Dáil debates

Thursday, 16 December 2021

Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions


12:00 pm

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Deputy for raising this important issue today. I am very conscious that in discussing this matter, there are families who have been deeply impacted and who are deeply hurting. Anyone who has read or listened to the reports on the issue is going to be shocked and upset by what has happened. Certainly, when I read about it, I was horrified that this could have happened. I even felt disbelief that something like this could happen and continue to happen for a period of time. All of our thoughts, in the first instance, are with the individuals and families affected. I cannot begin to imagine what they have been going through this morning and in the years gone by.

The Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Rabbitte, who is responsible for disability services met with HSE officials on Tuesday to discuss the publication of the Brandon report. The HSE informed her that it intends to publish the executive summary of the Brandon report today. They also informed her that it is communicating with the families of those directly impacted who were due to receive the executive summary yesterday in advance of wider publication. With regard to the full report, the Minister of State is seeking advice from the Attorney General as to whether she can publish it either fully or in redacted form. At the moment the HSE is saying that is not possible but the Minister of State is not accepting that at this point in time. She is seeking advice from the Attorney General as to whether she can publish it in full or if not in full, at least in redacted form. The HSE has confirmed that it has put some help in place to help families during what will be a very difficult time for them and to answer any queries they may have. Families have been contacted by psychology or social work staff who have been known to them since 2018. A contact phone number has been provided to families, with any calls being answered by a psychologist.

The safety and protection of vulnerable people in the care of the State is paramount. The Government's first concern, and that of the Minister of State, is to ensure that the needs of the current residents are being prioritised. It is important that lessons are learned and that changes are made. The focus must be on ensuring that the findings and recommendations of the report are implemented. The HSE has assured the Minister of State that there are no ongoing risks to service users and that national governance and accountability structures to oversee the implementation of recommendations arising from the report are now in place.

A debate on this in the Dáil would be entirely appropriate, perhaps when we resume in the new year when Members have had a chance to read and consider the report. Of course, the allocation of time for a debate is a matter for the Business Committee.


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