If you are following the Irish news, you will have heard about an appalling case of alleged abuse, involving 47 children who passed through a foster home in the Southeast of the country. Worse, children were left in that foster home after the alleged abuse became known to the authorities.

Why is this a really important case for Pádraig and for everybody with a severe Acquired Brain Injury (sABI)? — I’ll come back to that later. First a bit of background.

This morning, on RTÉ Radio One, Colm O’Gorman, the Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland, was interviewed about the recent alleged abuse case of a young woman, Grace, who had been left with a foster family by the HSE for many years, even after alleged abuse had been reported. — Amnesty International has an interest in this case because they consider it a very serious abuse of human rights when people who do not have a voice to speak for themselves, who cannot defend themselves, who cannot serve as witnesses in a court room, who are (in the ‘big’ scheme of things) not really important — are abused, and are left in the environment where that abuse takes place , even *after* the abuse becomes knows.

Here is a bit of background to that interview.

According to the Irish Examiner, “The Health Service Executive (HSE) has for the first time admitted significant failings in cases of “savage” rape and physical abuse of disabled children in a foster home in the South-East, seven years after allegations were first raised.” The Examiner also lists a number of reports compiled covering these cases of serious abuse and of whom none (!) has been published.

According to RTÉ News, “Taoiseach Enda Kenny has told the Dáil “words don’t exist to adequately address the depth and volume of revulsion” felt over allegations of abuse in a foster home in the southeast.”

The Irish Times reports that Labour Senator Máiría Cahill said she had spent the past 18 months urging people to speak about their abuse so they could get help, but also to break the cycle of abuse. She said the most disturbing fact in the case was that Grace, who had been left as a child in the home for 12 years after a decision was made not to refer new cases there, was physically unable to speak about her abuse. “The HSE had a duty to protect her and it failed her miserably,” she said. The lessons about abuse by powerful institutions, the systemic and horrific abuse of children “appear not to have been learned. That is appalling and disgraceful.”

Colm O’Gorman was asked on RTÉ this morning several times, why, he believes, nothing had been done about the abuse and the abusers, protecting Grace and others in that foster home, when the allegations had been well documented for many years.

His answer was: it’s simple. The interest of the children and young adults in that home were not sufficiently important to the people who had a duty of care for them; not important enough to risk litigation from that foster home; not important enough to merit all the potential problems, issues, and hustle that an intervention might have caused. When it was considered whether the case should be reported to the police, the child, who was not able to verbally communicate, was deemed not to be viable witnesses in a court of justice – so the case was not brought to the police and to court. – Just stop here. Read it again. And think about it for a minute.


Back to my initial question. Why is this important for Pádraig and other survivors of sABI? – The cases are certainly different.

However, this case is important for us because many are, like the children and young adults in this foster home, in the care of someone else; they are (mainly) voiceless and unable to communicate (at least and in most cases in the eyes and ears of their carers); they cannot defend themselves; they are completely and absolutely dependent; they wouldn’t make ‘good’ witnesses in a courtroom; when there are serious complaints about their care, these complaints are often not followed up on or dismissed outright; worse, parents are afraid to speak out because they fear the consequences for their children if they do (and we have seen cases where this fear seemed to be justified); they are (often, though not always; by many health care professionals, though not all) deemed to be ‘hopeless’ cases, not warranting the ‘investment’ they require in terms of care, equipment, and therapy; in fact, money spent on them has been described as being spent ‘unwisely’ or a ‘waste’.

Now — the case of the 47 children in this foster home, and especially the case of Grace, is being described as a blatant violation of human rights not only because of the alleged abuse, but because their interests, their human dignity, their right to be ‘heard’ and to be respected as human beings were ignored, just because they just weren’t ‘important’ enough — then the case of survivors of sABI who are just being ‘maintained’ in nursing homes, requiring (in the words of a health official) just hydration, sedation, and nourishment, is also a clear violation of human rights.

Not just in my view, but in the view of the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) which, although Ireland has not ratified it as one of just three EU countries, has been ratified by the EU and should be therefore binding for Ireland. The ratifying States agreed to:

promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity.

Would you agree?