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From last night’s RTÉ Investigates programme Chaos In Care

Last night.

On RTÉ One.

Aoife Hegarty, of RTÉ Investigates, presented a report entitled Chaos In Care.

It examined how certain vulnerable children, in the care of the State, have been harrowingly failed by the State.

It also looked at cases from the report published yesterday by the Special Rapporteur on Child Protection Dr Geoffrey Shannon which looked at the use of Section 12 of the Child Care Act 1991 by An Garda Siochana.

Section 12 of the act allows gardai to remove a child if they believe there is a serious risk to the child’s health or welfare.

In one particular case, Ms Hegarty reported:

In 2011 a young boy living in voluntary foster care – who we’ve named ‘Mark’ – told his birth mother [‘Susan’] he had been inappropriately touched by another, male foster child twice his age who was also living with the same foster family.

‘Susan’ – which is not her real name – discovered ‘Mark’ had made a similar allegation to his foster parent 5 weeks earlier but it had not been reported to the HSE.

‘Susan’ asked to have ‘Mark’ moved from the foster placement while an investigation took place – this did not happen. 

Instead a safety plan was put in place by the HSE. – this consisted of little more than an instruction to the foster parents that the two boys – who had been sharing a bedroom – “should have separate bedrooms and that the [foster] carers should supervise” them closely.

Two months later, the HSE referred ‘Mark’ for assessment by child sexual abuse experts.

The experts concluded that ‘Mark’ gave “a credible account of experiencing inappropriate sexual behaviour by his foster sibling”.

But while ‘Mark’ was assessed, it appears from case notes that his foster sibling was not.

Over the following months ‘Mark’ displayed sexualised behaviour and ‘Susan’ repeatedly reported this to the social work department.

[‘Susan’ said: “He was using his teddy bear to, pushing it up against his genitals, it was like he was imitating what had been done to him. Yeah he was saying ‘touch me you cunt’, he tried to kiss his older brother, he put his hand on his inner thigh and tried to kiss him in an adult way.”]

‘Susan’ believed her concerns were not being taken seriously by social workers so she reported the matter to the Gardaí asking them to investigate. 

In fact cases notes seen by RTÉ Investigates show that An Garda Síochána were “…quite irate…” at the management of Mark’s case by the HSE social work department – stating that the Gardaí…. “Would have a different view of child sexual abuse…” The HSE decided to leave ‘Mark’ in the foster home despite his birth mother’s concerns.

Almost 3 years later… ‘Mark’ made a second allegation – this time to a TUSLA staff member that he was being punched by the same older foster child AND by an adult son of the foster family.

The foster parents were again advised by the social work department to “increase supervision” of the boys and ‘Susan’ was informed about the allegation.

In late 2015 TUSLA applied to the courts for a full care order for ‘Mark’. 

As part of the court process ‘Susan’ was required to produce two psychiatric assessment reports carried out on the state of her mental health. ‘Susan’ agreed.

But what ‘Susan’ didn’t understand was that she would be personally billed by her doctor for the reports – €500 for the first report and €300 for the second one

On one occasion she was forced to take out a loan from her credit union to cover the cost.

In an initial statement to RTÉ, TUSLA said it “…does not require individuals to undertake psychiatric assessments at their own expense…”

However when we went back and asked TUSLA to explain why ‘Susan’ ended up paying  her doctors bill, a spokesperson said they “…cannot comment on individual cases…”

Last year the court ruled that ‘Mark’ will stay in care until the age of 18.

‘Mark’ continues to live with the same foster family to the present day – along with the older child alleged to have previously abused him.

Watch Chaos In Care in full here

This morning.

It’s being reported that a report by the Government’s Special Rapporteur on Child Protection Dr Geoffrey Shannon (above) on Ireland’s child protection system – looking at 5,400 cases, from 2008 to 2015, where gardaí removed children from their parents under Section 12 of the Child Care Act – is to be published.

It will be published by Assistant Garda Commissioner John O’Driscoll.

Section 12 of the act allows gardai to remove a child if they believe there is a serious risk to the child’s health or welfare.

It’s being reported that both Tusla and the gardaí are criticised in the report.

Further to this.

Aoife Hegarty, of RTÉ Investigates, spoke to Audrey Carville on Morning Ireland earlier, ahead of her own report on the matter this evening.

Ms Hegarty said, in addition to a report on Mr Shannon’s examination, she’ll be looking at “disturbing revelations” concerning a boy in the south east of Ireland.

Ms Hegarty said:

“We’ve been following a number of child protection cases. They include a case that’s currently before the courts in which our child protection services again come under the spotlight. In terms of the actions that the Child Family Agency Tusla has, or indeed hasn’t, taken in terms of vulnerable children.

We also examine another case which we came across again a child was left in a foster placement, despite allegations of sexual abuse and we’ll show various documentation from that case which we’ve seen and lastly, we’ll feature new revelations on the quality of care provided by child protection services in the south east.

“I suppose by now we’re all well familiar with the very sad story of Grace, that young woman with profound intellectual disabilities who was left in a foster home in the south east for 20 years, despite serious allegations, a woman who was recently awarded over €6million in the High Court.

But tonight, we reveal yet more disturbing revelations from the Waterford area. This time in relation to the care provided to a young boy. In all, the programme raises very serious questions for our child protection authorities and whether, in all cases, they’re functioning adequately.

RTÉ Investigates is on RTÉ One at 10.35pm this evening.

Call for cultural change in child protection system (RTE)

From top: last night’s  RTÉ Investigates featuring Former UL president Don Barry ;  Aengus Ó Maoláin

Further to revelations broadcast last night by RTÉ Investigates about lack of oversight and accountability in publicly funded universities and colleges in Ireland

Aengus Ó Maoláin writes:

Last night, higher education institutions were exposed as misusing public money for years, all the while insisting that they were broke, and that students must pay more.

A change in culture, and consequences must follow.

For the ten years I have been working for equality of access to higher education, the Irish university’s representative body has stood in our way.

Expressing the greatest sympathy for our calls, but regretfully insisting that the universities are so strapped for cash that they must call for higher and higher tuition fees. Year on year, that call has been answered by government, and Irish students now pay the second highest fees in Europe.

Strangely enough, in most other countries the universities don’t do that.

Those fees make up one part of university’s funding, the other significant part is direct funding from the Department of Education, through the Higher Education Authority – in other words, taxpayers’ money.

The universities have come crying to government time and again with their begging bowls in hand, on bended knee insisting that the solution to all their financial problems is for the students to cough up more. In other countries, the institutions lobby for more cash from the department, rather than fees.

It was an open secret when I was in the student movement that universities have a mostly free hand to spend their budgets how they will, but that open secret was blown open by RTÉ Investigates last night.

When any body is allowed to become a private fiefdom, corruption is inevitable, and so it is with the higher education system.

The bare-faced nature of crying out for higher student fees, all the while wantonly wasting the money already granted by the state is offensive.

Like Social democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy said on the programme last night, I am not disappointed by this, I am actually angry about it.

I served on the governing authority of Maynooth University several years ago, as president of the students’ union. There was at that time a great deal of trust in the financial management of the university’s accounts, and the authority’s audit committee had the full confidence of the body.

I wonder now what we might have missed. I recall clearly a frustration that we never received training on financial oversight, or our corporate governance obligations – but, sure, why would you bother spending that time or money on students?

Now when I see the sums being misspent in the institutions investigated it infuriates me that so much was diverted away from the universities’ core missions – education and research. Remember, this is our money.

Professor Don Barry of the University of Limerick treated the public accounts committee with absolute disdain. His attitude was deplorable – how dare these politicians pry into my financial affairs – but it’s not his money, it is ours.

NUI Galway’s Professor James Browne also refused, point blank, to discuss the financial management of its foundation, insisting that that little pot of money was no business of the people we have elected to make sure our money is being used for the right purposes.

The governing authorities of all the institutions have to be called into question now. The backhander of jewellery bought at Tadhg Kearney’s shop by UL is astonishing, as no conflict of interest was declared, and worse, that he was told he wouldn’t need to declare it despite being a member of the authority himself.

Universities do need a certain level of autonomy, if you examine higher education systems where that autonomy has been badly eroded (Turkey springs to mind) it is clear why. Research and teaching curriculum must be free from political interference, lest we go down a road towards indoctrination over education.

But, when that autonomy is abused, as has been the case here, there is a time to get involved.

Whistle blowers suspended and dismissed, treated with contempt; Executives approving their own expenses; External contracts signed with internal buddies of the management team – this is the sort of thing we got so angry about when it was exposed in the banking system.

There is to be an independent review of UL’s governance, HR and financial practices. I welcome that, of course, but what is needed is a change in culture. Corruption festers, and like a bad apple, spreads to the rest of the batch. We cannot allow universities to continue deceiving us, and misusing our money without consequences.

Our call for an independent anti-corruption agency was opposed by Fine Gael last year, but it is crystal clear to me that something more needs to be done.

Catherine Murphy’s final remarks on the RTÉ programme last night resonate powerfully “There needs to be consequences, or you won’t change behaviour.”

Aengus Ó Maoláin is chair of the Dublin West Social Democrats and local area representative for Castleknock and Blanchardstown.

Watch RTÉ Investigates Universities Unchallenged here

Top pic: RTÉ

Tonight.

At 9.35pm.

On RTÉ One’s RTÉ Investigates.

Via RTÉ:

At a time when colleges are seeking additional funding from government and students are facing increased fees, RTÉ Investigates has discovered some third level facilities are wasting public money and failing to protect the taxpayer.

For the past 12 months RTÉ Investigates has, through FOI, collected data on more than 150,000 public spending transactions, involving billions of euro undertaken by government departments, public bodies, agencies etc.

Tuesday night’s RTÉ Investigates programme focuses on the third level sector which has an annual spend in the region of €2.8 billion.

RTÉ Investigates discovered significant findings related to a number of colleges including UCC, DIT, UL and NUIG.

Under the Universities Act 1997, universities here enjoy a significant level of independence. Oversight of universities and the third level sector in general is the responsibility of the HEA, the Higher Education Authority and in turn the Department of Education & Science.

However, repeated attempts by the HEA to examine the management of universities and their financial affairs have met with stiff resistance, with the universities claiming autonomy under the legislation, thus stifling any examination or investigation.

The Comptroller and Auditor General has also been examining the finances of a number of universities with varying degrees of success. Many of the universities have separate trusts or foundations, which hold millions of euro in assets which the universities do not declare as part of their financial accounts.

Thanks Laura Fitzgerald

UPDATE:

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From top: Garda Tony Golden; Screengrabs from last night’s RTE Investigates

Last night.

Paul Murphy, of RTÉ’s Investigates, revisited the shooting of Garda Tony Golden and Siobhan Phillips by Adrian Crevan Mackin in Omeath, County Louth, on October 11, 2015.

Father-of-three Tony died in the shooting while Siobhan was left blind in one eye. Adrian, aged 25, took his own life shortly after the shooting.

Mr Murphy outlined the following events concerning Mackin.

2008: Mackin received probation for criminal damage.

2012: Mackin received a suspended sentence for possessing 23 images of extreme pornography.

December 2013: Mackin received a three-year suspended sentence for possessing a gun and ammunition

January 2015: The FBI informed gardaí from the Special Detective Unit on Dublin’s Harcourt Street that Mackin was buying weapons online. The FBI gave gardaí a list of weapons that Mackin bought over a two-year period.

Following this, the gardaí obtained a warrant stating they believed Mackin had six guns in his possession and other material to make explosives.

It also stated:

“Mr Mackin has also made enquiries with undercover agents in the FBI, USA to import Ricin, a highly toxic poison, with the intent of killing a Social Services Officer from Northern Ireland.”

January 16, 2015: At least 16 gardai from the Special Detectives Unit, some or all armed, went to Mackin’s house in Otmeath to execute this warrant. The gardai found material for making pipe bombs and gallons of sulphuric and nitric acid.

Mackin was taken into custody and, according to transcripts of the Garda interviews obtained by Mr Murphy, Mackin was asked if he was a member of the IRA, and he said ‘No, I’m not’. He was then asked if he has ever been a member of the IRA and he said, ‘No’.

Mackin was then asked another 27 questions about the IRA and he responded, ‘No comment’.

In a second Garda interview, Mackin was asked had he ever prepared explosives in his home and if he knew what a  pipe bomb was. He answered ‘No’ to both questions.

January 17, 2015: Then, during the fifth Garda interview, as gardai showed him a list of paypal transactions, Mackin admitted to buying bomb-making materials over the internet, including the sulphuric and nitric acid.

He also admitted to buying parts for six guns online. And when he was asked if he bought them for IRA use, he said ‘No’.

He maintained he was not a member of IRA.

However, the DPP ordered that Mackin be charged with membership of the IRA, and not with any firearms offences such as gun possession, or importing weapons parts – which he admitted.

He was sent to Portlaoise Prison to await bail. His initial bail was cut from €20,000 to €5,000 and, ten days after he was arrested, he was out.

After this point, Mackin’s mental health deteriorated, and he started to assault his girlfriend Siobhan Philips regularly.

In addition, Mackin told his sister that he was ‘a marked man’ and that ‘it was only a matter of time’. He believed dissident republicans believed he was an informer.

October 9, 2015: Mackin beat Siobhan intermittingly over 12 hours, cutting her arm and legs with a bread knife.

The next day, Norma Phillips – wife of Siobhan’s father Sean – collected Siobhan from her workplace. Norma told Mr Murphy that Siobhan said she was afraid Mackin was going to kill her.

Norma and Sean took Siobhan to Dundalk Garda station but a garda there said he wouldn’t take a statement as Siobhan could have had a ‘brain injury’. He then told them to go to Otmeath station. The guard also said he’d arrange a meeting between them and Garda Tony Golden for the following day.

October 11, 2015: Siobhan went to Otmeath station where she gave a statement to while Norma and Sean waited outside. At this point Garda Golden said it was time for Siobhan to get her stuff from her and Mackin’s home and leave him.

Siobhan went with Sean to the house – a two minutes’  drive from the Garda station – while Garda Golden drove up separately.

Siobhan spotted Mackin’s car outside the house. Garda Golden and Siobhan got out of their respective cars and went into the house while Sean waited outside.

Sean said as the door was open, he could hear what happened. He said Mackin asked them what they were doing at the house, Garda Golden said they were there to collect Siobhan’s stuff and then Mackin shot Siobhan four times, shot Garda Golden and then turned the gun on himself.

Norma Phillips told Mr Murphy:

“I certainly can’t, at any level, accept that Tony Golden knew what lay ahead for him or would have had any knowledge that this guy had guns or access to weapons.”

 

But, Mr Murphy said, other gardaí did.

“Nine months earlier, during questioning Mackin told detectives that he had access to weaponry including parts for two Glock pistols, the model used to kill Tony Golden. He even admitted to storing guns at a derelict cottage in Louth a few hundred yards from the Border.”

Mr Murphy explained that Mackin told his sister and solicitor that he showed gardai his cache of weapons parts and guns, partly in exchange for not being charged with firearms offences and only being charged with IRA membership.

Watch back in full here