Tag Archives: Grace

Twenty five years.

Were you there?

I Heart Jeff (Whelan’s)


Last year’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

This morning.

In the Irish Examiner.

Daniel McConnell reports on an interim report from the Commission of Investigation into the case of ‘Grace’, chaired by Marjorie Farrelly SC.

He reports:

Michael Noonan’s handling of the case of ‘Grace’ while health minister and the role of his department in the 1990s will be the subject of commission of investigation hearings early in the new year, an interim report states.”

“…Mr Noonan has strongly denied acting in any way on behalf of the foster father following written representations seeking to have ‘Grace’ remain at the home.”

Mr McConnell also reports that the interim report was given to Minister for Health Simon Harris and Minister of State for Disability Issues Finian McGrath yesterday and that it will be discussed by Cabinet next Tuesday.

Readers will recall how ‘Grace’ was born to a single mother in the southeast of Ireland in the late 1970s.

She was supposed to be put up for adoption but, instead, was put into foster care soon after her birth.

She was born with microcephaly and was mute.

From 1989 until 2009, Grace lived with a set of foster parents.

The foster father – who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1999 and who died in 2000 – was accused of sexually abusing another child in their care in 1996, at which point it was decided that no more children would be placed in their care and that Grace would be removed.

The foster parents appealed this decision to remove Grace and, in a letter dated August 9, 1996, to the then Health Minister Michael Noonan, the foster father stated that he and the foster mother lost this appeal and that they were appealing to the minister to “decide in their favour”.

On August 26, 1996, Mr Noonan received a second letter appealing for Grace to remain with the foster parents. But this second letter was from the principal of a school attended by a grandson of the foster parents.

On November 14, 1996, the foster parents were told Grace could stay with them.

Grace remained there for another 13 years.

Previously: Grace, Noonan And Monageer

Michael Noonan And Grace

Failing Grace

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From top: Four Courts, Dublin ; Michael Noonan

This afternoon

In the High Court.

Mr Justice Peter Kelly approved a settlement involving a package worth €6.3million for Grace, the non-verbal, intellectually disabled woman who is now in her 40s and 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 in 1996. The decision to remove Grace came after the mother of a female service user claimed her daughter was sexually molested while she had spent a week on holiday/respite at Grace’s foster home.

The decision to reverse this decision to remove Grace occurred after a letter was sent by the foster father to then Minister for Health Michael Noonan in August, 1996.

The letter to Mr Noonan, which had been copied to the health board, appealed to the minister to “decide in their favour”.

Also in August 1996, Mr Noonan received a letter from the principal of a school attended by the foster parents’ grandson, in which the principal wrote in support of Grace staying with the foster family.

The matter is the subject of a Commission of Investigation, chaired by SC Marjorie Farrelly, launched in March of this year.

Further to this…

RTE reports:

Mr Justice Peter Kelly approved a settlement involving a package of measures worth €6.3m for the woman referred to as ‘Grace’.

The Health Service Executive apologised to the woman in court for the failings in her care.

The failings included inadequate monitoring and oversight of her care and inadequate action to remove her from the foster home after significant concerns had been raised.

In its apology the HSE said the care she received fell short of the compassionate, caring and personalised support that she was entitled to.

It said the HSE had taken steps locally and nationally for continued service improvements, standards and safe care.

…Mr Justice Kelly said a decision had been made in 1996 to remove ‘Grace’ from the foster family. But he said that decision had been reversed by a three-person committee in the health board for reasons which remained a mystery to this day.

He said this was after representations were made by the foster parents to the then minister for health.

He asked what extraordinary hold the foster family had over the health board officials who made the decision. He said if it was not for the fact that a commission of inquiry has been set up, he would have wanted answers to these questions.

High Court approves €6.3m settlement for Grace (RTE)

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HSE general director Tony O’Brien before the PAC on February 2, 2016

This afternoon.

At 2.30pm.

Officials from the Health Service Executive, including HSE director general Tony O’Brien, will appear before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in Committee Room 3.

Ahead of this, one of the ‘Grace’ whistleblowers has written a lengthy piece in The Irish Examiner in which she highlights inconsistencies in public statements made by Mr O’Brien and the HSE about the ‘Grace’ case in relation to:

– The HSE’s three-year delay in seeking clearance from the gardai to publish the Conal Devine report and what prompted it to finally seek that clearance.

– Whether or not people who were involved in the Grace case are still working within the HSE.

– Procurement issues relating to the two reports, Conal Devine report and the Resilience Ireland report, commissioned into the foster home.

– Allegations of a cover-up.

Watch the proceedings from 2.30pm live here

Time for someone in the HSE to learn how to say ‘mea culpa’ (Irish Examiner)

Previously: Still In The System

Related: Member of HSE ‘Grace’ panel continues to work for public service (Paul Cullen, Irish Times)

UPDATE:

UPDATE:

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A letter sent by Mr O’Brien to chair of PAC, Fianna Fail TD Sean Fleming yesterday – correcting what he told PAC on February 2, 2016.

Meanwhile…

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Blimey.

HSE chief Tony O’Brien last year (top) and today (above).

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You may recall how, yesterday, the Minister for Disabilities Finian McGrath withdrew the proposed terms and conditions of a commission of investigation into ‘Grace’ and the alleged abuse she suffered at the home for 20 years.

His decision to remove them came immediately after stinging criticism of the proposed terms and conditions by Fine Gael TD John Deasy, from Waterford, and Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness.

Mr Deasy alleged that there was a cover-up by the HSE, saying: ‘this was a concerted and organised attempt to hide information and conceal the truth by a clique of HSE managers‘.

Mr McGuinness recounted the experiences of other alleged victims of abuse who lived at the foster home and said if Mr McGrath’s terms and conditions didn’t include the 46 other people who stayed at the home, the State would be “heaping further abuse” on the families affected.

Specifically, Mr McGuinness said, before Grace, a 12-year-old girl was taken out of the home – after the school she attended told the girl’s mother she would attend school bruised, battered and beaten. Mr McGuinness said the girl’s mother made a complaint to the South Eastern Health Board in 1992 but was “… told to shut up. She was told not to repeat those stories. And she was threatened legally”.

This morning, the Dáil unanimously agreed expanded terms of reference which state the 46 other cases will be examined in a second module of the commission of investigation.

But it’s being reported that families of the 46 other cases and the whistleblowers remain unhappy with the revised terms.

RTE reports:

“The whistleblowers added that while the revised terms state that phase two will undertake an investigation of the recommendations in the report of Conor Dignam SC, the terms omit Mr Dignam’s recommendation to look at “allegations of cover up”. This, they say, is of serious concern.”

Further to this…

Independents 4 Change TD Clare Daly TD spoke about the matter in the Dáil this morning.

And she raised concerns about the connection between law firm Arthur Cox, the HSE and Resilience Ireland, which last week published a 2015 report it was commissioned to do, by the HSE, on the Grace case.

Ms Daly said:

“Minister, I have to say, the entire manner in which this has been addressed has been utterly shambolic and wholly unacceptable and I really hope that this does not come back to bite us.

“And the reason why it is particularly important that we get things right in this case is that we know that the backdrop is, at best, I suppose, economical-with-the-truth information being given, but, at worst, deliberate misinformation around these issues in previous attempts to resolve them so forgive us if we’ve trust issues where the HSE are concerned: we think they are legitimate.”

“Now, yesterday, we went into the meeting with yourself. We wanted to raise the issue of the draft order – the statutory instrument upon which the terms of reference were based. The first response we got was, ‘well, sure, God, nobody else raised that’. We want to address the terms of reference. We had to commission legal opinion from Eame’s solicitors to explain why the order had to be changed and that the terms of reference could be ultra vires if you didn’t do that.”

“We then went on to actually submit changes to the terms of reference – none of which were included I might add.”

“Now, no doubt, minister, you will argue that the order and the terms of reference, in the manner in which they have been changed, will allow us to address all of the issues that we have raised and that is possibly the case. And I seriously hope that that is the case.”

“But I found it ironic this morning that one of the amendments that we specifically had posed was the problem that was highlighted by the PAC [public accounts committee] – the fact that earlier attempts by people to get to the truth, including Government ministers and Oireachtas committees were deliberately thwarted by persons or persons unknown in the HSE. It’s an absolute fact.”

“In terms of the information put out, that the gardai were blocking publication of the reports – not even allowing ministers see them – we know it now that that’s not true.”

We know in the case that I raised with Minister [Leo] Varadkar about a vulnerable person remaining in that facility up to 2015, the minister efficiently asked: are we sending anybody to this? And the answer, very cleverly, he got was: don’t be worrying, Minister. We’re not sending anybody, it might be a private placement but that’s sorted.”

“It wasn’t sorted. So they didn’t actually care about the truth or the person at the centre of it; it was all about covering up for the organisation. And against the backdrop of the Devine Report, which had been hugely discredited, the Resilience Ireland report terms of reference drafted by Arthur Cox who were the legal team that represented the HSE in the Grace case. You couldn’t make this up. Heads have to roll over this.

“I really hope that the changes have got it right and that we be proven wrong on this but there’s a lot hanging on it.”

Anyone?

Previously: ‘Examples Of What Is And Was A Cover-Up’

gracemother

‘Grace’ was born to a single mother in the southeast of Ireland in the late 1970s. She was supposed to be put up for adoption but, instead, was put into foster care soon after her birth.

She was born with microcephaly and was mute. From 1989 until 2009, Grace lived with a set of foster parents. The foster father – who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1999 and who died in 2000 – was accused of sexually abusing another child in their care in 1996, at which point it was decided that no more children would be placed in their care.

But Grace remained

Last night, Aoife Hegarty of RTÉ Investigates spoke with Grace’s mother. The interview was broadcast on Claire Byrne Live on RTÉ One.

Grace’s Mother: “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 [South Eastern Health Board] and I thought that was the best thing to do at the time, that she’d be well looked after and cared for and I always kept in contact…I had no reason to believe she wasn’t happy  Aa day hasn’t went by that I haven’t thought of Grace, she’s the first thing I think of in the morning and the last thing I think of at night so she’s constantly there with me, always, and always has been and always will be.”

Aoife Hegarty: “What had been your understanding of where Grace was living and what her situation was like?”

Grace’s Mother: “My understanding back then before all the allegations was that she was happy, she was attending her day services and she was just in a loving, caring home and that made me happy knowing that she was happy because that’s what I was made to believe, that’s what I was always told.”

Hegarty: “You did have some contact from the HSE over the years…”

Grace’s Mother: “I did, I had contact, they were asking me mantoux testing and dental treatment… but they never contacted me when there were sexual, allegations of sexual abuse where I needed to give consent for STI testing…

There was plenty opportunities for Grace, where they failed to tell me so I’ve got no faith whatsoever in anything they’ve got to say because all through Grace life in the care of the HSE and the SEHB I was lied to constantly, constantly lied to.”

Aoife Hegarty: “What contact details did they have for you throughout the years?”

Grace’s Mother: “They’ve always had my contact details, I’ve had the same telephone number that I’ve had with the last 30 years and I’ve still got that phone number to this day, they’ve always had contact details. They’ve had my address, yeah they’ve always had my details. They still have my number on file if they went to look through it.”

Hegarty: “The first time that you had any indication there was anything wrong – what were you told on that call?”

Grace’s Mother: “I was told that she was taken to hospital for, 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.
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.
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.
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 til I get these answers because I’ve never gave up on my daughter and I never, ever will. She’s always been on my mind day and night and that will never change and  I will never stop fighting for justice.”

Hegarty: “A big decision for to have your side of the story heard for the first time – why have you decided to sit here and do this?”

Grace’s Mother: 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. And these people should be accounted for what they’ve done, …..for the cover ups, for letting my daughter suffer for 20 years without monitoring her and I put my trust and faith in the HSE and that’s what they done.
So I will not rest until I get answers and I’ll keep going until I get answers – the answers I never got I want.

Hegarty: What are you looking for now from the inquiry?

Grace’s Mother: I’m looking for all the answers that I asked and just for them to be accountable for the let down of my daughter Grace.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.

Hegarty: “Who would you like held to account?”

Grace’s Mother: The people that failed my daughter, all the people that have failed my daughter and the 47 other children that were meant to be in the care of the foster mother, yeah I want them to be held accountable.

Hegarty: “Have you ever received an apology from them?”

Grace’s Mother: “I got one letter there just a while back but I felt in my heart, it wasn’t coming from the heart, ………. but I don’t accept that apology. No one from the HSE have picked up a phone and apologised to me or asked me how am I doing, nobody have ever done that for me and I don’t accept their apology. I don’t trust them, I don’t trust what they have to say, they’ve told me was that my daughter was doing great, she was in a loving home, which she wasn’t in a loving home ….. and they knew all about it and never monitored her and left her there for 20 years to suffer.”

Hegarty: “You saw Grace recently…”

Grace’s Mother: “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.”

Hegarty: So what are the plans going in to the future, for you and for Grace?

Grace’s Mother: “I hope I’ll be in a better place when all this is over to enjoy my time with her, yeah, that’s what I’m hoping but at the moment 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, they have and 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.”

Watch back here in full

Transcript via RTÉ (Thanks Laura Fitzgerald

Previously: Michael Noonan And Grace

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From top: HSE’s Dr Cathal Morgan; Part of the Conal Devine report on foster child Grace.

You’ll recall the publication of the HSE-commissioned Conal Devine report last week in relation to an abusive foster home in the south-east of Ireland.

The report was completed in 2011 but wasn’t published until this week, with the HSE citing that they were prevented from doing so because of ongoing Garda investigations.

However, documents obtained by RTÉ’s This Week show the HSE only contacted the gardai about the publication of the report in 2015 – three years after it was completed.

Yesterday, This Week, prssenter Colm Ó Mongáin interviewed Head of Operations in the HSE’s Disability Service Dr Cathal Morgan in light of obtaining the documents under the FOI.

Colm Ó Mongáin: “I want to look at the interactions with the gardai. Most recently, on the 16th of November last year, Tony O’Brien [of the HSE] wrote to the Minister for Health and this was concerning the publication of the Conal Devine report. He said, ‘at times, such as this case, [this is the case of Grace], An Garda Siochana requires the HSE to postpone its internal investigations or to postpone the investigations of a report that could, in the view of An Garda Siochana, potentially prejudice ongoing investigations.
In the opening of the Conal Devine report, it says that the inquiry team met with investigating gardai on the 18th of March, 2011. The gardai stated they had no objection to the inquiry proceeding and completing its task in parallel with their investigation. Do you see any inconsistency between those two positions?

Dr Cathal Morgan: “Well, I think, the understanding is that the gardai, at all times, were stating that they had an ongoing criminal investigation and there was a couple of investigations going on. And, at the time, my understanding is, that they were reluctant to see any kind of other work going on whilst they were trying to under take their own investigations.”

O Mongain: “But as far as internal investigations within the HSE going, as early as 2011 [see portion of document above], when Conal Devine was carrying out his report. The gardai didn’t have an objection to his inquiry team carrying out their work. Correct?”

Morgan:Correct.

O Mongain: “OK, so when [HSE chief] Tony O’Brien assured the Minister for Health that, at times such as these, An Garda Siochana requires the HSE to postpone internal investigations, that doesn’t tally with what the Conal Devine report team says about March 2011?”

Morgan: “Well, yeah, I can only give you my understanding. My understanding is that the guards had very clear view that they wanted this to be carried out extremely carefully that they were very very clear, that they wanted to make sure that it didn’t interfere with their own processes, their criminal investigations were being carried out and which are still ongoing.”

O Mongain: “And when were the guards first contacted about the publication of the Conal Devine report?”

Morgan: “I don’t have the exact date here, to hand.”

O’Mongain: “Ok, well in a Freedom of Information request that was submitted by this programme, there was a list of interactions between the HSE and the gardai. And the first interaction with the HSE, to consult on the publication of the Conal Devine report, was the 6th of March, 2015 – over three years after it had been completed. It was also the day after the Public Accounts Committee was contacted with a protected disclosure by one of the whistleblowers. They were contacted on the 5th of March, 2015. And the first contact with the gardai is on the 6th of March, 2016 [sic]. Do you think there’s any connection between those two things?”

Morgan: “I don’t think so. I don’t believe there’s any conspiracy here…”

Later

O Mongain: “The garda investigations are also criticised in the Conal Devine report. Does it not seem strange that HSE, at local level, and gardai, at local level, were effectively being given a veto over a report that was into their conduct?

Morgan: “Well, I think, my read of, the benefit of the Dignam report absolutely clarifies and there was a letter, as you know, that came from the Assistant Commissioner which said that the HSE were perfectly entitled to publish the report but they had to have due regard to the investigation and due process…”

O Mongain: “Well, yeah, that was from Assistant Commissioner Eugene Corcoran. He wrote to the Dignam…and this was on the 15th of July of last year. He said the position of An Garda Siochana, on the matter of publication, should at all times have been understood as being that no objection to publication arises in the circumstances where the interests of affected party and/or the overall public interest require it. In particular, no objection to publication arises in certain stances, where publication is necessary and appropriate to fulfil any or all obligations to the affected party.…”

Listen back in full here

Previously: Michal Noonan And Grace

‘Confidence In The Institutions Of The State Is In Unequivocal Jeopardy’

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Michael Noonan, Minister for Health (1994-1997)

‘Grace’ was born to a single mother in the southeast of Ireland in the late 1970s. She was supposed to be put up for adoption but, instead, was put into foster care soon after her birth.

She was born with microcephaly and was mute.

From 1989 until 2009, Grace lived with a set of foster parents.

The foster father – who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1999 and who died in 2000 – was accused of sexually abusing another child in their care in 1996, at which point it was decided that no more children would be placed in their care.

So, why did Grace live there for another 13 years?

What effect did two letters sent to Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, who was then the Minister for Health – calling on him to intervene and to reverse a decision to remove Grace from the home – play in the ultimate reversal of that decision? 

Why did a school principal lobby the Minister Noonan about the case, in favour of the foster parents?

And why did the health board say this principal’s view would be taken into account in “reaching their recommendations in relation to the future care of [Grace]”?

The partially redacted and anonymised HSE-commissioned Conal Devine report, which was completed in 2012 and only published on Tuesday, states the following:

1989: Grace started to live with this set of foster parents on the premise that she would remain there until a residential place was made available for her. She was on a waiting list for such a place.

There is no evidence that the foster parents were assessed at any level as required under the Boarding Out of Children Regulations 1983 or that references were obtained as per those regulations.

There’s also no evidence of any documented visit by the health board to determine the suitability of the home before Grace went to live there.

September 1989: A visit by health professionals is made to the foster home and while the location is praised, there are concerns raise about the following: a lack of other children with whom Grace could socialise; the age of the foster father; and the fact Grace isn’t attending school.

December 1989: The foster parents are informed that a school place has been reserved for Grace from the middle of December.

November 1990: Following a visit to the home, it is noted that Grace hasn’t been back to school since Christmas 1989.

Apparently the reason for the poor school attendance is transport problems but there is no evidence of any effort being made to deal with whatever the obstacles are.

1991: There are no documented six monthly reviews, as required by law, and there is still no evidence of any efforts to accommodate Grace’s school needs.

1992: A request is made for a residential placement for Grace from a residential facility in the birth mother’s home town. The name of the person or organisation that made the request is redacted in the report.

1993: No evidence of any activity around Grace and no documented review visits, as required per law.

1994: There were brief handwritten notes indicating two possible home visits – one on Feb 13 and one on June 17. But no evidence of any documented review visits as per law.

1995: A residential placement for Grace in an area outside of the immediate health board is sought for Grace and it’s noted that this request is due to the foster parents “becoming elderly”. Again the name of the person or organisation who sought the placement is redacted in the report.

May 1995: A psychological assessment notes Grace hasn’t really progressed intellectually or in terms of self care skills since her previous assessment some six year previous, in 1989. It is noted she would benefit from regular attendance at a day care facility – in terms of stimulation and social contact.

However, during a home visit in August 1995, it is noted the foster father did not agree to Grace going to a “workshop” because “there was nothing could be done with her”.

Despite this stance, it was organised for Grace to go to a day care facility. She starts attending the facility on September 4, 1995.

October 17, 1995: During a home visit, it is noted that Grace is taking her clothes off when she gets home in the evening.

October 19, 1995: An incident report from the day care facility, states: “While toileting Grace in the arm, large bruise noticed on left hip, appears tender to the touch. Bruises noticed also on the left elbow and right elbow just visible and not tender to touch. In good form”.

October 25, 1995: Another incident report form, from the facility, states: “For the first time in [the facility] while on social programme training…Grace completely stripped herself for no apparent reason, notified previously of these stripping incidents at home by [redacted]”.

March 1996: The mother of a female service user, at this point living in the UK, claims her daughter was sexually molested while she had spent a week on holiday/respite at Grace’s foster home.

The Devine report notes there was no substantive investigation in respect of this sex abuse complaint.

April 2, 1996: Further to the UK complaint a meeting takes place between the relevant health board professionals. At this meeting, it’s decided that Grace – who is now 17 – will be placed elsewhere.

The Devine report states this is a direct result of the sexual abuse complaint and the age and ill health of one of the foster parents.

Within a week of the meeting, arrangements are made to secure a residential bed for Grace in a facility for people with intellectual disabilities.

The foster father is also told of the sexual abuse complaint made against him at this time.

April 22, 1996: The foster family are notified of their right to appeal the decision to remove Grace.

April 23, 1996: There is a case conference attended by “all the relevant professionals”, of which there are no minutes taken. There’s also no evidence of anybody from the day care facility being invited to attend – even though Grace had been attending the facility for seven months.

Although there are no minutes kept, it’s noted that the case conference is told “Grace was reverting to her former agitated behaviour” but it’s not known who made this claim or where it came from. It didn’t come from the day care facility.

Also, at that case conference, it is noted the foster parents would appeal the decision to remove Grace and those present agreed to await the outcome of that process before proceeding with Grace’s removal.

In addition, at this case conference, it is noted that the health board will no longer use these foster parents.

April 24, 1996: The foster father requests that the family be given time to allow their grandchild get used to Grace leaving and they suggested Grace be allowed to remain with them until the autumn. There’s no evidence of that letter being replied to or being discussed further by those involved in the making the decision to remove Grace.

But we know, from the Devine report that, at some point, a bed that was left vacant for Grace from April that year was filled on the basis that a placement would be made available for Grace at the end of that summer.

May 17, 1996: The foster parents put their case before two professionals – Ms Marie Kennedy and Dr Marie Ryan – as to why they should be allowed to keep Grace. The minutes of that meeting recorded three questions which required clarification.

There is no mention of what the foster father had requested in his letter of April 24 – that Grace be allowed to stay with them until the autumn.

The questions are:

– Was Grace reviewed during the course of her placement and were the foster parents aware that alternative placements were being explored for her?

At what level did discussions take place in relation to moving Grace to an alternative placement?

– What reasons were given to the foster parents in relation to the proposed move.

There’s no record of these questions being followed up and there’s no record of the two professionals making any decision or recommendation, following the meeting.

August 9, 1996: The foster family sends a letter to the then Minister for Health Michael Noonan which had been copied to the health board. This letter states they had “lost their appeal” and that they were appealing to the minister to “decide in their favour”.

The foster father also writes:

“We have looked forward to having Grace for a few more years in fact until my wife reached retirement age. How anyone can say the type of move envisage for Grace is in her best interest beats all.”

Our grandson is 8 years of age who lives with us has always regarded Grace as his sister and to suddenly part them would be very upsetting for him particularly as his mother died last year.

“…I can see no valid reason for this move…”

August 15, 1996: Six days later, according to the Devine report, the Department of Health requests a report on the matter from the health board.

August 20: Five days later, the Department of Health is notified that the matter is being dealt with under Section 43 of the Child Care Act. The health board tells the Department of Health it has “grounds for believing that it is in the best interests of the child to be removed from its current child care placement“.

The same letter to the Department of Health says the foster carers’ objections were heard “as per regulations” and that the plan to remove Grace was going ahead following “an agreement to leave her with the family for the summer”.

But there’s no record or file of any such agreement. There’s only the April 24 letter in which the foster father requested this arrangement, citing his grandson’s relationship with Grace.

August 26, 1996: The Minister for Health Michael Noonan’s office receives a letter from the principal of a school attended by the grandson. The principal writes in support of Grace staying with the foster family.

September 11, 1996: The Department of Health gives this school principal’s letter to the health board with a request for a report.

September 12, 1996: A day after Minister Noonan’s department passes on the letter from the school principal to the health board, it’s recorded that, during a visit to the home, the foster parents say they are going to oppose Grace’s removal and that they have written to Michael Noonan.

September 25, 1996: In response, the Department of Health is told the matter is “currently under consideration by the professional staff on the board” and that the school principal’s view would be taken into account in “reaching their recommendations in relation to the future care of Grace.”

October 24, 1996: A case conference takes place. The Devin report notes:

“There is some dispute in recollection between the professionals as to whether a decision was taken not to remove [Grace] prior to the case conference held on 24th October 1996. There is also a dispute as to why the decision to remove confirmed at the case conference in April 1996 was effectively overturned in October 1996. The [redacted] is of the view that the decision was taken at the case conference  while the [redacted] was of the view that the decision not to remove was because “the appeal” by the [redacted] was successful.”

If you recall, in his letter to Minister Noonan, the foster father said he lost the appeal.

In addition, the Devine report noted:

The Inquiry Team, on the basis of the evidence available, would be of the view that the two persons designated to hear the representations made by the [redacted] did not uphold the appeal of that decision. The inquiry Team would also be of the view that the decision taken at October’s case conference to effectively reverse the outcome of the April case conference was taken by the professionals concerned including the [redacted], [redacted] and the [redacted]. It is not clear however if this decision was made prior to the October case conference or was taken at the case conference.”

Either way, at the case conference of October 24, 1996, it is noted “there is no evidence that anything happened to Grace or that her well being or welfare are not being met..” but, at the same time, the conference is also told neither the health board or any intellectual disability service provider would be placing any further children at that home.

November 14, 1996: The foster parents are told that Grace will be staying with them.

2000: The foster father died.

February 27, 2001: During a visit to the home, the foster mother says she’s relying on the income that she receives for looking after Grace and says she’d like Grace to stay with her and her grandson until he turns 18, which would be in 2006.

March 27, 2009: After it’s noticed that Grace had suspicious bruising on her thigh and breast, she’s taken to A&E and then a Sexual Assault Treatment Unit. A statement is also taken by gardaí. She was later returned to the foster home as it was “the least worst option”.

Grace remained at the home until July 17, 2009.

Protected disclosures by whistleblowers in relation to the treatment of Grace are made in late 2009 and early 2010.

A total of 47 children with profound intellectual disabilities were placed at the home between 1985 and 2013.

Read the Conal Devine report here

Previously: ‘Confidence In The Institutions Of The State Is In Unequivocal Jeopardy’

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much better than those three giant png files that were slowing down screenloading. Anyone?

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

Last night.

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.

It followed the publication of the 2012 Conal Devine and 2015 Resilience Ireland reports into the case yesterday.

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?

Later

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

Related: Grace files: Grace scandal officials given senior roles (Irish Examiner)

Previously: ‘Confidence In The Institutions Of The State Is In Unequivocal Jeopardy’

Grace, Noonan and Monageer

Pic: Irish Examiner and Namawinelake

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From top: Michael Noonan; Garry O’Halloran

Garry O’Halloran is a barrister, former Fine Gael councillor and former chairman of the South Eastern Health Board.

Readers may recall a previous post outlining how, in 1997, Mr O’Halloran attempted to speak with the Minister for Finance Michael Noonan – then Minister for Children – about allegations of child sex abuse in relation to Fr Jim Grennan, who had abused several children in Monageer, Co. Wexford, the diocese of Ferns. 

According to Mr O’Halloran, Mr Noonan ran away from him when he attempted to speak to him about this at a Fine Gael Ard Fheis in 1997. One of Fr Grennan’s victims was with Mr O’Halloran at the Ard Fheis.

Mr O’Halloran resigned from Fine Gael following the incident.

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, 2016.

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 was not an isolated incident.

Further to this, and the publication earlier today of the Conal Devine report and the Resilience Ireland report into the Grace case…

Mr O’Halloran writes:

A few questions and answers:

Q1: How many inquiries does it require to establish the truth in respect of a single event?

If the event was to overturn a lawful decision taken by social workers to remove a young woman with disabilities from her residence, and that decision was overturned following the intervention of then Health Minister Michael Noonan, the correct answer at this moment in time is ‘at least six’.

The inquiry presently being set up has been preceded by

  • 2007 report of a SEHB (South Eastern Health Board) social worker;
  • 2009 report of a non-SEHB social worker;
  • 2012 report by Conal Devine;
  • 2015 report by Resilience Ireland;
  • 2016 report by Conor Dignam SC.

It is not known how many Garda reports may be in existence.

Q2: Three reasons why this issue is important:

A beautiful young woman, whose disabilities rendered her unable to verbally communicate and whose mental age remained at 12 months old, was exposed to possible daily rape and other forms of torture for an additional 9 years as a result of the Noonan intervention.

The parents/guardians of 47 other persons with disabilities who had been sent to this Kilkenny residence were never informed of the disclosures of rape and torture. Respect for the rule of law and confidence in the institutions of the State are in unequivocal jeopardy.

Q3:  What actually happened?

A case conference in May 1996 on ‘Grace’ determined that she be removed from her foster-carers. This decision could not be implimented immediately as there were no placements available for persons with a disability. When arrangements were made, the foster-carers were informed in September and given the standard three days to deliver up the child.

The foster-carers appealed this decision, as was their entitlement under the 1995 Foster-Care Regulations. The oral appeal was held before Ms Marie Kennedy and Dr Marie Ryan, and the decision to remove Grace was upheld.

By letter dated August 9, 1996 (see copy exhibited in a report by the political editor of The Irish Examiner, Daniel McConnell), the foster-carers appealed directly to Minister Noonan.

Minister Noonan acted on this letter, notwithstanding that the whole area was governed by statute, and including the new Foster-Care Regulations.

Minister Noonan passed the matter on to his junior ministerial colleague, Minister Austin Curry (as again happened in the ‘Monagear’ case a few months later).

Minister Curry passed it on to an official of the Department of Health (DoH). The DoH official passed it on to the SEHB.

The SEHB operated under a hierarchical structure. At the top was the CEO, John Cooney, who was assisted by programme managers in the areas of general hospitals, special hospitals (ie psychiatric and geriatric hospitals) and community care (covers foster-care).

The Programme Manager for Community Care in the SEHB, Martin Hynes, responded to the DoH official by stating that this was possibly the first decision taken under the provisions of the Foster-Care Regulations, and the decision stood.

A further case conference late in 1996 was informed by the chair, Sandra Merity, that the decision to remove ‘Grace’ was overturned. No clear reason was given, but mutterings about legal advice and a possible three-person meeting in September have proved elusive to all those who have followed the paper-trail.

However, Dr Cathal Morgan of the HSE told Keelin Shanley on RTE’s News At One today that he knew the identity of the three as-yet unidentified persons ‘who were responsible for implimenting the decision of the case-conference’, and he further noted ‘they have left the service’.

In addition to his profuse apologies, Dr Morgan also referred to ‘a HR procedure’, that a Garda investigation is ongoing (he omitted the fact that it appears to have commenced in 2007), and he made repeated reference to the over-riding need for Due Process. This final comment is particularly ironic since it was the interference with due process which condemned Grace.

Q4: How useful are inquiries?

The ‘real news’ about inquiries is that they are invariably set up with a view to kicking the truth down the road – for years, decades, or permanently.

The ‘facts’ established by Inquiries cannot be used in criminal proceedings.

The matters at issue in the ‘Grace’ case are criminal in nature – the decision-makers who subjected Grace to daily torture for over nine years cannot claim immunity from the criminal law. That includes Minister Noonan.

Q5: How can the truth be established?

The very small number of decision-makers and facilitators could just say what happened.
When this does not happen (after the 5 previous inquiries and reports), it is necessary to personally identify the crew, get just one to free himself or herself from the glue, and then expose both the lie and the liars. After that, the truth will find its own level.

Earlier: Failing Grace

Previously: Grace, Noonan and Monageer

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