The Health Service Executive waited three years after the completion of a major report into the care of the vulnerable adult known as 'Grace' before contacting gardaí about publishing the report, despite telling the Dáil they were prevented from making it public due to a request from the force.

The revelation is contained in documents obtained by RTÉ's This Week, which show the first contact between the HSE and gardaí on publication was March 2015, exactly three years after the Conal Devine Report was completed.

The head of operations in the HSE's Disability Service said he "couldn't explain" the three-year delay as revealed in the documents.

The HSE previously told the Dáil's Public Accounts Committee on several occasions during 2015 that it had been unable to publish the 2012 report into the care of 'Grace', a vulnerable adult who was left in a foster home for 13 years despite the removal of other residents following abuse concerns.

'Grace' is a vulnerable adult who was left in a foster home for 13 years after other residents were removed on foot of abuse concerns.

The HSE previously told the PAC it was unable to commence disciplinary investigations on foot of the findings of the report until Gardai cleared it for publication.

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A list of contacts with gardaí released to This Week under Freedom of Information shows the first contact between the HSE and Gardai on publication is dated March 6 2015.

The Conal Devine Report was completed in March 2012.

The Head of Operations in the HSE's Disability Service told This Week he "couldn't explain" the three-year delay.

Dr Cathal Morgan said it was his understanding that local gardaí had always been of the view that the report should not be published due to its ongoing investigations.

A list of contacts with gardaí released to This Week under FOI shows the first contact with gardaí was made when a solicitor for the HSE wrote to a superintendent to inform him of the HSE's intention to publish the report, which was completed in March 2012, and seeking to know if the gardaí had any objection to its publication. 

The PAC had written to the HSE the day before the HSE's first garda contact following a protected disclosure made to then-committee chairman John McGuinness by a whistleblower acting for 'Grace' who raised her concern about the procurement of reports and the handling of Grace's care.

Garda Headquarters' legal section replied in July 2015 to ask the HSE to delay publication of the 2012 Devine Report due to an ongoing investigation.

This is the first such request not to publish recorded in the HSE records.

The HSE previously refused to release the anonymised Devine Report under FOI to a whistleblower in Autumn 2014 citing data protection concerns.

Following an appeal, the Office of Information Commissioner agreed to the recommendations of the report being released in late 2015, but not the main body of the report.

Concerns over ongoing garda investigations were not mentioned in the HSE or OIC decisions.

Speaking to the PAC in February 2016, the HSE Director General Tony O'Brien told members "it was always understood and intended that the report would be published and available, whatever action may be necessary.  

"However, since its conclusion in 2012, it has not been possible to use it for that purpose, and that is why no disciplinary action has been proceeded with on foot of the Conal Devine Report."

A July 2016 report on Grace's care for the Department of Health by Conor Dignam SC, which was completed in July 2016, concluded that publishing the report was primarily a matter for the HSE.

Mr Dignam's report said it was appropriate to consult gardaí but not to afford them a veto over publication.

Extracts of the Devine Report with identifier codes substituted for names had also been circulated to those mentioned in it in 2011 for comment prior to completion of the report.

A letter from Assistant Garda Commissioner Eugene Corcoran to Mr Dignam's inquiry on 15 July 2016 stated the garda position was also that publication was a matter for the HSE.

"The position of An Garda Síochána on the matter of publication should, at all times, have been understood as being that no objection to publication arises in circumstances where the interests of affected parties and/or the overall public interest require it.

"In particular, no objection to publication arises in circumstances where publication is necessary and appropriate to fulfil any or all obligations to the affected parties".

However, the list of HSE-garda contacts released under FOI appears to show that contacts between gardaí and the HSE between April 2015 and July 2016 requested that the reports should not be released.

* On 14 July 2016 HSE Director of Social Care Pat Healy was advised by the HSE's solicitors Arthur Cox that the garda position "remains the same".

An FOI request for the Conal Devine Report by This Week in December 2016, five months after Asst Commissioner Corcoran's July letter, was refused on the basis of garda objections.

A HSE source told This Week that the letter had not been brought to the HSE's attention until January 2017 after being attached to a letter dated 29 December 2016 from Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan to HSE Director General Tony O'Brien.

The 2012 Conal Devine Report states that gardaí had no objection to Mr Devine's inquiry team carrying out its investigations into Grace's care "in parallel" with garda investigations.

Mr Devine's team was told in August 2011, prior to completing the report, that gardaí had "no objection to you completing and publishing your report".

The garda investigation at the time of the Conal Devine Report was into allegations of sexual abuse at the foster home.

This was concluded in late-2015 and a further investigation into the actions of certain HSE and Tusla officials was begun following allegations of concerning the care of 'Grace'.

This investigation is ongoing.

* (This article has been amended on foot of “unintended…genuine clerical errors” found by the HSE in the original documents released under FOI)