Two weeks ago former Tusla, CEO Bernard Gloster took up his new five-year appointment as head of the HSE.
There were calls at the weekend for Gloster to answer questions about how he gave St John’s Ambulance a clean bill of health in 2019 which was contradicted last Thursday with the publication of a 300 page report on the independent inquiry into the charity by Dr Geoffrey Shannon SC.
Today, 21 March 2023 Mr Gloster appeared for the first time in his new role before the Dáil Health Committee.
In his opening statement to the committee, Mr Gloster said:
“Against this backdrop and my own assessment of the current state of play I have highlighted three headline challenges which I intend responding to in my tenure as CEO.
Access and Performance
The organisation requires attention and significant step change on several fronts in responding to these challenges.
The organisation has many dedicated and talented people across all disciplines.
It is however important to accept that while responding to many issues over the years it is an organisation that has become a top-heavy structure with many cumbersome processes.
The opportunities presented by Sláintecare and PFG priorities will assist in tackling some of these issues. Structure itself however is not an answer on its own.”
He went on to say:
“I will, with the Board, be positioning all changes in an integrated framework focused on;
If we do not pursue changes in all three together, we will have completely missed the opportunity to be the best health and social care service we can be for the people we serve.”
Mick Finnegan, Paul Mulholland and Martin Hoey met then Fianna Fáil’s spokeswoman for children, Anne Rabbitte in 2019 and briefed her on the sexual abuse they allegedly suffered as children in St John Ambulance.
Deputy Rabbitte privately raised concerns with then-minister for children Katherine Zappone who wrote to Bernard Gloster, then CEO Tusla.
Gloster, in a letter dated December 5th, 2019 to Deputy Rabbittee stated: ‘
‘All available information suggests that there is no evidence of systemic or organisational abuse within St John Ambulance.’
St John Ambulance waited until the eve of the bank holiday weekend when Roderic O’Gorman and the Cabinet was out of the country to publish the damming 300 page report on the independent investigation by Dr Geoffrey Shannon SC commissioned in 2020 when Finnegan, Mulholland and Hoey went public with their stories in the Irish Times.
Mick Finnegan is demanding Tusla answer questions as to how the charity was given a clean bill of health, given the scale of abuse detailed by survivors and confirmed in Dr Shannon’s report.
In a statement to RTÉ’s Prime Time, Tusla said that ‘at the time of the correspondence… Tusla had no information that there was any child currently at risk within St John Ambulance Service’.
Mick Finnegan has called on Bernard Gloster to provide a direct explanation as to how he came to conclude that child abuse was not widespread in the organisation.
Mr Finnegan told the Mail on Sunday: ‘I will be following up with Tusla to find out details of the investigation they carried out, that enabled them to give St John Ambulance a clean bill of health. There are huge question marks over that. I think it’s important to see their process into how they look into issues relating to child protection.”
Mr Finnegan went on to say: ‘As the Special Rapporteur for Child Protection pointed out, it is a case of the organisation being able to mark their own homework and say, “everything’s okay here”, or did they carry out something more in-depth? We need to address all these issues because if we don’t, we will see history repeating itself.’
Bernard Gloster did not respond to requests from the MoS for comment.
At the Health Committee meeting Bernard Gloster was questioned by Deputy Bernard Durkan about how he is going to tackle some of the current problems facing the HSE.