05/12/2017 - Statement by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone TD
Extension of time to ensure crucial questions are fully addressed
New Collaborative Forum will give a strong voice to former residents
UN Special Rapporteur to be invited to assist Ireland in responding to issues relating to Mother and Baby Homes
The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone, has today published the Third Interim Report from the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes.
In its Report, the Commission sets out the scale of the task involved in collating and analysing the vast range of documentary material related to its terms of reference. In addition, the Commission advises of its progress in recording the personal accounts of the large number of former residents who have sought to assist its work by sharing their experiences.
At its meeting today the Government has agreed to a request from the Commission for an extension of one year to allow it to complete its fact gathering process. This additional time will ensure the investigation can comprehensively address the wide range of public concerns referred to it. The Commission advises that its three reports are interrelated and should be submitted together, so these final reports are now due to be completed by February 2019.
Announcing the Government decision the Minister said “I want to thank the Commission for this update on its important work. When I recently met with the Commission I was again reassured by their absolute commitment to establish the full facts of what happened to women and children in these institutions. It is important that we do not underestimate the complexity of this task and we must not compromise the process of establishing the truth by leaving any stone uncovered or taking any shortcuts. I do understand that this extension of time delays the day which many former residents have been eagerly anticipating. I know many will be disappointed and frustrated by this development.”
The Minister added that “I have asked the Commission to make every effort to deliver their reports as soon as practicable, and in advance of February 2019 if possible.” The Government will make all the required resources available to the Commission for the duration of its investigations.
In the meantime, and having listened carefully to the views of former residents, the Minister recognises the necessity for sustained progress in a number of key areas pending the completion of the Commission’s work. Accordingly, the Minister is pleased to announce two new measures which she will advance in parallel to the independent investigation.
Firstly, the Minister will establish a Collaborative Forum to support former residents in developing solutions to the issues of concern to them. The Collaborative Forum is a progressive response to the theme of “nothing about us without us” which has emerged from the facilitated consultations. Participants will create and drive forward a process that they can support and trust.
“The Charter for a Collaborative Forum which I have published today demonstrates our commitment to innovative approaches to facilitate and empower former residents to actively contribute to decisions on matters which affect their lives” said the Minister. The Minister will make a further announcement on the process for selection of representatives to the Forum and related matters in the coming weeks.
Secondly, in recognition of Ireland’s absolute commitment to human rights, the Government has decided to invite the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, Mr. Pablo deGreiff, to visit Ireland. Ireland not only signs and ratifies international human rights instruments but will meet these high standards in the manner of our response to these issues. Minister Zappone will work with her colleague the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade to arrange this invitation.
In view of the requirement for additional time, the Government has also concluded that extending the terms of reference into any further matters is not in the public interest at this time. In reaching this decision, Government was cognisant of the necessity to allow the Commission to complete the analysis of available information before it can be definitively established whether additional matters may warrant investigation. For this reason, the Government believes that the public interest is best served by ensuring the Commission prioritises its current terms of reference. The Government is open to revisiting this issue after the Commission reports.
The Minister also confirmed that the Report of the Expert Technical Group on the Tuam site would be considered at Cabinet next week and that, with the agreement of Government, she would then publish the report.
The Minister concluded by saying:
“Facilitating former residents to provide accounts of their experience was one of the main reasons for establishing the Commission. I know the Commission will effectively use the additional time to ensure many more witnesses have such an opportunity. The additional time will ensure crucial questions can be fully addressed to provide the answers to which the former residents are entitled. I have asked that former residents and their representative groups be kept informed of these developments.”