Members login


Join IASW today

Apply Now


Whistleblower in ‘Grace’ case claims HSE lied to discredit her

  • 03 Nov 2016

Social worker alleges young woman sexually abused at foster home for over 20 years

Sarah Bardon

3rd November 2016

The whistleblower at the centre of a case involving allegation of sexual abuse at a foster home in the southeast has alleged that the HSE used a “combination of lies, misinformation and obfuscation” to discredit her.

The social worker, who claimed the young woman identified as ‘Grace’ was subjected to sexual abuse for more than 20 years, has criticised the HSE’s treatment of her.

In a protected disclosure to Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness and Fine Gael TD John Deasy, the whistleblower states: “I don’t think any person within the health services who might wish to ‘blow the whistle’ would take comfort from the manner in which the HSE has responded to my disclosures.”

The social worker made a series of allegations about the foster home as far back as 2009. It was claimed that 47 children were at risk in the home, while ‘Grace’ remained in the family’s care for more than 20 years despite allegations of child sexual abuse.

A Government-commissioned report by senior counsel Conor Dignam found the HSE’s failure to act appropriately to the allegations has meant some of the claims have not been investigated.


In correspondence seen by the Irish Times, the whistleblower makes a number of allegations.

The social worker said she has been forced to persist for seven years and was forced to rely on the Dáil Committee on Public Accounts and the media for her concerns to be heard.

“Clearly, neither the HSE, nor its protected disclosures mechanisms, are fit for purpose.

“The question now is whether those who defended the HSE’s handling of these matters before the ( Committee on Public Accounts) can continue to be entrusted with running the Health Service Executive. ”

A HSE spokesman said its chief executive Tony O’Brien was invited into the committee to answer a number of questions across a whole range of issues. He said the two meetings lasted eight hours in total and Mr O’Brien was obliged to explain a number of processes.

The 300-page report by Mr Dignam was issued on Tuesday evening after being considered by the Cabinet.

In the Dáil last night, Fine Gael TD John Deasy alleged a second young woman was sexually abused at the same foster home at which ‘Grace’ resided.

Mr Deasy alleged under Dáil privilege he met a family in 2014 who alleged their relative was raped by the same family. He said the abuse was carried out over a prolonged period of time and her injuries were so severe she could not be operated on.

The Fine Gael TD told the House the woman, who is non-verbal, was the victim of raped with a blunt instrument.

A Commission of Investigation is to be established into the case and Minister with Special Responsibility for Disability Issues Finian McGrath said he wanted the terms to be ready within two weeks.

He said ‘Grace’, those involved in her case and others who were placed in the care of the foster family should not have to wait long for the commission’s conclusion.