Thursday, 17 January 2019
Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries
I thank my Independent colleagues for raising the fourth interim report of the commission of investigation into mother and baby homes and certain related matters, which deals with the questions being asked today. The commission was established to investigate the conditions in mother and baby homes and county homes in the period from 1922 to 1998. The scope of the investigation is broad. It was acknowledged at the outset that the timeframe was ambitious. I received the fourth interim report in December 2018. I met the chair of the commission, Judge Yvonne Murphy, last week to discuss the request for the extension of the timeframe for the delivery of the commission's reports and to ensure I had a full understanding of the progress to date and the basis for the additional time being requested. I know it is important for the commission to complete this sensitive and complex work as soon as possible. It is also important not to underestimate its task. Following our meeting, I am confident that the commission is using its best endeavours to conclude the investigation as expeditiously as possible. There can be no shortcut to finding the truth.
The interim report is short. Contrary to what the Deputies have suggested, it is not a proposal. It grounds the request for an extension of the timeframe to deliver the three reports from the commission by one year. As the request constitutes a change in the terms of reference of the commission, it is a matter for the Government to consider the request in reflection of its statutory provisions. Government approval is also required to publish the report. With this in mind, I intend to bring a memorandum to the Cabinet. I have already circulated a draft of the memorandum to Government Departments. I hope to have it on the agenda next week for discussion. Ahead of the Cabinet meeting, it would not be helpful to speculate on what the Government will decide. I am conscious that the commentary on this issue in the media last week has caused distress and anxiety for those involved in this process. The coverage was misleading and did not originate from the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, as one of the Deputies mentioned.
I reiterate my commitment to use existing channels to inform stakeholders of any developments in this area in advance of a public notice. I intend to make a public announcement following the Cabinet meeting to clarify the position for them. Deputies may wish to note that the collaborative forum that was established last summer has produced an initial report, which outlines the legislative issues and supports the survivors of these institutions would like the Government to prioritise. I intend to bring this report to the Cabinet shortly. The process of delivering on the Government decision with regard to the mother and baby home in Tuam, County Galway, is also under way. This is being progressed separately from the investigation by the commission. I thank the Deputies again for their contributions today. I will engage with stakeholders ahead of any public announcements. I hope to announce the details of the interim report as soon as possible.