I thank the Deputy for his question, and I have met with him on the issue. The Government is committed to establishing an effective commission of investigation into matters relating to mother and baby homes. Considerable progress has been achieved in this important task, including the publication of the interdepartmental group’s report and the announcement that Judge Yvonne Murphy will chair the independent statutory investigation.
Discussions are ongoing with the Attorney General and colleagues across Government on the terms of reference with a view to finalising our deliberations in early course. In parallel with this work, my Department is advancing the legislative and logistical arrangements required to establish the commission.
Given the breadth and scale of the issues involved and our experience of previous statutory inquiries, the importance of providing the commission with precise terms of reference should not be underestimated. The tasks to be undertaken and the appropriate range of methodologies to be utilised must be defined to ensure the commission is set up on a sound footing. The Deputies across the House are also very concerned about this. It is a complex undertaking and, as I explained in some detail to the House on 16 July, it is right to take the necessary time for drafting to ensure the commission can deliver on public expectations in a realistic and timely manner. To do otherwise would not be in the best interests of the mothers and children who were in these institutions nor would it serve the wider public interest.
In light of the significant progress achieved since 11 June, when this House passed a motion to establish a statutory investigation, I cannot accept the Deputy’s claim of an inordinate delay. Establishing an investigation which is capable of addressing these important matters effectively and in a sensitive and timely manner must be our primary concern. It is my intention to bring a memorandum to Government as quickly as possible setting out the proposed terms of reference and to return to the Houses with a draft order to establish the commission.
My predecessors and I have indicated the desire to achieve the widest possible consensus in this investigation. I acknowledge Deputy Ó Caoláin's constructive contributions to date in this regard. Given the complexity I referred to, my plan is for further engagement with Opposition spokespersons and other stakeholders as matters progress in the coming weeks to update them on the emerging issues and seek their further views. Such an inclusive approach will assist the Government in establishing an effective inquiry and I am confident that we can conclude this important process in a timely manner. My office will be in contact with the Deputy and others to make the necessary arrangements in order that we can all get the outcome we desire.