One plane crash, two versions of events.

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On Wednesday afternoon Alan Shatter was supposed to have been meeting with the parents of an Air Corps cadet killed in a training crash four years ago. Instead he ended up somewhat tied up in the Dail for the day but the meeting went ahead in his absence with the Secretary General of the Department of Defence and the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces.

The deceased Cadet David Jevens parents, Donal and Liz, are distressed that civilian and military investigations in to the crash are at odds with each other and that the minister has repeatedly backed the Air Corps version of events.

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The lead agency examining the crash was the Air Accident Investigation Unit and it’s report exonerates their son of any blame. That is backed up by the coroner’s verdict which records accidental death in David’s case but an open verdict in that of the plane’s instructor.

But the Defence Forces Court of Inquiry published findings which say that the decisions which led to the crash were made jointly by both men. This is a conclusion which doesn’t tally with the known facts .. but it is one that Alan Shatter has supported as recently as this week in response to a parliamentary question.

The best way to explain what happened on the 12th of October 2009 is to suggest you listen to my report on Drivetime. It reconstructs the timeline using the transcript of the Cockpit Voice Recorder. The map below of the Crumlin Valley shows the box canyon like nature of the terrain they flew into. The crash happened on the northern wall.

In most respects the AAIU investigation and the findings of the military Court of a Inquiry are the same. But the civilian report highlights how the key decisions before the crash were made by the instructor and not Cadet Jevens. He pressed on into the weather where the other two planes following them diverted around it. Maintaining high speed he directed the flight into the narrow confines of the Crumlin Valley and he was flying the plane for the last forty seconds.

The Military inquiry completely neglects to mention Cadet Jevens suggestion they divert around the bad weather and that Captain Furniss directed him to fly on. Which is an important omission that set the context for the next five minutes before the crash. Its use of language suggests the crew acted in unison throughout while the AAIU says the instructor had assumed tactical control of the flight before assuming actual control of the plane.

That is now the historical military record and Donal and LIz feel that their son’s reputation is damaged by it. The podcast includes an interview with Donal which sets out the other contradictions between the reports.

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The most notable omission though is the manner in which the Defence Forces spared itself any criticism of itself. The AAIU found that there was ineffective command and control at the Air Corps Flight Training School. This is because at the time the Officer Commanding was also the pilot on the government jet and as such was off the base 70-80% of the time.

In this circumstance it went unnoticed that the audits of the Flight Training School which were supposed to happen every year just weren’t being completed, and when they were they were inacurate. This proved to be relevant to what happened on the day of the crash.

There were four approved ways for avoiding bad weather of the kind they flew into on that day. 1) You fly over it. 2) Turn 180 degrees and fly away. 3) Do a series of dog-leg turns and fly around it. Or you execute 4) an emergency low level abort like the instructor attempted by pitching up into the cloud.

The problem is that the audits said training was provided for them. But the facts established at the inquest were the instructor wouldn’t have been trained in a plane or a simulator in how to execute a low level abort. So no Flight Training School planes should have been putting themselves in a situation where they had to rely on Emergency Low Level Aborts.

Added to which the lack of supervisory oversight meant that the Instructor was effectively self-authorising in setting flight mission targets and assessing risk. This leaves Donal and Liz feeling that had the Flight Training School been properly audited and run at the time that things might have been very different on the day of the crash.

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But they will have a hard time convincing Alan Shatter of any of this. In a written response to a Parliamentary Question on Tuesday the Minister indicated that he did not share any of the Jevens family’s concerns and that he wasn’t going to re-open any investigation. He feels that there is no difference between the civilian and military reports when clearly there is.

Perhaps Shatter’s preoccupation with the Garda taping scandal will prove useful to Donal and Liz. At their meeting with the Chief of Staff, Lt Gen O’Boyle, he indicated he would see if it was legally possible to re-open the Court Of Inquiry. They wait on tenterhooks not least because their second son decided to join the Air Corps the week his brother was killed. He has just started in Flight Training School in Baldonnell.

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Why is banking still so scandal ridden?

A leopard with unchanged spots.

A leopard with unchanged spots.

A banker with a gambling and drinking problem. A man who ran a betting syndicate from his workplace for his colleagues. The same man who went to Las Vegas twice a year. Is this the kind of man you entrust with the keys to the vault. Literally, not figuratively. Would you put him in charge of access to the cash vault of a bank? Yes, if you are Ulster Bank. This man’s behaviour was so considered so un-noteworthy that he was allowed access to and to determine who else in the bank got access. Yet when half a million disappeared from the vault Ulster Bank attempted to implicate the person who blew the whistle on the theft. A criminal investigation only began after details of the theft emerged when the whistleblower sought compensation at an employment tribunal for his treatment.

Now all of this happened after the watershed in banking. After the point in 2008 when we were promised that in exchange for taxpayer support banks would change the way they do business. It was the summer of 2012 and you would think that what Ulster Bank would do next would be very clear. They would call the police, present them with the evidence gathered during the audit of their cash centre, and point them in the direction of the office of the chief suspect. Except none of that is clear

The bank haven´t said why they didn’t report the crime. They haven’t said if the suspect is still working in the sector. Nor have they said if any of the missing money has been repaid. That wouldn´t be unusual, as most large institutions usually try to spare their own blushes in these situations. But all this unfolded as Ulster Bank was in the throes of the public relations nightmare that was its IT meltdown. Senior managers were worried about adverse publicity and this may have led to an attempt to smear the whistleblower. They tried to implicate him on the slimmest of pretexts, though this injustice was subsequently put to rights.

Even these scant details suggest a pretty bizarre approach to Human Resource management not to mention Corporate Governance at Ulster Bank. An employee in a position of trust exhibiting a lot of signs that he was anything but trustworthy. A bank that responds to a criminal offence as a matter of reputation management.  How after everything that has happened could this be?

This all took place in 2012 when the Leopards were supposed to have washed off all their spots. We have all heard years of protestations before parliamentary committees, in print and on air about a change in culture. But have banks and bankers changed their ways. Maybe some have but a brief online trawl of banking scandals of the last eighteen months reveals a lot that has the whiff of 2008 about it.

Bank 5

First off there´s the LIBOR scandal. The manipulation of interbank lending rates that resulted in higher costs for pension funds, mutual funds, multinational corporations, and other bank clients that purchase and sell currencies. But individual traders in Barclays, Citigroup, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, UBS and nine other banks are now being investigated for allegedly making a fortune for themselves in commission and for their banks …. so what the heck.

The biggest banking fraud … no scratch that, the biggest of any kind of fraud in British history was only uncovered when the fraudster owned up. It might have been a bit too much to expect any of Kweku Adoboli’s managers to have checked his Facebook status. If they did they would have noticed that he had changed it to “Need a miracle”. But how on earth did internal audit at UBS not pick up on what he was doing on company time. His trading desk was cleared to a maximum of $100m. Yet at the height of his fraud in August of 2011 Adoboli exposed the bank $12billion of risk, but nobody at the bank knew until he emailed his bosses to tell them what he was up to. Where were the checks and balances? Or perhaps the more instructive question is – Why is it that we only ever hear about the Rogue Traders who lose money?

Kweku Adoboli.

Kweku Adoboli.

There will be an especially hot place in hell for the architect of this RBS policy if the allegations of a government adviser prove to be true. Lawrence Tomlinson accused the 82% state owned bank of pushing viable businesses into its turnaround arm — allegedly to strip assets and make a profit for the bank. Tomlinson said that he had heard many devastating stories of how RBS “has wrecked good businesses and the ruinous impact this has on the lives of the business owners.”

Strictly speaking Wells Fargo’s racist lending policy shouldn’t be included here. Mortgage brokers working with the bank had charged higher fees and rates to more than 30,000 Latino and African American borrowers across the US than they had to white borrowers who posed the same credit risk. The Department of Justice also found that Wells Fargo brokers also steered more than 4,000 minority borrowers into costlier subprime mortgages when white borrowers with similar credit risk profiles had received regular loans. They were running this appalling policy from 2004 to 2009 but in their settlement last year the bank only agreed to compensate those borrowers if they didn’t have to admit any wrongdoing. Honesty? Transparency? Acountability?

Juergen Fitschen the CEO of Deutshe Bank ended 2012 on a sour note with the news that he was being probed for “severe tax evasion”, also had to face the presumably unwelcome news at the end of 2013 that he was now being investigated for having allegedly provided false testimony in a different case. The German Finance Ministry is wrapping an investigation into Deutshe Bank’s handling of LIBOR and EURIBOR manipulation and has concluded according to Der Spiegel that Fitschen and his co-CEO have not done enough to investigate and clear up the scandal.

Juergen Fitschen and Anshu Jain, Co-CEO's of Deutshe Bank

Juergen Fitschen and Anshu Jain, Co-CEO’s of Deutshe Bank

Asian bankers have spoiled their reputation for inscrutability with up to 30 different banks in Japan, Singapore, South Korea and Hong Kong being investigated for alleged interbank lending rate manipulations similar to the LIBOR scandal.

The chairman of Mizuho bank in Japan resigned on St Stephen’s Day after it emerged that they had knowingly provided gangsters with a line of credit. Senior executives at the bank were aware of the loans for over two years, and, they only took action after the Japanese watchdog body started its investigation.

As of the end of December regulators in the UK were warning that 60,000 SME’s could have been deliberately screwed over by Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group, National Australia Bank, and Royal Bank of Scotland. They were sold interest rate hedges in commercial loans since 2001 that in very many cases turned sour and cost them hundreds of thousands. Though the genesis of this is well before 2008 BBC’s Panorama showed how the way the scandal was being currently dealt with didn’t inspire confidence.

Banking giant JPMorgan Chase was forced to pay nearly a billion dollars in fines last year after its involvement in the “London whale” trading debacle. Traders overvalued a very complex portfolio to hide massive losses but the loss of $US6.2 billion in 2012 on the soured trading bets couldn’t be blamed on solely on Rogue Traders. The trading violations “demonstrated flaws permeating all levels of the firm: from portfolio level right up to senior management,” according to the Financial Conduct Authority.

Bank 7

10 major US banks have been forced to pay $8.5bn to homeowners they wrongfully foreclosed on. Citigroup, MetLife Bank, PNC Financial Services, Sovereign, SunTrust, U.S. Bank, Aurora, GMAC Mortgage, HSBC Finance Corp. and EMC Mortgage Corp all got off lightly though as the average award will be about $2,300

Toronto Dominion bank incorporated in Canada paid $52.5m in fines and approximately $600m in restitution to customers having failed to report suspicious activity on accounts used in a $1.2bn Ponzi Scheme. One of TD Banks regional managers is still defending himself against claims he lied to investors to support the scheme.

Banks are allowed to enter a property to secure their investment from weather damage or vadalism. However banks are not allowed to enter those homes while they are still occupied and let their sub-contractors remove personal belongings. Hundreds of Suits filed against most of America’s best known banks suggest this is something approaching a common practice

Regulators in Britain have set up a programme  to allow seven million customers to claim compensation relating to 23 million insurance policies sold by Card Protection Plan (CPP), which was fined £10.5 million in November 2012. “Customers were given misleading and unclear information about the policies so that they bought cover that either was not needed, or to cover risks that had been greatly exaggerated,” the Financial Conduct Authority said in a statement.

The Vatican Bank has always been egregious and not really representative of anything, but last years scandal has to be worth a mention here. Not least because it could have been the reason for the first papal resignation in 700 years.

Bank 9

And there I’ll stop even though there’s more than enough material to keep going. There are obvious problems with this kind of an excercise. For a start I haven´t included a baseline from prior to 2008 for the purposes of comparison. You could also say that increased detection could just as easily be evidence of more robust regulation as confirmation of bankers biting their thumbs at us. And it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that these cases could be entirely isolated in an otherwise pristine industry.

Except that last point is not the case. The chart below is taken from a recent Economist Intelligence Unit survey of banks. 67% of all banks have been affected by one or more of the issues listed. The worrying thing is that the most prevalent problems stem from within the banks – regulatory breaches, internal fraud, conflict of interest or market collusion.

Economist

One interpretation of this graph suggests that the thieves, hackers and fraudsters trying to rip off banks are not as great a risk to them as the scoundrels they employ and lavish bonuses on. The long and short of it is this – it is five years since these same people destroyed entire societies and then fell to their knees begging forgiveness. It is five years since all those “never again” promises were made. And here we are with every indication that bankers haven´t changed one iota.

The open question now is are they primed to make the same mistakes again?

Bank 1

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A scene from the cutting room floor

Insert your own Mr Potato head joke here

Insert your own Mr Potato head joke here

I recently finished making a documentary for TV with some of the people from the “What’s Ireland Eating?” crew. This though is more of a What’s Ireland Not Eating? as with the EPA we wanted to focus in on how much money we are throwing in the bin and how much we can save by preventing food waste.

As always when making any documentary we ran into the problem of having too much that we wanted to say and not enough space to say it in. Sadly a scene we filmed around the issue of “wonky vegetables” has ended up on the cutting room floor and won’t be in Sunday evening’s programme.

Here it is though as a bit of sneak preview: Wonky veg

You're very childish if you giggled

You’re very childish if you giggled

Grade 1 veg is what is deemed acceptable for the supermarket shelf. Grade 2 veg can be used in the food service industry once it’s been chopped up and made more visually acceptable but frequently it’s not. All too often it’s ploughed back into the field or goes to be composted, EU regulations at least mean it will no longer be landfilled.

So you can have two spuds, each alike in size, shape and nutritional value, but a small blemish that your grandmother would have whittled away in the blink of an eye means that one is effectively waste.
The curious point to all of this unnecessary waste is who decides what is visually acceptable? The retailers will say that it is us the consumers who shop with our eyes not our heads. The growers will say that it is the retailers insisting on ridiculously perfectly formed veg. And we consumers will say we can only buy what is on offer and are powerless to change anything.

The very conscientious people In Meads in Navan who do not waste any of their Grade 2 veg invited us in to take a look at the beauty parade and how high the bar is set. It was illuminating.
When you see “Waste Watchers” on RTÉ1 on Sunday 8th at 6.30pm you’ll see we deal with just about every other aspect of Food Waste from the field to our forks. Be it at home, in a restaurant, in the supermarket or in food manufacturing, and how if we address it there’s hundreds of millions of Euro just waiting to be re-injected into the economy.

Waste Watchers is on RTE1 Sunday 8th December at 6.30 or on the RTÉ Player for a month afterwards

The EPA calls this "auditing" bins

The EPA calls this “auditing” bins

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Hocus Pocus, Mumbo Jumbo and Balderdash

lyme-disease-quackery-snake-oil

Recently I was on a panel at a public event and warming up nicely to one of my favourite rants. The evils of nutritionism. That is the folly of ascribing all the ills of the modern diet to any one nutrient like fat or sugar. I was liberally plagiarising Dara O’Briain’s brilliant line about nutritionists – “Dietician is to nutritionist as Dentist is to Toothyologist” – and had suggested that some nutritionists were really no better than Homeopaths.

Right in front of me a hand shot up into the air and its owner declared herself a nutritionist and a homeopath. She didn’t like “Mister Arr-Tee-Eee’s” tone and informed everybody present at great length of how much she didn’t like my tone. Apparently what people like me didn’t realise is that the combination of “homeopathy, good nutrition, science and energy” would restore all our fortunes. Or some such.

This wasn’t the forum to take her to task and play the grand inquisitor. Much as I really wanted to say to her that if she believed in Homeopathy and she was a Nutritionist as opposed to a Dietician she had no business offering anybody any kind of advice. Least of all nutritional advice, and that she should stop. Sorry to be boring and probably one of the few people in the blogosphere saying this but – nutritional advice, even the simplest, even if it’s offered with the best of intentions should only be given by somebody who really knows what they’re doing.

Not saying anything was the right call because if I had waded straight in I probably wouldn’t have checked out her business after the conference. An oversight which would have deprived me of the knowledge of vast new vistas of quackery and utter nonsense.

Not untypically for naturopaths she offers treatments from a range of different disciplines. A little bit of homeopathy, some Applied Kinesiology, a smidgin of aromatherapy … and Iridology. “Iridology” now this was a whole branch of pseudo-medical mumbo jumbo that was new to me. And I have spent a few side splitting weeks reading about it since then. But I really want to save the best to last so let’s deal with the others first.

homeopathy-cartoon-2small

The Irish Society of Homeopaths has according to its website “over 400 members”. Typically they will charge somebody visiting their practices €70 or €80 for an initial consultation and €60 for every visit thereafter. The cost of each “homeopathic remedy” varies but will be in or around €10. Several health insurers operating in the Irish market will even subsidise the cost of your visit to a homeopath. All of this is carried on in broad daylight as if it was a legitimate business with some provable basis in scientific fact. Which of course it is not. The research dismissing homeopathy is beyond the scope of this blog but if you need to satisfy your curiosity about how far out of the ball park of credible treatments homeopathy has been thwacked you can find links here, here, here, here and here.

All you really need to know about homeopathy can be deduced from the actions of the FDA in America. Several dozen homeopathic products had been approved for sale but by the 1970’s as research into Homeopathy’s lack of benefits was established all of those approvals were withdrawn. So in other words none of them are “effective for its intended purpose”. Yet we have no problem with their sale and distribution in this country.

Let’s wake up and smell the 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 coffee dilution. This is a multi million euro industry that is being subsidised by the health insurance premiums that 90,000 people in the last two years have found too expensive to pay. The Irish Society of Homeopaths helpfully lists all the insurers who are willing to let their members claim for homeopathic “treatment”. The next time your health insurer comes looking for a hike in your premium you might suggest to them that they first dispense with spending your premium on fripperies which have absolutely no basis in provable scientific fact whatsoever.

Moving swiftly along then to Applied Kinesiology – a pseudoscientific system of muscle-testing and therapy invented in the 1960’s. The basic idea is that every organ dysfunction has a corresponding muscle weakness. So a problem in your liver will manifest itself as muscle weakness in the chest. Palpating your muscles for weakness therefore allows Applied Kinesiologists to diagnose and treat organ failure, or so they would have you believe.

Although the claims of applied kinesiology are so far removed from scientific reality that testing them might seem a waste of time, some rigorous (and very patient) scientists have subjected it to a lot of controlled tests and demonstrated what should be obvious to anybody of a rational disposition. It’s all balderdash. But if my word is not enough you can read the scientists dismiss Applied Kinesiology herehere, here, here and here as “no more successful than random guessing”

quack-doctor

Aromatherapy …. Oh please  …   here,  here here and here if you really think it actually needs debunking. It’s probably very nice having smelly oils rubbed into your body but its not medicine.

And so to Iridology.

I get a little bit giddy when I come across woo-woo talk. I look around and can’t believe that everybody else isn’t also seeing the emperor prancing around with his dangley bits on public display. There are quite a few Iridologianistarians (or whatever name they made up for themselves) practicing in this country. Apparently they all believe that the key to diagnosing all manner of illnesses from colo-rectal cancer to hearing loss in adolescents requires nothing more than looking in somebody’s eyes. Iridology is the study of Iris Diagnosis which was invented by a man who noticed that something about the iris of the Owl whose leg he broke changed. I’ll bet…. they must have gone flame red with fury.

Iridololiolioliginistinarianists will for an appropriate fee map your eyes and tell you what is wrong with you or what will go wrong with you. They can do this because each minute area of the iris corresponds to another part of the body, they say. They also say that if one of those areas is not working they can tell because the iris contains nerve fibers connected to various parts of the body through a previously unknown nerve pathway in the cranial nerves. Each dysfunction of the body registers as a lightening or colour change in the iris.

 

eye

The bad news for the Iridologinitwits is to be found herehere, <a href="http://www.

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Who’s to blame for Dublin’s water blackouts

Future Shock: The Last Drop

Future Shock: The Last Drop

I am afflicted with the need to bore people about Dublin’s strained relationship with water. I do it a lot. In fact I do it to an olympic level, I could bore for my country about water and take gold in all disciplines. I’ve been doing it for a long time too, above is a picture of me blathering on about Dublin’s water supply in a Future Shock documentary back in 2007.

Most of the time I’m just boring but for a few brief days every year when there’s shortages of supply in the capital city I am an all knowing seer. A prophet, a futurologist even. Except I’m not because everything that I have been reporting for nearly ten years was identified as a problem 20 years before I ever stumbled upon it.

The problem in a nutshell is that for an uncomfortable amount of the year the demand outstrips what the system can comfortably supply. In the graph below you’ll see the red line (demand for water) matches and regularly exceeds the blue line (what’s produced).

Water Supply

The system is forced to work beyond its maximum capacity much of the time leaving no wriggle room, no margin for error and certainly no room whatsoever for unforseen climate/weather related events. The cities of most developed countries operate with a spare capacity of at least 20%, in Dublin that figure is officially 1% but is actually a minus figure when the system is working beyond what it was designed to do.

We can’t fix the problem anytime soon so “water blackouts” and constriction of supply will be a feature of life in the capital for a long time to come. But on the upside at least it is crystal clear who’s to blame.

A GENUINELY HAPPY AND RELAXED  BERTIE AHERN IS PICTURED YESTERDAY(SUNDAY) . PIC MAXPIX.

Engineers have been saying for a very long time that what has happened was going to happen. The European Commission was telling us back in the 1980′s that we needed to invest in water services. But at a time when the rest of our European neighbours had the foresight to recognise that Water Rates was an evil necessity they should get on with implementing Bertie Ahern thought otherwise. He and Noel Dempsey returned from a European summit in Lisbon in 2000 with a “major political victory” – a derogation on the implementation of water rates.

Cogent arguments can be made that it was actually Fianna Fail’s scrapping of rates in 1978 or Brendan Howlin’s abolition of the Domestic Service Levy in 1997 that did in investment in water infrastructure. The real scapegoat is probably every government that ignored the engineers over the last 40 years. But Bertie deserves special mention for hitting upon the idea that we needed to be saved from this insidious Euro tax, so that we are now the only OECD nation without water rates . . . for the moment.

Now at a time when households and businesses can least afford it the nettle has to be grasped anyway, but we’ve 20 years catching up to do on that lack of investment. So we’ll be paying through the nose for something we’ve foolishly got used to thinking is free. And we’ll be getting a really poor quality service too until the fruits of that investment will be seen ten or more years from now.

You can listen to a podcast of my report on the specific difficulties being encountered at the Ballymore Eustace treatment plant here. If you’re Bertie Ahern, Brendan Howling or even Joe Higgins you can reflect on a picture of this statue on O’Connell Street.

Sir_John_Gray

That is Sir John Gray. You’ve probably never noticed him nestled in between Daniel O’Connell and Jim Larkin. The cities fathers decided to commemorate him because in the middle of the 19th century he had the foresight to realise that Dubliners couldn’t continue to source all their drinking water from the Liffey and the Royal and Grand canals. He set about raising funds for the Vartry Reservoir at Roundwood which to this day supplies about a quarter of Dublin’s needs. He was a contentious figure but for this act of statesmanship, public service and timely addressing of a looming problem he is now a permanent part of Dublin’s landscape. Can I make my point any clearer.

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“Lainey and Chloe’s” Story

Child Mirror

When I started reporting on the cases of the children I have been referring to as Maggie and Emma it wasn’t clear if they were representative of anything. In the literally thousands of disclosures of abuse made every year there had to be cock ups, and perhaps these cases were just “outliers”. Egregious examples of incompetence with a bit of possible official malice thrown in. I made no initial assumptions about them being anything other than terribly tragic instances of the state failing vulnerable children.

The volume of similar cases that I now have on my desk suggests strikingly similar patterns of official action. Concerned mothers lobbying for their children getting labelled “difficult”. Those mothers being forced to undergo psychiatric assesment. Their fitness to parent called into doubt on the say so of an allegedly abusive spouse. Incomplete or haphazard consideration of the evidence of abuse.

And most disturbingly  – fathers who have been deemed abusive by Gardai, by independent Psychologists, by paediatricians getting access to their children on the recommendation of the HSE.

Birds of a feather flock together and it may well be that by discussing these cases so publicly I have encouraged the handful of other similar cases that exist to come forward. So it is still too early to draw any hard and fast conclusions about the extent of this. My instinct however is that the women who have identified themselves to me and provided documents to support their allegations are the courageous few not afraid to move to the front of a long queue of  silenced grievance.

ChildrenFirstLetterhead

There are more stories coming to my attention. There will be more reports on Drivetime. This from yesterday’s programme is Lainey and Chloe’s story.

Lainey and Chloe’s Story – Listen here

Two young children made disclosures first to their mother, then to other adults, of stories that backed each other up. The level of detail they offered in those stories is in the minds of several psychologists – who have independently examined their testimony – proof of grooming and abuse by their father. But the HSE arrived at a different conclusion and have recommended that the father regain unsupervised access.

That decision was reached with considerable input from one psychologist. A professional who had not interviewed Lainey or Chloe since they made their disclosures. This did not inhibit the psychologist from concluding that no abuse had taken place. A conclusion the Social Workers agreed with in making their recommendation that the father regain access which did not necessarily need to be supervised.

After the HSE reached its conclusion Lainey’s mother video recorded her making a disclosure of abuse. She has played it for two different psychologists. You can raise quite legitimate objections about possible coaching by a parent  – but notwithstanding that possible influence those psychologists concluded that it could not be ignored.

I have watched it. It is horrifying. If you saw it you would find it very hard to understand how the HSE could have closed the file on Lainey and Chloe let alone made the recommendations it has. But the mother said that her attempts to get the HSE to consider it have been rebuffed.

Lainey and Chloe’s mother has since then had to hand her children over to their father for unsupervised access. They are daytime visits in public places and of relatively short duration. So at present she is relatively reassured that no further abuse is taking place, but her ex husband could yet petition the courts for greater access. As things stand there would be little reason for the judge not to award it.

HSE response – Listen here

The only formal response we have had from the HSE until now is to draw our attention to our obligations under Children First. In other words  – no acknowledgement of the possibility of any problem but a warning that in highlighting these cases anonymously we were failing to disclose to the HSE the identity of  victims of sexual abuse. We have responded that everything that has been reported on by this programme is information that the HSE has too.

Children First Guidelines

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Emma’s Story

When news emerged of those two unfortunate children in Athlone and what they may  have been subjected to,  most probably assumed that at least they would be well looked after now. The past week has suggested that is something that cannot be taken for granted. Emma’s story illustrates just how wrong things can go for the abuse victim.

The Ombudsman chose to publish Maggie’s report because she believed that Maggie’s case highlighted bigger problems with the HSE’s treatment of child sex abuse victims. Within hours of it being broadcast a woman who had first been in touch with me a few years ago renewed contact. She told me Emma’s story (all names changed).

Emma is eleven now, her parents are estranged and she would frequently return to her mum from overnight visits to her father with unexplained rashes, and disturbed/withdrawn behaviour.

Emma made a disclosure of abuse to her mother, she made the same disclosure to her GP, her teacher and the gardaí. This little girl never once changed her story.

As you know the DPP seldom pursues  prosecutions in this area largely because the evidence and testimony of young children is viewed as unreliable. But in Emma’s case the DPP decided to prosecute.

Just as in Maggie’s case, for whatever reason some officials in the HSE decided that Emma’s mother was a bigger problem than this apparent open and shut case of child abuse.  They recommended against Garda advice that the father be allowed to resume access visits. They did not provide the child with any therapeutic or counselling services. And they recommended that the mother be required to undertake psychiatric assessment to determine her fitness to parent.

She subjected herself to the humiliation of psychiatric assesment, and he gave her a clean bill of health. I have read that report … and I should say that everything I am reporting here is backed up with documentary evidence. What those documents, obtained under Freedom of Information, appear to point to is this.

The HSE interviewed mother and father separately but the father got in there first. He made a number of allegations about the mother. He said she was emotionally unstable, mentally ill and in the habit of making unsubstantiated allegations. Those suggestions were what was acted on. The mother was sent to see a shrink and the father was given resumed access to Emma.

Medical evidence would suggest the  abuse started again but the mother’s hands were tied in how she could respond as a result of a number of very hard to understand  things done by the HSE officials.

A recommendation was made in  Emma’s file that no action should be taken on any further disclosures of abuse for a period of year. Emma’s mother was told that if she made any allegations to anybody about her husband abusing their daughter she could end up before the courts.

In addition to which, the original allegations of her mental instability and the recommendation she be assessed by a psychiatrist were left on the file but the clean bill of health from the psychiatrist wasn’t attached … in fact they refused to attach it according to Emma’s mother.

There is a very significant amount of medical and forensic evidence to support the mother’s claim that her daughter was abused again after the dad’s visistation rights had been restored. She was examined by specialists in a children’s hospital and a number of alarming things were noted.  But the HSE never took action on a case that you would imagine should have had alarm bells ringing all over the place. The file which I have obtained a copy of says that  no action should be taken on foot of further disclosures without the mother first attending a psychiatrist  for ongoing treatment.

Emma’s mum was forced to go through the agony of sending her children, she says against their will, to stay overnight with their father … from where she would get text messages that would break the heart of any parent. This is a transcript of my interview with her.

SO the girls had a phone when the first went to stay with him. And they’d text me “I’m crying. I don’t weant to be here”.

They just didn’t want to go down to him and I had to force them to go down because I was told if I didn’t send them I’d be arrested. And that would be exactly what he would want, me being arrested and being found not to be a fit mother.

PBH:

Was Emma abused again?

Mother:

 Yes she was. On two occasions that I know of…. that I have seen the physical manifestations of the abuse again, yes. One of them she had to have a rape examination in the children’s Hopsital. She had an anal infection, and they found pubic hair.

PBH:

So there was a wealth of forensic and medical evidence supporting claims of abuse for the hospital to pass on to the HSE? Did they act on it?

Mother:

No they didn’t. They had a meeting and they decided that they weren’t going to act on it because it had come from me.

PBH:

It was medical evidence of abuse.

Mother:

My opinion on it is that they have made a grave grave mistake, and I’ve told them so. I said that I would hold them responsible, and I will until I get an apology for Emma.

PBH:

In your opinion did they directly expose Emma to the risk of being raped?

Mother:

Yes … Yes … I am absolutely sure that they did. They had a wealth of people that they could contact. They never did. They spoke to the wrong teacher in her school. I alerted them to that. They still didn’t care. I wrote into them all the times they were making a mistake.

But every time I did the risk was that I would have them taken off me, and I was afraid. I had to way up the fact that if I did they’d be given to him …. or I could just keep my mouth shut … and I’ve had to do that. …. It’s absolutely eating me.

 

 

The first criminal case never made it to court. But Gardai have received the second medical file which the HSE did not act upon and they are investigating.

The HSE dismissed Emma’s complaints of pain and soreness arising from the resumed abuse as being because she was suffering from a Urinary Tract Infection. This was an perhaps odd conclusion as the hospital lab results show that she didn’t have a UTI.

Emma has to see her father though his contact is supervised and limited. She has still not received any counselling whatsoever from the HSE.

There is a bigger point to be drawn from Emma’s story.

Each year over 3000 children make disclosures of sexual abuse. Large numbers of those children never access therapeutic  services. Now …. are they not going because they don’t need to. Or are they not going because they get therapy privately … or because like Emma and Maggie and others that I am being contacted by because the HSE is not providing treatment.

It is an illustration of a general point the Children’s Ombudsman made last week. Where a parent is articulate and forceful in standing up for their child officials will quite frequently label them as difficult and decide they are the problem.

Judge for yourself what happened here –  child is returned by the HSE to a father who appears to have continued abusing, HSE ignores the medical evidence of that abuse … but the mother is the crazy one in the HSE’s view even though she has a clean bill of health from a consultant psychiatrist.

That is a trauma for the parent … but what about the untreated child?

 

As with Maggie’s Story – the HSE doesn’t have any response. I contacted them four days ago seeking comment and I haven’t received an acknowledgment of that email. You can hear a podcast of my Drivetime report here, but if you’ve got this far you’ve read it all.

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