Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Wednesday, 31 July 2019
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Children and Youth Affairs
Issues Regarding Childcare Facilities: Discussion
I welcome members and those viewers who may be watching proceedings on Oireachtas TV to the public session of the Joint Committee on Children and Youth Affairs. The purpose of this meeting is to discuss with representatives of Tusla and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs the recent "RTÉ Investigates" programme on childcare facilities. While there have been reports in the media, it is important for members to note that the committee cannot discuss individual cases and should avoid naming individuals, regardless of whether their names are in the public domain. Members should not discuss anything which is likely to be the subject of court proceedings. According to media reports, a number of investigations into the matter that is the subject of these proceedings are either open or are in the process of being opened by An Garda Síochána, Tusla and the fire service. The committee should avoid direct discussion of the action or inaction of named individuals because doing so might prejudice any investigation.
On behalf of the committee, I welcome Ms Bernie McNally, assistant secretary, Dr. Anne-Marie Brooks, principal officer, Ms Laura McGarrigle, principal officer, and Ms Michele Clarke, chief social worker, from the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. From Tusla, I welcome Mr. Pat Smyth, interim chief executive officer, Mr. Brian Lee, director of quality assurance, Mr. Cormac Quinlan, director of transformation and policy, and Ms Fiona McDonnell, national service director of children's service regulation.
I draw the attention of our guests to the fact that by virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to the committee. They are directed that only evidence connected to the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and they are asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against any person, persons or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable. Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the House or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.
I ask all present in the room to turn off their mobile phones or switch them to flight mode because they may interfere with the sound system, making it difficult for parliamentary reporters to report the proceedings. Interference may also adversely affect television coverage and web streaming. I advise our guests that any submissions or opening statements will be published on the committee's website after this meeting. Following the presentations, there will be questions from members. I have a list of members who have already indicated that they wish to speak.