Thursday, 18 February 2021
Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions
I thank the Deputy. We will certainly try to do the right thing by the survivors, taking into account all the issues at play. I think the commission did a good job. It did what it was asked to do, in many ways. It spent five years examining all the documentary evidence, spoke to lots of people who spent time or worked in mother and baby institutions and did its best to come up with a report to a legal standard as to what could and could not be proven and what was and was not said.
I do not want anything I say to be seen in any way as a criticism of the people who did the report because they did a good job within the confines of the Commissions of Investigation Act, but I think there are some big flaws. One big flaw is the fact that when the commission reports, it reports. It is almost left then to the Government to explain the report, even though it was not the Government's report. I watched the documentary recently on the institutional abuse that occurred in industrial schools that was on TV. People may have seen it. One of the differences that time was that Mr. Justice Séan Ryan and the people who did that report were able to go out, explain it and answer questions. That has fallen to the Government on this occasion, even though it is not our report. That is a flaw.
A second flaw is that many survivors did not get the opportunity to tell their story in public the way they wanted to. Many survivors want to remain private and that is their choice, but there are others who, I believe, would have liked to have had a public forum where their story could be heard and recorded as a truth-telling exercise. Unfortunately, that is not how it was set up. Maybe it is still possible to do that. The former Minister, Katherine Zappone, and I had started work on that in the period of the previous Government.
On the call for the timeframe to be extended, the Minister, Deputy O'Gorman, is aware of the concerns about the audio recordings made by the confidential committee as an aid to its work. The module was created to facilitate people to provide accounts of their deeply personal experiences in complete confidence and as informally as possible in the circumstances with a view to providing a report of a general nature. The Minister is liaising closely with the commission of investigation and the Data Protection Commissioner, DPC, to ensure these matters can be appropriately addressed by the commission. He is committed to having robust processes in place for the management of the archive when it transfers prior to the end of this month. He is open to exploring all avenues that would best serve the interests of survivors. However, at this point it is his view that the additional time would not assist in any way.