Tuesday’s Irish Examiner showing the letter sent by the foster father of Grace to the then Minister for Health Michael Noonan in August 1996
Further to yesterday’s post about Grace, Finance Minister Michael Noonan and barrister Garry O’Halloran’s calls for Mr Noonan to resign…
Two sisters, Bridget and Margaret, spoke to Joe Duffy on RTÉ’s Liveline this afternoon.
They did the interview because a third sister, who has limited speech and poor mobility, lived in the same foster care home as Grace for brief respite periods on several occasions – in 1983, 1987 and 1989.
Bridget and Margaret said their sister, who is now in her 40s, was first placed there by her South Eastern Health Board social worker, when she was aged 12.
At the time, she would have had the mental age of a two-year-old.
The sisters both recalled an incident where the foster parents contacted the sisters’ family, abruptly telling them to take the girl home. When the family went to collect her, the girl was left alone at the end of the foster home’s driveway.
Asked if the sister could have communicated with them, if she had been abused, Bridget said:
“I don’t think so, no. Only through crying and being terribly anxious.”
Margaret explained that the gardai had contacted her 18 months ago to say that “there was a minor complaint made, nothing to worry about.”
Margaret then gave them a statement about the incident in which her sister was left at the end of the driveway.
Then, on December 9, 2015, Margaret received a letter from the HSE saying that her sister would be a part of a Resilience Ireland report.
She also received an apology from the HSE and clarification that a Garda investigation was under way.
Margaret said she cannot get any other details and is facing having to make requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act.
She also made an appeal for other families affected – it’s believed 40 children lived in the foster home – to get in touch.
Margaret said: “If [any other families affected] would like to talk or come together as a support group, I mean we should have been told before it came out in the media really. We should have been informed, we should have been warned. Not hear about our family member in the media.”
Bridget also said that they’d like to hear from the social worker who was working with their sister. She said the HSE hasn’t offered any support or contact with any other families involved because of “confidentiality” reasons.
Bridget added: “And they said it could be a long time before we found the truth out really, you know, and that’s, that’s hard as well to take on.”
Towards the end of the interview, Mr Duffy asked the sisters to articulate what they’re hoping for.
Bridget: “Just, well, we just hope that she, she wasn’t in this situation but we don’t know and just for other families out there, who are feeling the same way as us, if they want to get in contact, we can [be] stronger in numbers really and to just sit down and talk about it. If they’ve got any, any information that could help us…”
Joe Duffy: “And Margaret is a part of you saying, ‘actually maybe we shouldn’t dig?’”
Margaret: “No. Sure we have all the right to dig.”
Duffy: “Oh, I know that, I know that, I know that, absolutely. But is part of you saying, ‘oh god..'”
Margaret: “Oh of course you’re afraid what you’re going to find out…”
Bridget: “And what do you do with the information when you get it?”
Margaret: “Who’s going to be held responsible for all of this? The HSE? Who?”
Mr Duffy didn’t ask the sisters about the Irish Examiner’s report earlier this week which showed that Grace remained in the foster care home for another 13 years after the foster father – now deceased – sent a letter to the then Health Minister Michael Noonan asking that she be allowed to stay.
The letter was sent after the health board ruled that Grace be removed and after the family lost an appeal against that decision.
Mr Duffy also didn’t ask the sisters for their thoughts on barrister Garry O’Halloran’s calls for Mr Noonan to resign and for Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan to investigate Minister Noonan.
Listen back in full here
Previously: Grace, Noonan and Monageer