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.
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.
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.
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.