At least 18 intellectually disabled residents of a Health Service Executive-run centre in Co Donegal were subjected “to sustained sexual abuse” during a 13-year period with the full knowledge of staff and management, an unpublished investigation has found.
The report documented more than 108 incidents of “devastating” abuse perpetrated on mainly non-verbal adults by another resident, given the pseudonym “Brandon” in the report.
These included molestation, entering residents’ beds at night, exposing himself, prolonged and loud masturbation close to residents, and possibly rape, The Irish Times reports.
Brandon died last year.
The report, from the HSE’s National Independent Review Panel (NIRP), a copy of which has been obtained by The Irish Times, finds the Ard Gréine Court complex and Sean O’Hare Unit in St Joseph’s hospital in Stranorlar had been run with a “disregard for residents’ rights”.
The report found that the sexual abuse was allowed to continue “unabated”.
The impact of the abuse has yet to be “fully understood” by HSE management according to the report.
The Independent Review of the Management of Brandon report was commissioned by the HSE national office in December 2018, to assess the management of the perpetrator during his time in the centre from 2003 to 2016, when he was moved to a nursing home.
The report found that management at both service and regional level “had neither the management skills nor competence to deal with the serious problems Brandon’s behaviour presented”.
The “common strategy” to move Brandon from ward to ward “simply gave him access to a new cohort of clients whom he proceeded to assault until he was moved on again”.
Records “suggest this sexualised behaviour had been ongoing ... prior to 2003”. The first incident was recorded in January 1997 with a further three recorded between then and December 2002.
None of the victims' families were informed until December 2018, which was more than a decade after the abuse in some cases. The late disclosures were made despite repeated advice that this could be “interpreted as collusion or complicity”.
Local HSE management did not report the assaults or alleged rapes to gardaí until last year. They had been encouraged to act sooner by the HSE’s local safeguarding team.
A file on the case has now been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
The abuse first came to light when a whistleblower approached local Independent TD Thomas Pringle in 2016. He informed senior officials in the regional HSE and then minister for disabilities, Finian McGrath.
A “look-back” review of files was commissioned by the regional HSE and this revealed the scale of the abuse.
The NIRP report is unfinished and has not yet been made available to the families of Brandon's victims.
Families of four of the victims told The Irish Times that they want to see the report and do not believe they would ever have known about the abuse had the whistleblower not contacted Mr Pringle.
Minister of State for Disabilities Anne Rabbitte, who will meet some of the victims' families in Donegal today, has called on the HSE to publish the report.
A HSE spokeswoman said that as the NIRP “process” was continuing, “the HSE is not in a position to comment further”.