Daniel McAnaspie: died while in care

THE Health Service Executive (HSE) is expected to formally respond to an "unhelpful and simplistic" newspaper report that wrongly estimated the level of child deaths in state care.

A spokeswoman described as "unhelpful at best" the story carried in the Sunday Business Post which estimated the number to be around 200, more than five times the actual figure of 37 finally disclosed on Friday.

In its article last week, the newspaper attributed the information to a senior figure within the HSE.

But in reaction, Kirsten Connolly, head of the national press office said: "No one in senior management has any idea as to where that data came from.

"Certainly we will be considering our options with regard to last week's story. I think it's unhelpful at best when a newspaper of that calibre would report figures that do not appear to have been based on any sound or verifiable data."

She said the paper had taken a simplistic view of a very complex area, the complications of which were illustrated by the slow process of making public the exact number of children who had died in care.

"It's very unhelpful and it's taken the best part of this week to explain to people the complexities and types of contact that children might have with the HSE," she said.

The Sunday Business Post had cited an internal source who said that while the exact number of children who died in care was not clear, "it was feared that the true tally could be in the order of 200".

On Friday, the HSE reported a total of 37 children had died in care although further newspaper reports were quick to question that number, suggesting more cases would come to light.

Among the official statistics released were five cases of children who had committed suicide in care, five drug-related deaths and two unlawful killings.