Statement from Mary Hanafin T.D., Minister of State regarding today’s story in the Sunday Business Post
Immediately on being appointed Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children on 1st February, 2000, I contacted Sr Stanislaus Kennedy with a view to meeting her and discussing the issue of child homelessness. during our meeting Sr Stan invited me to visit projects relating to child homelessness.
The visit was arranged for the afternoon of Monday, 19th June, 2000 and I visited three projects with Sr Stan and met a number of children who were availing of the services provided by the projects.
On the morning of the 19th, briefing notes in preparation for the visit were faxed to my office at the Department of Health and Children by Focus Ireland. These notes consisted of a two page briefing note on “The Loft” and a further three pages which consisted of confidential profiles of four un-named children. It was understood that the purpose of the briefing paper and profiles was to provide information on the nature of the project and the type of young persons who availed of the services of the project. From the materials supplied by Focus Ireland , the Dept. prepared a briefing note for me.
In the course of our visit to the three projects , I met and spoke with a number of children and it now appears that one of those children was the child who was the subject of media attention this week.
I was not aware from my discussions with the child of details of the child’s background and history. At no stage prior to my visit was I asked to take any specific step in relation to the girl in question or any specific step in relation to any child. The issue of child homelessness in general and the steps which needed to be taken to alleviate child homelessness were the focus of my discussions.
Subsequent to my meeting, Sr Stan wrote to me and thanked me for visiting the project. One young girl (not the girl at the centre of the case at issue) subsequently contacted me and I immediately made arrangements for her to meet an official of the relevant local authority.
On Monday, 10th July, significant media attention was given to the plight of a child who was the victim in a serious criminal case which had been before the Central Criminal Court on Friday 7th . Neither on hearing details of the court case nor on reading newspaper reports about the victim did I realise that the girl was one of the children whom I had met some weeks earlier.
I requested and was provided with information on the present situation of the child and her family.
On the 12th July, the Section manager for Young People’s Services of Focus Ireland wrote to me (the letter arrived on Friday, 14th July) concerning the child and enclosed copies of three letters which had been sent to the relevant Health Board outlining Focus Ireland’s concerns. These letters were dated September, 30th, 1999, May 2nd, 2000, and June 27th, 2000.
Two of these letters predated my visit to “The Loft”, the third was written eight days afterwards . At no stage prior to last Friday were these letters furnished to my Department or brought to my attention.
In the letter of 12th July from the Focus Ireland Section Manager for Young People’s Services to me, concern was expressed as to the present situation of the child. An official from my office has confirmed with the Health Board that the child is availing of the accommodation being provided for her.