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Friday 15 December 2017

Sinead Ryan: Tracey Fay was our Baby P and someone must be held to account

What is more outrageous? What happened to troubled teenager Tracey Fay during her short life or the fact that we're only getting the report into it after eight long years?

Tracey was probably once known as Baby T in social worker parlance, just like the equally tragic Baby P who made all the headlines after he was found dead from neglect at just two years old.

Tracey's horror of abuse went on for a further 16 years how-ever, much of it inflicted by the State which was constitutionally bound to protect her.

Concerns about her welfare started at just eight months old, just like Baby P. She found her way on to the State protection register at eight and again at 10 years old, but it was in Britain where she briefly lived.

Here, she had no chance at all. Indeed, the worst abuses happened while she was in care in Ireland.

She was prostituted, introduced to drugs and went missing for 23 of 29 days, all while under the "protection" of the State. When everyone else was celebrating the turn of the millennium and worrying about Y2K, Tracey spent 217 nights in 17 different bed and breakfasts.

She died on a cold night in early 2002, her body only found six days later by gardai.

Yes, of course we need to blame the Minister for Whatever -- whether it be Justice, Children, Health or Education. They all have Tracey's blood on their hands and therein lies the problem.



RESIGN

We have no cohesive child-welfare policy funded and run by a single entity. We are brilliant at writing reports on how to care for children and abysmal at actually caring for them. We are worse at holding anyone accountable when failures happen.

Somebody needs to resign -- and quite publicly -- as happened in Baby P's case, to make us believe they 'get it'.

Implementation plans, proposals, recommendations and guidelines: we have shelves full of them gathering dust in departmental offices. How dare successive ministers deal with anything else until they get this right? How is it possible to rate anything -- banks, jobs, recessions or e-voting machines -- above the protection of children?

Not all parents are good ones. Some are atrocious. Identifying them is only the first step. Getting their children into a safe environment and bringing them up to, well, remain alive as a start, has to be our priority.

Failure to do so is failure at the most basic job function a social worker, or a minister, has.

One of them, Barry Andrews, seems far more concerned at the fact that Tracey's abusive mother's permission wasn't sought before Fine Gael leaked the report's contents. Yes, clearly that's the main issue, Mr Andrews. Any chance it might be followed by some sense of shame or guilt?

Who needs politicians when we have such great ambassadors as talented Katie and Imelda?

I'm delighted to see our first lady of boxing Katie Taylor getting a personal invite from another first lady to the White House on St Patrick's Day. It seems Mrs O was a bit of a boxer in her time and wanted to meet the talented athlete herself. And what a wonderful ambassador our Katie will be. Which photos will you enjoy more -- those of the President with one of our sports stars or the one of him formally greeting the green-tied shamrock-waving Brian (desperate for investment) Cowen?

With all the hoo-haa that accompanies ministerial junkets each year for our national holiday, wouldn't we be better sending over real heroes and leave the politicians at home to enjoy the US majorettes dancing down O'Connell Street instead?

What about Imelda May, who is due to kick off a US tour shortly, or the four graduates of Ballyfermot College who are up for Oscars? Even Bono hasn't been in the Oval Office for a while -- maybe it's time he reintroduced himself to a US president.

Mr Obama gets to meet more heads of state than you could shake a stick at, but the real impression is made by people who have actually achieved something empowering and inspirational. The boring snaps of grinning Taoisigh passing over bowls of weeds might as well just be recycled from year to year. How great would it be to nominate a real star to do it instead -- it would get the country excited about who to choose, but you can be sure of one thing: the photos would be published everywhere and show a real Irish success story, rather than just another handshake photo-op.

Hang the crisis...forget it all with a few paintings

Things are looking up on the jobs front. The Financial Regulator is advertising for a new position. No, not an internal auditor to sort out the regulatory mess, not even a watchdog to oversee our banks.

The important new job is for an art curator to mind the fabulous collection of paintings and sculpture on show ... for the staff. The art, which is there to provide a "stimulating" environment for the 1,000 staff, apparently needs overseeing and firm management. Hmmm, funny that, they're the same qualities that were expected of former regulator Patrick Neary. Let's hope their cultural tsar succeeds where the financial tsar failed so spectacularly.

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