Fresh delay for inquiry into ‘Grace’ foster home abuse claims inquiry
Probe into 46 other cases put back
Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness said the latest delay was a ‘scandal’. Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin
September 12 2020 02:30 AM
The ‘Grace’ investigation into claims of sexual abuse at a State foster home has been granted a fourth extension on delivering its report – pushing back the start of inquiries into 46 other cases at the home.
Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness, who was key to highlighting the case while Dáil Public Accounts Committee chair, said the latest delay was a “scandal”. He was “incensed” by the way the severely disabled woman and other alleged victims were being treated by the State.
Health Minister Stephen Donnelly recently granted an “interim extension” to the commission, which was due to be completed more than two years ago and has cost over €5m.
He is due to meet with its members later this month to “consider its rationale for the application” for more time.
The first phase of the commission’s work is to investigate the role of public authorities in the care and protection of Grace, who resided with a former foster family in the south- east of Ireland between 1989 and 2009.
The current application for extra time is in addition to the two 12-month extensions granted in May 2018 and May 2019 and a 10-week preliminary extension granted in May 2020. The May extension, granted in part due to the impact of Covid-19, gave it until July 24 to identify the time it required to complete its phase one work and to report.
But Mr Donnelly received correspondence on July 22, in the form of an eighth interim report, including an application by the Farrelly Commission for another extension.
“I think it’s an absolute scandal that a further extension would have been granted,” said Mr McGuinness.
“Mr Donnelly should have sought a meeting with the commission before granting an extension and he should have insisted on the report being completed. It’s extremely unfair not only on the families, but it’s an awful reflection on the State, that they would do this to those who are non-verbal, can’t act for themselves or defend themselves and are waiting for a response from the State. It’s totally unacceptable.”
In a statement, the Department of Health said Mr Donnelly and Minister for Disability Anne Rabbitte are considering the request for a further extension and will meet the commission to discuss.
“The ministers will decide on the Farrelly Commission’s request following their meeting with the commission,” said a spokesperson. “The ministers intend to publish the commission’s interim report on the Department of Health’s website shortly.”
The commission, chaired by barrister Marjorie Farrelly, began its work in May 2017, and is examining the abuse allegations in two stages. The first stage is based on the allegations involving Grace.
The second stage, which will only begin when the first stage concludes, involves further allegations involving the 46 other vulnerable people who were placed in the home in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s.
The commission was announced in February 2016 by then-Taoiseach Enda Kenny following serious concerns raised by a whistleblower.
The concerns involved a non-verbal woman with severe intellectual and physical disabilities who has been given the pseudonym Grace, who was placed at the home at various times between 1989 and 2009.
During this period, Grace is alleged to have suffered significant physical and sexual abuse.
Concerns were first highlighted about the home as far back as 1992 and 1995.
However, for still unknown reasons which have led to health service and political responsibility questions, no action was taken at that time.