The Shame of Ireland
'Worst abuse case in history' under new scrutiny!
Published 31/07/2016 | 02:30
Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan has launched a "comprehensive investigation" following a complaint about Michael Noonan's handling of the 'Grace' abuse case when he was health minister in the mid-1990s.
The launching of the investigation was confirmed in a letter last week to one of the original and main whistleblowers in the whole clerical and institutional abuse scandals, former Southeastern Health Board member Garry O'Halloran.
Mr O'Halloran made a complaint about Mr Noonan to the Commissioner in February following disclosures about what is believed to be the longest and worst abuse case involving the young woman 'Grace' who has a mental age of 12 months and is now in her 40s.
She was abandoned as a child by the State to the foster care of a man who abused her for a period of 14 years along with a series of other children also placed in his care.
Mr O'Halloran, a barrister, attempted to raise the issue with government during the mid-1990s while he was still a Fine Gael councillor and member of the SE Health Board.
He was met with consistent opposition and was finally forced to quit the party and the health board.
He and a small group of others helped victims form support groups and eventually expose dozens of abusers in the clergy and the health system. Along with New Ross, Co Wexford farmer and former Labour Party member, Billy Moroney, he helped expose the systematic abuses which were going on in the southeast and beyond as word spread of their work.
Several inquiries and dozens of prosecutions have taken place arising from matters which they fought to expose.
In February this year the case of Grace arose again as further efforts were made to expose the failures at high level in government and the health boards, which allowed the young woman to suffer what campaigners say was probably the most prolonged and horrific abuse case in the State's history.
Grace was violently abused and systematically raped over a period of 14 further years in the foster home after the allegation was made in 1995, being subjected to horrific sexual abuse over almost two decades.
Describing the abuse in the Dail last February, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said: "Words do not exist to describe, adequately, the depth and the volume of the revulsion we feel about the alleged abuse and failures we've heard of."
Spurred by what he saw as a likely continuing series of internally handled inquiries, Mr O'Halloran wrote to Commissioner O'Sullivan in February asking for a proper Garda investigation.
The letter requested: "that you conduct an investigation into the conduct of: Michael Noonan TD, Minister for Health in the 1994-1997 coalition government; former and present staff of the South Eastern Health Board (SEHB), the Health Service Executive (HSE), and Tusla (the Child and Family Agency); in relation to their behaviour in respect of their handling of Grace's situation. "Further, I request that you conduct an investigation into the conduct of former and present staff of the SEHB and HSE in relation to their handling of Grace's situation and their handling of the particular foster care facility from 1992 up to and including the present." Mr O'Halloran added that "such is the nature of the matters involved, I further request that you take personal control of such investigations".
Last Tuesday Mr O'Halloran received a reply from a senior garda in the southeast region on behalf of Commissioner O'Sullivan saying: "I wish to reassure you with regard to your concerns regarding the conduct of Mr Michael Noonan TD, Minister for Health in the 1994-1997 Coalition Government and in relation to the conduct of former and present staff members within the South Eastern Health Board, the Health Service Executive and Tusla that these matters will be fully investigated.
"It is the intention of the investigation team to encompass all the aspects of this case in the course of what is proposed to be a comprehensive investigation."
The Sunday Independent sought a response from Mr Noonan but none was forthcoming. In his letter to the Garda Commissioner, Mr O'Halloran asked that due to the gravity of the case, she herself should take personal control of any investigation.
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