From top: Letter from Grace’s foster parents to then Minister for Health Michael Noonan in 1996; page 30 of the Conal Devine report; the panel on last night’s Tonight with Vincent Browne; Daniel McConnell; and Vincent Brown and Gavan Reilly, of Today FM
On TV3’s Tonight with Vincent Browne, the panel – Fianna Fail TD Mary Butler, Fine Gael TD Alan Farrell, Labour TD Jan O’Sullivan and political editor at The Irish Examiner Daniel McConnell – discussed the Grace case.
Grace is a non-verbal, intellectually disabled woman, now in her 40s, who lived with an abusive foster family for 20 years, until 2009.
Grace lived in the home for almost 13 years after the local health board decided to stop placing children at the home.
An original 1996 decision to remove Grace from the abusive home, amid allegations of sexual abuse, was overturned following representations to the then minister for health Michael Noonan in August 1996.
During the discussion, Gavan Reilly, of Today FM, read out tweets that were being directed at the show.
From the show…
Daniel McConnell: “Vincent, one of the starkest things that came out of the press conference today and also the interviews from the HSE’s designated spokesperson was, when it got to the idea of accountability, the three people who were involved in the decision to leave Grace in the home in 1996 – which was an overturning of an earlier decision to remove her from the home – they’re no longer with us, so, therefore, we can’t pursue that angle.”
“The HSE don’t have powers of compellability so we can’t even ask them. So, therefore, it’s just, they’re gone, they’re off the hook. There are 11 other healthcare workers, remaining in the system, but yet the HSE are convinced that there’s no difficulty or there’s no risk to child. How do they know if they haven’t even asked the people who were involved, as to what went on?”
Gavan Reilly (after reading several tweets): “It has to be said, Vincent, there’s one other common thread in the tweets and it’s something that I think relates back to a point that Daniel just made a few moments ago which is a lot of people are querying why there hasn’t been more made today, in the media coverage, about the role that Michael Noonan played in this, bearing in mind that Michael Noonan was the Minister for Health in 1996, when a decision was made to remove Grace from this particular home. The foster family, themselves, approached Michael Noonan, he passed it down the line and, ultimately, a decision was made, further down the line, not to remove Grace from that home.”
“Now, as Daniel has said, there’s obviously significant shortcomings in the fact that the three people responsible for that decision have yet to be approached by the HSE because, it says, it doesn’t have compellability – that is, possibly, the only lingering reason why a Commission of Investigation would still be a good thing. But, just to finish this point, Vincent.”
“The report today, and it has to be said, and there is other commentary around Michael Noonan, and no doubt there are questions to answer, the reports today, particularly, the Conor Dignam report, there is nothing damning about the handling of this case by Michael Noonan in that, quite simply, because it doesn’t go into any detail at all.”
“The only instance where Michael Noonan is invoked in that is that the family wrote to Michael Noonan, Michael Noonan passed it down. There is no indication that Michael Noonan gave any instruction, either way, that’s something that has to be sounded out. But I just, I think, it should be said because a lot of people are wondering, they think that the coverage is a little bit lacking because it doesn’t incorporate the role of Michael Noonan and I think the point just has to be made: that the reports today didn’t make any comment on the performance of Michael Noonan and it doesn’t shed any light on that.”
Watch back in full here