The HSE has apologised unreservedly to three women for failings in care they received while they were in foster care in Co Galway between 2005 and 2007.

A report on last night’s Prime Time programme heard calls for  an investigation into the case of the three girls, who were abused at a foster home near Dunmore.

The victims also said they are distraught at what they see as the lenient sentence given to their abuser.

The women waived their right to anonymity to name their abuser as 29-year-old Keith Burke of Addergoolemore, Dunmore, Co Galway.

Initially, he was charged with over 70 counts of rape and buggery of three young foster girls in the home he shared with them.

This was reduced to 39 sample charges when the case came to court and the man was found guilty on 23 charges.

Earlier this month, Keith Burke was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison, with a year suspended, after he was found guilty of raping the then three foster children between 2003 and 2007.

All three girls were under ten years of age at the time.

Ronan Hynes - solicitor for one of the victims - has now called for the entire case to be investigated.

In a statement last night, the HSE said that - while no apology can undo the harm inflicted on the three girls - it is important that the HSE expresses a heartfelt apology at this time.

The HSE has been in contact with Tusla to discuss how best to determine whether this case raises any concerns for HSE-delivered services today.

The ISPCC has commended the women involved in this case for coming forward to tell their story, and says it’s important that – when abuse happens- children are listened to and their claims acted on swiftly.

The ISPCC says if there is any suspicion of abuse or any risk of harm to a child in foster care, it’s essential that steps are taken to protect that child and any other children in the placement.

CEO Grainia Long also says it’s important that everyone involved in child protection can be fully confident in the foster care system, but over the past year, Tusla services have consistently failed to meet HIQA standards, and the ongoing breaches in standards of foster care must be addressed.

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