Thursday, 1 April 2021
Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth
Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries
256. To ask the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth if he will provide the details and copies of all correspondence between him and his Department and the Commission of Investigation on Mother and Baby Homes in relation to the Sixth interim report of the Commission both in advance of the receipt of that report on 14 February 2020 and subsequent to its receipt; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17776/21]
The Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes submitted a Sixth Interim Report to the then Minister for Children and Youth Affairs on 2 January 2020. The Sixth Interim Report was published in full on 12 January 2021 in line with the commitment I gave to publish this Report in tandem with the Commission's Final Report. I have requested my Department to provide the Deputy with copies of the correspondence between my Department and the Commission in relation to this Report.
In its Sixth Interim Report, the Commission provided a brief update on its work for the purposes of grounding a request for revision of the timeframe of the final report. Although it was a short report it nonetheless raised complex issues related to the completion of the Commission’s programme of work. Notably, the Commission proposed a revised reporting arrangement to facilitate a phased completion of its report. On the basis of legal advices available to the then Minister, the Government agreed to a limited extension until 26 June 2020 in order to allow the Commission to complete all its work and submit a final report.
The Report identified challenges relating to the redaction, transfer and potential for future use of the Commission's records in the context of its obligations under the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004. The Sixth Interim Report was not immediately published to facilitate further deliberation and engagement with the Commission in relation to these important matters. As the Deputy will be aware, I subsequently brought forward the Commission of Investigation (Mother and Baby Homes and certain related Matters) Records, and another Matter, Bill 2020 to resolve these matters. This bespoke legislation was enacted in October 2020 to protect all the Commission's records and ensure legal clarity on their transfer and future use.
The Sixth Interim Report also enclosed a detailed technical archaeological report relating to burials at Sean Ross Abbey, Roscrea, Co. Tipperary. At the time, the then Minister was advised by the Office of the Attorney General that this technical report had to be returned as it constituted evidence to the Commission. This was done and all copies of the technical report were destroyed by the Department. The technical report was included in the Commission's final report.