Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Goldenbridge Orphanage.

Máire Geoghegan-Quinn

Question:

6 Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn asked the Minister for Health if he will provide additional resources to groups offering counselling services, including the rape crisis centre, in view of the upsurge in calls following the broadcast of the "Dear Daughter" programme and "Prime Time" specials on Goldenbridge; the plans, if any, he has to order an inquiry into the Goldenbridge affair; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8902/96]

Brian Cowen

Question:

34 Mr. Cowen asked the Minister for Health the inquiries, if any, he plans to initiate following the screening of two programmes on RTE in relation to Goldenbridge Orphanage, Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8809/96]

(Limerick East): I propose to take Questions Nos. 6 and 34 together.

In response to recent concerns regarding Goldenbridge and St. Kryan's, Rathdrum, the Eastern Health Board established a helpline which remained open between 29 February and 2 March 1996. A total of 150 calls were received — 103 on the first day, 46 on the second day and one on the third day.

Where it was requested callers were referred for counselling. The majority were referred to the independent counselling services established by the Sisters of Mercy. In addition a social worker has been assigned on a full-time basis to deal with the complaints, concerns and needs of former residents.

The other health boards have also responded positively to the increase in calls from victims of past abuse by the provision,inter alia, of help-lines, counselling and support services. Arising from discussions between senior officials of my Department and the health board chief executive officers, a joint response to help victims of past abuse is being prepared by the health boards, the details of which will be announced shortly.

There is a Garda investigation in progress concerning the allegations in regard to Goldenbridge. In these circumstances, I have no plans to initiate an inquiry into the conflicting statements concerning the experiences of former residents.

I thank the Minister for his reply. As Minister for Health, does he approve of trial by television? In effect, that is what is happening in relation to the Goldenbridge affair. We had the original "Dear Daughter" programme and then we had a "Prime Time" programme. On a personal basis, I regret that. The information required and the scene that should be set to ensure victims on both sides are able to come forward and put their views would best be done in an independent private way which would allow for the huge stress, strain and high emotion which exists in relation to Goldenbridge.

Will the Minister consider that, rather than allowing a trial by television to continue, he should in consultation with the Minister for Education arrange for an independent inquiry where both sides in the Goldenbridge affair could put their cases?

Will the Minister indicate whether the Eastern Health Board should give, through the Department of Health, a substantial increase in resources to the rape crisis centres which have to deal with the majority of the victims of incidents such as those which occurred in Goldenbridge?

(Limerick East): I do not believe in trial by television. I do not believe in trial in the Dáil Chamber, by the committees of the Dáil or by any agency other than the courts. In that context the Garda are conducting a criminal investigation into the allegations that have been made about Goldenbridge. I understand from comments that were made in the media that some of the adults who were in care in Goldenbridge when they were children are also considering civil proceedings. There are two appropriate fora for these matters but I will be monitoring the situation. I certainly have no plans at present to set up an independent inquiry of any sort into these events.

And the money for the rape crisis centres?

The Minister indicated that there is a Garda investigation in train. At what point was it decided that the Garda would formally investigate the allegations? The "Dear Daughter" programme made the allegations and at some point a criminal investigation was initiated by the Garda. Will the Minister agree that the "Prime Time" programme, which went ahead knowing there was a Garda investigation, falls into the category of prejudicial pre-trial publicity in relation to that criminal investigation?

Will the Minister admit there is a difference between the two programmes in that the first programme made allegations whereas the second offered a defence which will prejudice any potential trial which may arise out of the investigation?

(Limerick East): As Minister for Health I am not responsible for the Garda Síochána. As I understand it, when the authorities in the Mercy Order became aware that alleged problems had occurred, to put it at its mildest, in Goldenbridge, they requested an independent third party to carry out an in-house investigation to establish as many of the facts as possible. I understand they kept the Garda informed of that investigation. That was prior to the Louis Lentin programme. I do not know at what point that was formalised although I am informed now that a Garda investigation is continuing. I am not competent to say whether last week's “Prime Time” programme was prejudicial to the inquiry but if people have a problem, the recourse is not to the Department of Health in regard to such issues.

I am calling Deputy O'Donnell but I would remind the House we are past our time for dealing with questions. I wish to facilitate the two Deputies offering and in that regard I ask for brevity.

Is the nature of the investigation a general one in relation to all the allegations made by numerous people or in relation to the death of the Howe baby while in Goldenbridge?

(Limerick East): I do not have anything in my brief to indicate that but from the conversations I had previously I understand that the material with which the Garda were provided in the first instance by the Mercy Order is being examined to see if there is a basis for a criminal charge. In addition, the material shown on the initial RTE programme is being examined. I do not know any more beyond that.

I wish to remind the Minister of the second part of my supplementary question which was in relation to resources to the counselling services, specifically the rape crisis centres which are not capable of coping with the huge upsurge in requirement for their services.

(Limerick East): I met a delegation from the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre recently but I substantially increased allocations to the rape crisis centres around the country, particularly in 1995 when the total increases were in the order of 38 per cent. The pressure on the rape crisis centres should be relieved somewhat and the position is being examined to see if it would be appropriate for the health boards, as a matter of routine, to provide helpline and counselling services to people who were in orphanages around the country and might be in need of such facilities and to do that as part of the public health service. The chief executive officers are examining this matter and I will report back to the House on it in due course. It is important to point out that we are not dealing with the difficulties of children in care; we are dealing with adults, many of whom are in their 40s or 50s, who have difficulties as adults as a result of what happened when they were in care. Obviously the intervention will not be along the lines of the Child Care Act; it is an intervention for adults who have difficulties.