The Shame of Ireland
'WARDS of the HSE" -- words to rank with "Van Diemen's Land", "Magdalene Laundries" and "Letterfrack" in the dire lexicon of government-administered Irish horror stories.
Now, we learn officially that 188 children and young people who were either 'in care' or in contact with social services have died in this extended gulag. Two weeks ago, the official figure was initially 23. A few days later, it was 37. Next, it was 151. In other words, another statistical Irish auction, filled with meaningless figures.
Five years ago, Sharon Grace walked into Ely hospital in Wexford and asked to see a social worker. It was after hours and, of course, Irish social workers only work office hours. So she asked for an emergency phone number but there was none. She then left the hospital and killed her two daughters, Mikhala (4) and Abby (3), and herself. Are these girls on the HSE list?
Eighteen months later, the Grace inquest was told that Ely Hospital still did not have a social worker on call -- a situation that Wexford coroner Jimmy Murphy called "incredible". The HSE replied that although Wexford had no "after-hours" social services and although the self-harm counselling service was only open 9am-5pm, there was a number for the 24-hour Caredoc service (if only anyone knew what it was ... )
The message clearly is that people intending to self-harm should do so in a responsible way -- only in office hours. If they're deranged enough to self-harm Outside Office Hours (OOH), then they've only got themselves to blame. Is that clear?
Soon afterwards, the Dunne family turned up at an undertaker's in Wexford and showed an interest in coffins for all of them. The undertaker promptly contacted the gardai, who contacted the HSE.
An HSE super-sleuth went to see the Dunnes and found that there was "no record" (whatever that means) of the children being at risk. A day or so later, Adrian Dunne killed his wife and children and then himself. Are these children's deaths on the latest HSE death list?
One of the defining characteristics of HSEland is an addiction to seminars and 'learning days', when lots of people gather and wonder how to do the job they are already being paid to do.
These usually occur in fancy hotels, at weekends and naturally mean overtime, expensive meals and sometimes overnight board.
The HSE organised a seminar about the Dunne killings, this time in Dublin, and on a weekday in April 2008. The Ombudsman for Children Emily Logan told the gathering that Ireland needed an organisation to investigate the suspicious deaths of children. The UN had, two years earlier, criticised Ireland's failure to have one. That seminar was two years ago, the UN criticism was four years ago. Now it's June 2010 and the HSE has done SFA.
One concern that emerged in the last days of the Celtic Tiger, expressed in typical HSE mumbo-jumbo, was "the non-operation of childcare-services during out-of-office hours", namely OOH. The underlying HSE assumption had always been that childcare was an office-hours-only business and it must be a rare or very wicked child indeed who required care beyond these hours.
However, in 2007, in response to the recent and very astonishing discovery that homeless children might actually need care at midnight or yes, even at weekends -- no, I didn't know they did either -- the HSE began to consider supplying an OOH service. But happily, not for long, because in 2008, it decided to "suspend plans" for an OOH service for children. "Our new proposals," the HSE gibbered, "will strengthen the co-operation between the HSE and the gardai, who have the authority to take children into care, day or night."
Quite so. For the entire problem was then shifted back where it had always been: the compliant but untrained hands of decent, conscientious law-enforcement officers, who had to lock up homeless children in garda cells -- AKA an Irish solution to an Irish problem.
Moreover, in HSEland, time exists on a different plane. A national review into HSE childcare services for 2005 took nearly three years. This found that the waiting list for social workers was 374 children long, or about a year. And whereas 33pc of child-abuse allegations in Leinster were confirmed upon investigation, the figure for Munster was only 7pc. Which means that Munster's HSE super-sleuths weren't investigating properly or that Munster children were thoroughgoing liars; the latter, probably.
Two years ago, an HSE spokesman was asked whether children at risk were being properly looked after and boasted: "As far as I can be humanly sure of, yes."
Another HSE executive, asked the incredible question why no child had ever died in HSE care, replied, equally incredibly: "(Irish social workers) sense that there is a good local knowledge in the area, that professionals still have good links with and co-operation with their communities."
This was, of course, before we learnt about Tracey Fay, Danny Talbot, David Foley, Kim Donovan, Daniel McAnaspie, and some 180 or so others. Moreover, we all know that many more wards of the HSE are certain to perish soon in our Irish gulag without bars. Ah well. That's one way of solving the problem.
firstname.lastname@example.org - Kevin Myers
Irish Independent - Thursday June 10 2010
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