mr O’Halloran at the Ard Fheis.

At this point, in 1997, Fr Grennan was already dead, having died in 1994.

Mr O’Halloran, who was chairman of the then South Eastern Health Board, wished to speak with Minister Noonan to request that he order an inquiry into the health board’s response to abuse allegations made by 10 children against Fr Grennan back in 1988.

Mr O’Halloran explained:

“The allegations were raised in 1988 and they were validated immediately. There was a local teacher, a local social worker and a local guard who all did a very good job. But after that, a superintendant came along and destroyed the file and the guards did nothing, the health board did nothing.”

He [Grennan] went on to carry out devastating rapes after that, with devastating consequences.”

Mr O’Halloran was prompted to lobby Mr Noonan in 1997 – three years after Fr Grennan died – because Mr O’Halloran had learned that one of Fr Grennan’s victims had been gravely abused for several years, on a regular basis, after 1988.

The day after Fr Grennan died, on May 9, 1994, aged 61, a child of 13 took an overdose of medication and was admitted to hospital. On May 30, the child told their mother they had been molested by Fr Grennan, in the months prior to Fr Grennan’s death.

Mr O’Halloran explained:

I was asking questions. I was in the health board and everything was being denied. The acceptance of any clerical child abuse was denied. When we got the thumbs down from the authorities, there was only three of us working on it at this stage – Billy Moroney, a farmer from New Ross, journalist Veronica Guerin, and myself.”

“We worked closely together. But Billy and myself set up a group called Survivors and we used to meet every month  in Waterford and, very quickly, we had people coming and all the situations were the same. All the victims had raised a complaint about being raped and abused and they were all ignored.

The eventual Ferns Report, which was published in 2005 and looked at 100 allegations of child sexual abuse made between 1966 and 2005 against 21 priests in the Diocese of Ferns, confirmed all of Mr O’Halloran claims and those of Fr Grennan’s victims.

In light of the findings of the Ferns Report, readers may wish to read Mr O’Halloran’s recollections of the Ard Fheis. He said:

“[Noonan] kept us waiting all night, no sign of him. Eventually I spotted him leaving the podium and he was heading for the door and, when I followed him, he sprinted as fast as he could and when I reached the door he was already in his car and there was black smoke whirring up into my face, from the wheels spinning. And Phil Hogan was standing alongside me and Phil said to me, ‘you relax, the Minister for Children [Austin Currie] is meeting your deputation, everything will be fine.‘”

“So we met him [Currie] and, after about half an hour, he said, ‘right you have your inquiry’. So that was fine. I contacted his secretary on the Monday morning to progress the matter and she said, ‘hang on a minute’. And then she came back and said, ‘No there isn’t any inquiry’.”

“And I said, ‘Oh yes there is, we met the [junior] minister on Saturday night, he said we have our inquiry.’ And she said, ‘oh no he [Currie] didn’t. What he told you was that he would inquire into it and, having inquired, there’s no substance to your claims and allegations’.

Last Saturday, Mr Currie denied this was the case, telling the Irish Times:

“I said I would inquire into their allegations when I got back to the department on Monday. The next thing I heard in the press I had promised an inquiry. I had not. I know I brought that family’s concerns to the officials in the department.”

So what does Monageer have to do with Grace?

It should be explained that Mr O’Halloran came forward to recall his non-meeting with Minister Noonan at the Ard Fheis in 1997 – after he heard Minister Noonan give an interview with Richard Crowley on RTÉ Radio One on Thursday, February 4.

During that interview Minister Noonan was briefly asked about the letters he received about Grace.

Mr O’Halloran knew nothing of Grace when he heard the interview – but it jogged his memory in relation to Fr Grennan. Mr O’Halloran also felt it was important to explain that the case of Grace wasn’t an isolated incident.

Ever since his allegations about the Ard Fheis were published, many people have contacted Mr O’Halloran about Grace.

Further to this, he has written to both the Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan and Minister Noonan.

He has asked Ms O’Sullivan to investigate Minister Noonan’s conduct – for his time as Minister for Health from 1994 to 1997.

In addition, he’s asked Minister Noonan to resign.

Mr O’Halloran, a barrister, explained his reasons for this:

“In 1995, having received repeated evidence of complaints of child sex abuse in the particular foster care facility, it was decided to place no further children in that facility and to remove Grace forthwith. The foster parents had an entitlement to appeal that decision and they did appeal it.”

“The appeal committee accepted that the original decision was a proper decision and that it was in the best interest of the child that she be removed forthwith from that facility. In response to that the foster father wrote directly to the minister stating that they did not accept those decision and hence they were putting in a further appeal to him.”

“Notwithstanding the fact that he had no statutory function in the matter, he passed the matter on to his officials and his junior minister. He was notified by the health board, the matter was governed by Section 43 of the Childcare Act, which meant that if there was any ongoing concerns that a judge of the District Court should make the decision on the basis of what was in the best interest of the child.”

Instead of the matter going to a judge, it ended up with a further appeal committee – the composition of which remains unknown to this day – deciding that the child be left at this foster care facility, and there she remained for a further 13 years until a social worker recently appointed to her case, brought the matter to attention.”

“As far as I’m concerned [Minister Noonan] is a man that shouldn’t be holding high public office and he merits investigation.”

Listen back to Mr McConnell’s interview in full here

Letter shows ‘Grace’ remained in home after foster father lobbied Michael Noonan (Daniel McConnell and Fiachra Ó Cionnaith, Irish Examiner)

Austin Currie drawn into case of girl at ‘foster’ home (Kitty Holland, Irish Times)

Irish Examiner/Rollingnews

39 thoughts on “Grace, Noonan And Monageer

  1. fluffybiscuits

    What this does is prove how inept those in government are. RTE would never throw a curve ball like this in a debate. Noonan if he knew chose to sat on the evidence and pushed it proverbially to the back of the queue never to see the light of day again. Why is a school teacher involved in such a position of high power?

  2. dav

    he hounded a sick and dying woman through the courts, so it’s not surprising he contributed to the suffering to another vulnerable individual

        1. Disasta

          Thanks for that. Just read up on it.

          I hope the anus rots out of him.
          He seems like an evil man in general.

  3. Fergus the magic postman

    There is so much to Michael Noonan that we don’t know about. We’ve only scratched the surface. He is a dodgy, dodgy, dodgy man.
    To me his biggest challenge/ roll in his career seems to be the juggling act of keeping stuff hidden that he performs on a daily basis. It is probably more important to him than anyone else that FG stay in power, so that he can continue covering all of this stuff up.

  4. Nice Jung Man

    This is outstanding journalism, thank you Broadsheet

    Lets get these bums all out in the open where we can see the whites of their eyes

  5. Frilly Keane

    A vote for Fine Gael
    No matter what the preferences

    Is a vote of acceptance of Michael Noonan

    It is a vote supporting everything Noonan has done

    1. Vedrafjord

      I’m still amazed he was ever re-elected following his hounding of a dying woman through the courts in the 90’s during the blood transfusion scandal.

      1. Sam

        To be blunt, she wasn’t from Limerick, and local politics is of more interest to the voters.
        There’s plenty of people in Raheen and Dooradoyle who are under the impression that having Noonan in the Dáil is keeping the place from turning from a middle class area into something from a Paul Williams piece.
        He wears a suit, he talks in that ‘serious’ tone of voice, and associates himself with any uptick in the economy and the local media treat him with great deference.

  6. meadowlark

    Between this and the Karen story on the journal… I’m disgusted by the whole effing system and every person involved. Women, children, the elderly, the sick, the disabled. Who is left?

    1. Frilly Keane

      the next generation of Women, Children, Elderly, Sick and Disabled.
      If people keep voting for Fine Gael

      1. meadowlark

        Honestly Frilly, I’d transfer my votes to Catherine to the socdems if I could. Looks like Clare Daly is the best of a bad bunch.

  7. Tish Mahorey

    There has always been a sordid secret parallel state in this country involving Church cronies, business people and politicians who like to be seen to go to mass but are in fact the least Christian people.

    The church and their vassals in Irish state institutions is essentially a power which subverts the state (not unlike the IRA was in its time) and the nation has been hoodwinked since 1922.

    There is one state for us an another for them. That is why there never seems to be justice for the victims of abuse and the victims of police and politician corruption.

    Thousands upon thousands of Irish people have left the state because of that, rather than economic hardship.

  8. Tish Mahorey

    Oh and the Church hierarchy used the Garda Special Branch for their own spying projects in the 1950s and 1960s. And there is proof of that available. They actually had detectives following people and reporting directly back (outside of the reporting structure of An Garda Siochana).

  9. Whatevers

    Being from Wexford I wouldn’t go as far as to say that it was common knowledge about Grennan in Monageer, but I distinctly remember when he died, the attitude amongst my parents generation was one of “good riddance” – I’d go as far to say that it was accepted amongst a certain section of people in Wexford that he was a paedophile (even though that word wasn’t really in our lexicon at the time – you’d be more likely to hear it phrased as “he likes little boys”)… anyway I digress… you also have to remember the time it was even back in the 80’s and the context – children who came forward were accused by church goers of making up allegations as they were merely “Looking for attention” – I heard this myself from my cake baking, church fete stalwart, next door neighbour.

    There also was a story doing the rounds that there was a family in Monageer who complained to the Guards that their child had been abused by Grennan. The story goes that the family were put through a campaign of intimidation after that, where their car was repeatedly attacked, their windows were broken, and they had they had shite pushed through their letterbox. Eventually the family gave in and moved out of Monageer. I hope that family is following this story now and they come forward with their own version of events.

    1. Truth in the News

      Can they be traced so that their complaint can be highlighed and those who
      failed to do anything outed and exposed.

  10. Joe cool

    How in the name of god are the police not banging down his Door and dragging him off for questioning? It beggers belief that in 2016, stuff like this is still going on. What are the guards doing? “Ah it’s ok minister, we’ll wait till the elections over till we question you???

    1. formerly known as @ireland.com

      Ministers used to transfer trouble maker guards, who were upholding the law. How do I know? My father was a guard who got punished for enforcemig the law. I don’t know if it is any better now.

  11. poppy

    The professionals who recommended ‘Grace’ be removed from foster care must be crushed at political interference. FG/Labour have recently made a big issue of Ms Cahill abused in N.Ireland. …a crime not even in their juristiction …to score points against Sinn Fein. The hypocricy , the irony of it. But to allow a little girl, a deaf mute to be allowed to stay to be shamefully abused is a RESIGNING matter .Noonan would be out the door in the U.K. today.

  12. Truth in the News

    Don’t expect RTE to delve into Noonan, they have ran away from it, there is a
    silence in the some sections of the media, one wonders why, who are they protecting
    what else have they failed to expose…is it that there is an election on.
    Why was Kenny not asked about this last night on the RTE debate, If it was connected with Micheal Martin or Adams it would, in fact O’Callaghans eyes would have popped out quzzing Adams.

  13. Wayne Carr

    Yeah, but hold on, Gerry Adams’s brother… I… But… LOOK, it’s only bad if Sinn Féin know people who did bad things. Fine Gael have heroes like Michael Noonan and Marie-Louise O’Donnell who can guide us towards the light. Stop picking on them.

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