By James Ward, PA
There is an “urgent effort” by the Government to publish a report detailing sexual abuse perpetrated on intellectually disabled adults at an HSE-run facility.
The Brandon report details more than 108 incidents of sexually inappropriate behaviour carried out over 13 years at Ard na Greine Court in Stranorlar, Co Donegal, between 2003 and 2016.
The abuse was carried out by a fellow resident, given the name “Brandon” in the report.
An Garda Síochána has written to the report’s authors, the National Independent Review Panel (NIRP), to block its publication over what it says are inaccuracies about the actions it took on the matter.
Minister Simon Coveney has said the Government is committed to the full publication of the report and the “only pause” on that happening is the request by the gardaí.
He told the Dáil on Thursday: “Local gardaí wrote to the HSE on Thursday, the fourth of November last, requesting that the HSE continue to maintain the agreements not to publish the detailed executive summary until they completed their process.
“Separately An Garda Síochána wrote to the HSE on Friday, November the fifth, the following the day, indicating that there was a factual inaccuracy in the executive summary, which they indicated should be corrected and they requested a copy of the full report.
“The correspondence was sent to the chair of the NIRP, who drafted this report and the executive summary, for her attention.
“At this point, the only pause on progressing full publication is the request of An Garda Síochána.
“Currently, if the chair of the NIRP is satisfied the report is accurate, then there will be no need for any further delay.”
Mr Coveney said Disabilities Minister Anne Rabbitte is “very keen” to see the report published and has written to Garda Commissioner Drew Harris, Justice Minister Helen McEntee and HSE chief executive Paul Reid on the matter, “reminding them of the importance of publication”.
He was responding to a question from Sinn Féin TD for Donegal Pearse Doherty, who said the victims’ families deserved to see the report in full.
He said: “They hoped that this report would finally get them the answers that they have been waiting for a year for.
“In circumstances such as these, the comfort of the truth is significant.”
He added: “There were 18 victims at Ard na Greine. These victims are among the most vulnerable in our society. Many of them are non-verbal.
“They placed their trust in the centre and the HSE to protect their wellbeing. That obviously didn’t happen. They were failed time and again.
“The bravery of the whistleblower, a number of years back, led to reports from Hiqa and the gardai and the individual identified as Brandon was eventually isolated.
“But astonishingly, a few years after that, Brandon was relocated and the abuse started all over again. What happened at Ard na Greine can never, ever happen again.”
He continued: “The Government cannot stand by any longer and allow organs of the state to conceal the truth.
“This is an independent report which contains findings that the families are entitled to.
“The ongoing charade, shrouds of secrecy and the circling of the state wagons has no place in a modern democracy. Those days are over.
“It is the responsibility of your Government to make that message clear.”
Mr Coveney said he accepted it was necessary to have political input “to ensure the full, unvarnished truth” about what happened is made public.
He added: “We in Government are more than aware of how traumatising this has been, and how totally unacceptable it is that vulnerable adults in residential facilities were treated that way, and that it happened over a sustained period.
“There is an urgent effort to get it published.”