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UN CRPD Optional Protocol must be ratified in wake of Donegal HSE centre abuse allegations – Seery-Kearney

16th October 2021 - Mary Seery-Kearney

In the wake of the horrific reports of sexual abuse of residents with intellectual disabilities in a Donegal HSE-run centre, immediate action must be taken to ratify the Optional Protocol of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), a Fine Gael Senator has said.

The Optional Protocol of the CRPD would enable people with disabilities to submit individual complaints to the UN about potential rights violations and must be ratified as soon as possible to safeguard against future abuse, according to Senator Mary Seery-Kearney.

Senator Seery-Kearney said, “I’m sure every family member especially of a non-verbal person with a disability in residential care are upset this morning to read the horrific reports of the experiences of residents in a HSE-run centre in Donegal, as detailed in an unpublished investigation.

“I wrote to the Chair of the Oireachtas Committee on Disability Matters this morning to request that we convene a special meeting to examine the details of the reports of ‘sustained sexual abuse’ of at least 18 centre residents.

“The information as reported in the media raises huge questions regarding the suitability of living arrangements, the duty of care towards the residents, as well as the training and enforcement of safeguarding for the residents in the Donegal centre.

“It is clear that staff spoke up, and that a report was made to the Gardaí but no follow up appears to have been conducted by Management or the Gardaí. Explanations are warranted in relation to the decision to move the perpetrator back amongst vulnerable residents in the full knowledge of their likely abuse on the grounds of the cost of isolated care for ‘Brandon’ being too expensive. It would also appear that ‘Brandon’ received no assessments or education in relation to his behaviour despite full knowledge by management of the need for same. What culture was prevalent that stops professionals working with people with disabilities who have such particular vulnerabilities from taking action to safeguard them? Why weren’t families informed? It would appear the report would show a catalogue of decisions that failed to regard the entitlement to dignity, respect and safety of those 18 residents.

“It is time the Optional Protocol of the UN CRPD is ratified, making the state legally liable for its implementation. The Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act commencement also needs to be brought forward in its implementation so that no one is left voiceless and accountability is in place.

“I welcome the fact that Minister Anne Rabbitte travelled to Donegal yesterday to meet the residents and their family members, as well as her call for the publication of the investigation report. I echo that call, the report must be published.

“This is devastating for the people at the centre of this abuse. Reports that they have not been assessed for trauma is shocking. Action must be taken immediately, and I look forward to hearing from the Minister on her return,” concluded Senator Seery-Kearney.

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