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'unforgivable' Health Service Executive apologise after report on sexual abuse at Donegal centre

The alleged abuser died last year, after 108 incidents of abuse occurred

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A lack of legal safeguards has sparked fears that the sustained sexual abuse of 18 intellectually disabled residents of a HSE-run centre in Donegal could happen again.

Safeguarding Ireland has warned of the lack of protections for vulnerable people after an unpublished review exposed serious abuse spanning many years at Ard Greine Court complex and Seán O’Hare unit in St Joseph’s ­hospital in Stranorlar.

The alleged abuser was a man given the pseudonym Brandon. He died last year.

Up to 108 incidents of devastating abuse were perpetrated on mainly non-verbal adults.

They included molestation, entering residents’ beds at night, exposing himself, prolonged and loud masturbation near residents and possibly rape.

In a statement yesterday, the HSE apologised and said An Garda Síochána asked to delay publication of the review at this point while their investigations continue.

It said: “The health service and its staff seek to provide safe, high-quality health and social care with compassion to many thousands of people in communities around the country, and the public trust us to do this.

“What happened in this case fell far short of those standards and we apologise sincerely for that.”

However, Safeguarding Ireland chairperson Patricia ­Rickard-Clarke warned vulnerable people were still without proper powers of protection.

“We have no adult safeguarding laws,” she said. “There is no obligation on the State to protect anyone at risk.”

The HSE statement said it received the initial report of the National Independent Review Panel: the Brandon Report in August last year, by which time Brandon was no longer residing in the service.

The review examined the management of the perpetrator from 2003 until he was moved to a nursing home in 2016 when a report was made to local gardaí.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin yesterday described the reports as “unforgivable” and said the default position had been to move an abuser from one place to another but that could lead to more opportunities for abuse.

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The relatives of the abused residents were unaware of their plight until 2016. A whistleblower came forward that year to reveal the abuse.

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