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Thursday, 30 Mar 2000

Vol. 3 No. 5

Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse Bill, 2000: Committee Stage.

The purpose of today's meeting is to consider Committee Stage of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse Bill, 2000, which was referred to the select committee by the Dáil on 9 March 2000. It is proposed to adjourn today's meeting at 3 p.m. if the business has not concluded by then. If it is necessary to continue the meeting until 3 p.m., I propose that the meeting be suspended from 1.30 p.m. until 2 p.m. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I welcome the Minister for Education and Science, Dr. Woods, and his officials.


I move amendment No. 1:

In page 3, subsection (1), between lines 23 and 24, to insert the following:

"(a) the wilful, reckless or negligent infliction on a child of a fear of injury or failure to prevent such a fear, or failure to redress such a fear,”.

The purpose of this amendment is to address the fact that where an atmosphere of abuse had been created in an institution or setting or in a relationship the victim could be intimidated by fear itself. It deals with the question of non-physical intimidation such as calling a child into the presence of someone where it is known certain actions might take place.

If one is to talk about the deficiency of a setting one must talk, not only about the commission of acts, but also about the generation of an atmosphere in which a genuine fear of an action taking place is present.

This amendment and a number of the amendments following raise a number of related issues about the definition of abuse. In preparing this Bill, I was conscious of the need to provide a wide definition of abuse to cover physical, sexual and emotional abuse and neglect, as recommended by the commission in its report on its terms of reference.

On the other hand, the select committee should be careful about extending the definitions so widely as to make the commission less effective or appear to trivialise the very serious abuses which occurred. To extend the remit of the commission specifically to cover those who feared injury or failed to prevent such a fear would be going too far. In so far as any such action caused serious impairment to the health or development of a child it is comprehended within paragraphs (c) and (d). This is the correct approach.

Amendments Nos. 2 to 5, inclusive, and No. 8 are related. Although it is not strictly necessary, I give notice that I propose to accept amendment No. 8 in the name of Deputy Bruton. This should help to allay some of the concerns of Deputy Higgins and others. Amendment No. 8 reads, "In page 3, subsection (1), line 29, before "health" to insert "physical or mental". It will widen the scope of the definition considerably.

Let me explain the reason I am not impressed by the Minister's argument. There is reference in paragraph (d) to “serious impairment of the health or development of the child”. I was a member of the MacBride commission which dealt with the issue of penal reform. In some of the detailed submissions received the atmosphere was described as intimidatory. I was moved by this. There was almost silent oppression where a person would be informed “I’ll bring you into the office”. As the Bill stands, something would have to have happened to have had a serious impact but the terror induced by the threat of bringing a person to a setting, office or room, the effect on one’s peers in a group of five or six of stating that “X has been brought down to the room”, the generation of a threatening atmosphere and an environment beyond uncertainty and the inculcation of fear, have a deep long-term psychological effect. I am inclined to press the amendment to argue against the suggestion that one has to show a serious physical impairment, although I am as anxious as anybody else to have the Bill passed and the commission established and working as effectively as possible, but this is an important question.

As cases are described I am certain that two versions will be heard as to what may have taken place. The Bill attempts to address the issue of how individuals can be assisted to give their version of events but atmosphere is everything. If the commission's work is to be adequate and it is to make positive recommendations, this is one of the issues it will have to address.

Paragraph (c) reads, “failure to care for the child which results in serious impairment of the health or development of the child or serious adverse effects on his or her behaviour or welfare”. The difficulty is that it seems to be too limited empirically. I wish to shift the onus of proof from the consequences on a child to the characteristics of the setting in which an atmosphere was created.

The Minister indicated that he is seeking to define abuse narrowly rather than broadly.

That is not true; that is not what I said. I said I was accepting the Deputy's amendment.

My recollection of what the Minister said is that there is a danger that the definition will drawn too widely and that he wishes to confine it to physical, emotional and sexual abuse as set out in subsection (1). Is that what one really wants to do in a definition? Should one not set out a broad definition of what may constitute abuse and leave it to the commission to decide on matters of fact as to what did occur? The Minister said, for example, that systematic cruelty could be regarded as abuse even if pain was not inflicted or emotional distress caused because of the person's inner strength but that does not mean that it does not amount to abuse in the context of a definition. It will be a matter for the commission to decide to what extent this systematic cruelty was conditioned by the standards of the day or that it was totally unacceptable and will have to be regarded as an aberration which should be presented as a fact.

What the definition should be doing is delimiting what the commission can find. The notion that the Minister wishes to narrow the field does not strike a chord with me. On the other hand, those looking at the Bill from the point of view of those involved in running institutions would be of the view that the definition is too wide in referring to negligence and omission. They fear that those who were distant will be named but I do not accept this. The scope of the definition should be broad as to what constitutes improper behaviour in the context of the Bill. This does not mean that the commission will name individuals whose negligence was extremely minor. One will have to trust that the commission will use its powers correctly and wisely in the context of what it will hear but it is not right to try to narrow the definition to the point where the commission will find that it cannot inquire into certain aspects of the way institutions were run. It would be more sensible to include a broad definition than a limited one.

What I said was that in preparing the Bill I was conscious of the need to provide a wide definition to cover physical, sexual and emotional abuse and neglect. The definition included in the Bill is very wide. It is open to anybody to make the case to the commission that they were affected mentally and suffered fear. The functions of the commission which are listed in section 4 are also very wide. It will determine, for example, the causes, nature, circumstances and extent of such abuse. We are working to the report of the commission and providing the definitions sought. It asked that these be given a statutory basis and that is what is being done.

Will there not be a major difficulty of interpretation in taking this course? The regime that pertained in schools when I was going to school was very different to what pertains now. If we were to judge by present day standards, virtually everybody in schools at that time was abused to some extent — if children did not know their tables, if they did not know how to spell or if they had not done their homework they were likely to be physically punished. Was that abuse? Is that now to be perceived as abuse?

Only recently a man in his sixties came to see me and he was very concerned about what he described as abuse when he was a young person. He felt he was very good at the Irish language at school but that he did not get the opportunity of developing his skill because he did not get on well with the teacher who was teaching Irish and, subsequently, his employment opportunities were hindered. Now, 50 odd years later, he is claiming that what was done to him was abuse and that he should be entitled to compensation for loss of earnings and lost potential. He pours forth in the Irish language when he tells his story to demonstrate how good he was. How can we possibly keep perspective and context when such examples are described as abuse? Will they be perceived as real abuse? Can the Minister throw any light on how abuse might be interpreted in the circumstances I outlined?

This will be a matter for the commission which has very broad terms of reference. The commission asked that the definitions should be sufficiently broad to encompass acts or omissions which include physical abuse, meaning the wilful, reckless or negligent infliction of or failure to prevent injury to a child; sexual abuse, meaning the use of a child by another person for sexual gratification or sexual arousal of that person; neglect, meaning persistent or severe failure to care for a child which results in serious impairment of health and/or development and/or failure to thrive, and emotional abuse, meaning on the part of a carer a persistent coldness, hostility or rejection towards or unrealistic expectation, severe overprotection of a child and so on.

A fairly broad series of definitions is catered for in the functions of the commission together with the definition in the interpretation section.

I will be brief and, I hope, clear. The Minister spoke about persistent coldness and so forth. He is really speaking about the relationship between people, an agent and a child. That is perfectly clear. My amendment deals with a setting of fear. This is quite separate from a person to person relationship. My 23 years as a sociologist has influenced my thinking on this. One can create a fearful setting, an atmosphere of fear, without it being dependent on the actions of two people. Deputy McGrath has copperfastened my determination to proceed on this matter because he asked whether what happened in schools in the past could be regarded as abuse. Yes, is the answer. I am against atmospheres of fear wherever they are. I am against fear being used in ordinary school settings. However, in relation to this commission, and I am sticking to the——

We would be all over the place. We would create a situation which the commission could not handle because most people were faced with such situations with one teacher or another in the past, as Deputy McGrath has said. The Bill it open to the commission to deal with serious cases. That is covered already and, therefore, the amendment is not necessary. If the Deputy feels it is not covered we can look further at it for Report Stage. I am not against doing that. However, we cannot spread it all over the place.

I am not asking the Minister to spread it all over the place. Let me give an example. If one visits the secure units of Mountjoy Prison, for example, is it necessary for the gate to be banged closed behind one to create a certain atmosphere? Is it necessary to have the degradation of the slopping out procedures in the morning? This does not involve an individual prisoner or the Governor. It involves the atmosphere of prison. I am speaking about fearful settings and atmospheres.

I listened with care to what the Minister said the commission asked him to put in the Bill. However, with the greatest respect, we are talking about legislation which is the creation of the Oireachtas. I am not convinced. In the stories that will be told many people will say "I was shaking that morning" — I have letters in which people say "I was afraid". If the anticipation that something might happen because it is known to have happened to somebody else is not an abuse——

The Deputy should look at the functions, which say all of that in relation to institutions. There is no need and it is superfluous to put in what the Deputy suggests. It is left to the commission to determine the situations in which that occurs, to determine the causes, the nature, the circumstances and the extent of such abuse and, in relation to the institutions in which the abuse occurred, the systems of management, administration, operation, supervision, regulation of such institutions, the manner in which those functions were performed by the persons or bodies in whom they were vested and contributed to the occurrence or incidence of abuse. The commission is given very broad powers in that regard to look at institutions — and that will be one of the key elements — where it considers serious abuse occurred. That is what we come back to — it is a matter for the commission.

Section 4, dealing with the functions of the commission, opens with the principle functions of the commissioner subject to the provisions of this Act. I presume that "subject to the provisions of this Act" would include (I). I am simply suggesting——

It is purely a definition.

That is right. We disagree on it.

There may be a way round Deputy Higgins's concern. In terms of evidence what causes fear can be difficult to pin down. Fearfulness on the part of someone may not have been caused by recklessness or negligence. Interestingly, Ms. Justice Laffoy, in her prescription, did include things like persistent coldness, hostility or rejection on the part of a carer, unrealistic expectations or severe overprotection of a child, or exposure of a child to the abuse of others. It does seem that Ms. Justice Laffoy was endeavouring in her phraseology to meet the kinds of concerns addressed in Deputy Higgins's amendment. The question that strikes me is why the Minister decided not to go with Ms Justice Laffoy's prescription which dealt with matters that would be liable to cause fear.

I can inform the Committee now, and I suppose I should at this stage, that Ms Justice Laffoy has approved this Bill as it stands and says it will give her the powers she wants to do all of those things, and that she understands legislation. She understands that the functions of the committee are very broad and very clearly set out and will give her the opportunity to investigate not just individual cases but the atmosphere in institutions — what Deputy Higgins spoke about — where there is serious abuse.

Will the Minister explain why issues such as persistent coldness, hostility, rejection towards unrealistic expectations or severe over-protection were dropped? What was the reasoning behind dropping part of the original thinking on the issue?

Because they are included in the functions. The functions encompass them. This is legislation, not a thesis or prose. It is legislation which is interrelated where one has to read section 4 with the interpretations in section 1 and whatever else.

With the greatest respect, all the functions in section 4 refer to abuse as defined in section 1. One cannot say that functions that give the commission powers to investigate into a defined term in the abuse can amplify on that definition. Whatever powers they have in relation to it do not change the definition. The Minister should be in a position to explain why one phraseology was right then but a different one appears to be right now.

I am surprised at what the Deputy is saying. I said fear is a mental abuse and we will include the Deputy's amendment No. 8 just to make it obvious and clear. It is not necessary and we are so advised by the draftsman. however, we will include it to make it explicit and clear. Fear is a mental abuse. That is why, in my view, it would have been preferable to take amendment No. 1 with the following amendments because that whole matter could be discussed together. However, I think the Deputy wished to have his amendment discussed on its own and that is fair enough. He made the point that he does not like too many amendments being taken together. Therefore, amendment No. 1 is discussed on its own. The insertion of "mental" makes it clear that mental abuse is covered as well even though my advice is that that is covered. If we cannot agree we have to disagree. I do not want to argue all day about something that is actually covered in a practical reasonable way. If the Deputy wishes me to look further at it for Report Stage I will do that but my advice from every quarter is that what he is suggesting is covered and, if it is serious, the commission is entitled to take it into consideration and we will leave it to the judgment of the commission who will report not to us but to the public on its view. The public can say where they think it was and that it was not serious. Deputy McGrath's point is one they will have to take into consideration as to whether to include 80% or 90% of the schools. That is a matter on which the commission can decide and recommend when it concludes.

Section 1(d) reads “any other act or omission . . . ”. I would have understood “omission” to be omission to set somebody at ease. That would include the atmospheric aspect encompassed in the Bill.

I want to go back to Deputy Higgins. In fairness to him it is his amendment.

Would the separation of siblings come within the ambit of what is inquired into?

The commission will have to report and advise on it in its report. Nowadays we would not want siblings separated. Obviously in the past they were separated. It would be a matter for the commission to report on its effects.

Is it the Minister's understanding that the effects would be encompassed——

It is for the commission to consider the actions taken by the management. This covers the actions of management.

How stands the amendment?

I am trying to think of the cases stated to me. For example, if a child was allowed out of an institution into a setting to assist in work or whatever and has a bad experience where, perhaps, it is not believed, that child would be in fear of being located out again. I am reluctant to give way on fear. I know Deputy Keaveney is trying to be helpful in her interpretation of "omission" but I think her interpretation is a generous one. If I thought that interpretation would prevail in all circumstances I would be happy. I will re-enter the amendment on Report Stage.

In relation to that issue, if people were sent to places where they would suffer the commission would take that into consideration. I do not want to extend it. : The commissio wi have those broad powers to recommend on what was an abuse and will do that.

Every amendment was tabled with the intention of assisting the commission. No one has tabled an amendment to make the commission's work difficult. We have all tabled amendments to give specificity and clarity as much as possible. I favour the view that if inclusion is achieved by having words, it is better to go that road than to go for a minimal version and leave it to the commission in a discretionary way to say it interprets the text as allowing it to do this. That is the background to it. I have changed my mind about the amendment and will press it.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendment No. 2. Amendment No. 4 is consequential. Amendments Nos. 3, 5 and 8 are related. Amendments Nos. 2 to 5, inclusive, and 8 may be discussed together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 2:

In page 3, subsection (1), line 24, before "physical" to insert "pain, distress or".

In the text abuse includes "the wilful, reckless or negligent infliction of physical injury on, or failure to prevent such injury to. the child". Many would say that the infliction of physical injury, which is defined in some medical way, is narrowing what would be regarded as a regime that inflicted systematic pain and distress on children. Even if a child, or an adult looking back, could not point to a broken arm or a physical injury that could be produced to a court, the notion of pain and distress should be included so that it is clear we mean any systematic cruel regime put in place. I realise by the standards of the day corporal punishment was permitted. However, one has to draw a distinction between the responsible use of corporal punishment by the standards of the day and what would be regarded as unacceptable. I am of the view that the words " wilful, reckless or negligent" cater for that distinction. We were all in schools where physical punishment was part of the regime. We need to make a distinction between ordinary use in a responsible way of a permitted punishment and what was a cruel, reckless and negligent form of infliction of pain. I have included it in this amendment to try to broaden the notion of what constitutes an injury that should be the subject of investigation but I recognise that we do not want to draw it so wide that standard use of corporal punishment, as was permitted in the past, would constitute an issue that would be inquired into.

The arguments in relation to amendments Nos. 3 and 5 would be broadly the same kind of arguments Deputy Bruton has put forward. The purpose of amendment No. 3 is to extend the Bill to cover mental injury. Amendment No. 5 extends the Bill to include failure to redress an injury after the event. It is a very serious matter, even if one has acknowledged that an injury has taken place, to pretend it did not happen. It is an amnesia approach towards inflicting an injury.

For the reasons outlined in our discussion on amendment No. 1, the inclusion of "mental" abuse in paragraph (a) is unnecessary. I propose, however, to accept Deputy Bruton’s amendment No. 8 although again it is strictly not necessary. This may go some way towards responding to the concerns of Deputy Higgins. In the circumstances and for the sake of consistency, I also propose a further amendment as follows: “In page 3, line 32, before ’health’ to insert ’physical or mental”’. I propose that we accept this oral amendment because it is consequential. I do not accept that “pain” and “distress” need to be specifically mentioned in paragraph (a). In so far as pain is caused to a child, this is clearly physical abuse and distress which is a vague term in itself. It is covered by paragraphs (c) and (d), which are fairly broad, and will now include the word “mental” as well. Failure to redress an injury as proposed in amendment No. 5 is adequately covered also in paragraphs (c) and (d) so I propose to accept Deputy Bruton’s amendment No. 8 and that we accept my oral amendment.

I welcome the acceptance of amendment No. 8 but I want to return to the Minister's reasoning for not accepting "pain" and "distress". Paragraph (a) refers to the wilful, reckless or negligent infliction of pain and distress, that is, by the person who is regarded as the abuser at the time. Paragraph (c) seems to refer to something different in that it states “failure to care for” which sounds more like a supervisory role. In other words, if a regime permitted corporal punishment but there were some people who were using it in a negligent and reckless way, is the Minister satisfied that if that is not included in paragraph (a) it will be encompassed by paragraph (c)? The Minister will say that the regime of the day was one where corporal punishment was accepted but only within strict guidelines, and some people went outside those guidelines, in other words, they were attempting to care but individual aberrations occurred. Is the Minister satisfied that those individual aberrations will be covered, that this will not fall between the two stools of paragraphs (a) and (c)?

The Deputy should look at paragraph (d) which covers “any other act or omission towards the child which results in serious impairment of the health or development of the child or serious adverse effects on his or her behaviour or welfare . . . ”. It covers adverse effects which the commission would regard as serious. In effect, we are giving discretion to the commission and, to some extent, that comes back to Deputy Higgins’s point earlier which would set norms in relation to that. We must remember that we are dealing with appalling abuse, and that must get the primary attention. The commission does not want to be forced into a situation where the guidelines are so broad that they will be totally ineffective. The commission has a heavy agenda in respect of serious abuse. In relation to this amendment, the concerns of Deputy Bruton are covered because paragraph (d) covers any other act that may have serious effects on the behaviour or welfare of the child. The commission will decide what are “serious effects”. We are giving the commission discretion to deal with that aspect, which is what it asked us to do.

I want to ask the Minister about the force of the word "serious" in the paragraph.

In this particular case it will be for Ms Justice Laffoy and the commission to decide, and it will be in very safe hands in that regard. The commission is facing a huge task and I will be happy to rely on its judgment. The commission will deal, at least in a general way, with the issues which concern the Deputy by indicating what should happen in relation to them.

In the first case we are talking about physical injury and in the others we are talking about activities and omissions which result in serious impairment. In all cases the commission will need victims to come forward to give evidence of either physical injury or actual impairment. Does that mean that in some way the commission will be restrained from examining regimes without actual cases of complaint? If it felt that the regime constituted abuse, does the commission need witnesses and evidence in every case to make findings?

We have provided 40,000 files and the commission will be examining all those files.

Without those individuals having to come forward to——

That is right. A good number of those cases have been sifted through already, and where there was a note on the file or a recommendation about some situation or whatever, that is all available to the commission. A lot of work is being done to sift through all that information but everything is in the hands of the commission. In addition, our purpose in having arrangements to cover the expenses of those who might have complaints to make is to encourage all those with complaints to come forward.

What would be the position regarding people with were in an institution who do not come forward to make any complaints to the commission about that institution?

Many people have already come forward.

Could the commission examine the regime and the conduct practised in such an institution?

Yes, if it had any concern arising from evidence it had — it would have information on file in that regard. The Deputy's point is theoretical and I do not think what he suggests is likely to happen. We would be concerned about what he suggests, but a substantial number of cases have be made in regard to a variety of institutions.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendments Nos. 3 and 4 not moved.

I move amendment No. 5:

In page 3, subsection (1), line 25, after "child," to insert "or failure to redress such an injury,".

The Minister did not reply to this amendment when he dealt with amendment No. 2.

I said that the words "failure to redress such an injury" proposed in the amendment are covered by 1(c) and (d).

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 7 is related to amendment No. 6 and they may be discussed together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 6:

In page 3, subsection (1), between lines 25 and 26, to insert the following:

"(b) the wilful, reckless or negligent infliction on a child of a wrong of a sexual nature or failure to prevent such a wrong or failure to redress such a wrong,”.

This amendment seeks to insert a broader definition of sexual abuse and to relate sexual abuse to the concept of wrong. Amendment No. 7 proposes to delete paragraph (b) and substitute it with “(b) an act of sexual abuse within the meaning of the Statute of Limitations (Amendment) Act, 2000”. While these amendments are not totally satisfactory to many of those who have made representations, they provide a better definition of sexual abuse than in the section.

Paragraph (b) is a more general and clearly understood statement of what constitutes sexual abuse than that proposed in amendment No. 6 and that amendment could tend to obscure the issue. Nothing would be added to the Bill by importing the definition of an act of sexual abuse from in the Statute of Limitations (Amendment) Act, 2000. The definition of sexual abuse in this Bill is deliberately very wide and encompasses the two amendments proposed.

What is the definition in the Statute of Limitations Bill — I do not have the text of it before me?

Section 2(4) of that Bill states:

" 'an act of sexual abuse' includes—

(a) any act of causing, inducing or coercing a person to participate in any sexual activity,

(b) any act of causing, inducing or coercing the person to observe any other person engaging in any sexual activity, or

(c) any act committed against, or in the presence of, a person that any responsible person would, in all the circumstances, regard as misconduct of a sexual nature . . .

The definition in that Bill also sets out various provisions. The definition in this Bill is broader than that definition.

The logic of the Minister's argument defeats me. He is continually suggesting that fewer words give rise to a more inclusive definition than——

They often do. The more one says the worse one can make a position.

We should not go down that road.

The Constitution is relatively short when one considers all the legislation that has stemmed from it.

Yes. I have also learned that Ministers do not have a monopoly on clarity or brevity.

If the Deputy was to take——

I will finish my point and then the Minister can reply to it if he wishes. The onus is on the Minister to show how two short sentences in the section are more inclusive that the formulation of the definition in the statute of limitations legislation. The advice to me is simple, why re-invent the wheel? A considerable amount of work went into drawing up the definition in the Statute of Limitations Bill. Why does the Minister consider that definition is not satisfactory?

Amendment No. 6 refers to the "wilful, reckless or negligent infliction on a child". Therefore, an act of abuse must be wilful, reckless or negligent. The section as it stands covers any act of abuse. That is why it is broader than the wording proposed in the amendment. That relates to the Deputy's point that he wanted the definition to be sufficiently broad to cover any act of abuse. The commission will decide which acts it will consider the most serious. That is the main point.

I appreciate that point. In relation to paragraph (b), it seems the definition is derived from the action of the perpetrator. The definition is sourced in the perpetrator’s sexual arousal or sexual gratification or in a person to whom the perpetrator directs it. While I accept I could amend the text of the amendment in terms of the words “wilful” and “reckless” between now and Report Stage to take account of the Minister’s point, the Minister has not disposed of my more general point about the infliction on a child of a wrong of a sexual nature, which is more inclusive of the range of sexual abuse than the formulation suggested in the Bill. I hope the Minister accepts that point.

No, I do not think it is. Paragraph (b) refers to the use of the child by a person for the sexual gratification of that person or another person. The wording is as wide as one would want it. That is the main point.

The sexual wrong referred to in my amendment is not defined in terms of its impact or experience by the victim. It is defined in terms of the agent or others to whom the agent directs the action. If victims come before the commission, their perception and experience of a sexual wrong is as important as the overt manifestation of it from the point of view of the perpetrator.

My advice is that paragraph (b) as it stands will be effective and will give the commission broader scope than the amendment proposed. I will examine the matter between now and Report Stage if the Deputy wishes.

I will consider the amendment between now and report Stage and I understand the Minister will also consider it.

Amendment No. 6, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 7 not moved.

I move amendment No. 8:

In page 3, subsection (1), line 29, before "health" to insert "physical or mental".

I can accept the amendment. It covers a number of points we discussed.

Amendment agreed to.

The Minister indicated that he wanted to table another amendment at this point.

I move the following amendment:

In page 3, subsection (1), line 32, before "health" to insert "physical or mental".

I ask the committee to agree to this oral amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 9 is out of order.

I appreciate the Chairman's letter in that regard. It was ruled out of order because it puts a potential charge on the Revenue. That is extraordinary.

The amendment seeks to amend the definition of "child". The effect of this change is that persons over 18 but under 21 years of age prior to 1985 would be covered by the commission's inquiries. Currently only those under 18 years when the alleged abuse took place have recourse to the commission. By extending the age limit more cases will have to be investigated and additional costs will arise. The amendment, therefore, involves a potential charge on the Revenue and, in accordance with Standing Order No. 142(3), it must be disallowed.

That is an extraordinary means of disposing of what I consider to be a principle. I could argue that if there were cost savings in another part of the Bill, it would be possible to accommodate the extension within the same figure. I do not want to go down that road. Under this argument, any extension can be argued as incurring a cost. It is a bad ruling.

Having the cut off point at 18 or 21 years is an issue of policy or principle. It reflects the category of people who can be included. I want to hear the arguments why it was cut off at a particular age or year, irrespective of the cost. The argument that by extending it one is incurring a cost so the amendment can be wiped out is unsatisfactory without giving the reasons for the original decision.

The Deputy will be aware that the commission, in considering its terms of reference, recommended that 18 years should be the cut off point. Prior to the 1985 Act the age of majority was 21 years. My advice is that few, if any, young people over the age of 18 years remained in such institutions even before 1985.

The cost would be minimal.

That is a technicality.

Amendment No. 9 not moved.

We will proceed to amendment No. 10. Amendments Nos. 11 and 12 are related to amendment No. 10. Amendments Nos. 10, 11 and 12 can be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 10:

In page 4, subsection (1), line 18, after "includes" to insert "a temporary residential setting,".

The purpose of these amendments is to extend the definition of "institution" to include a temporary residential setting. A person might be allocated to a particular residential place but they could be transferred on a temporary basis to another. Some cases of abuse that are in the public domain have given specific instances of people being taken away on holidays or retreats or in other circumstances. I am anxious to ensure that rather than the institution being located in a main building or a primary residence, a temporary residence would be clearly expressed as well.

My amendment makes it clear that fostering would be included. The current definition of institutions refers to "any other place where children are cared for other than as members of their families" but the preceding phrases do not suggest that it refers to fostering. The amendment seeks to ensure that fostering arrangements are included.

Fostering is included. The point made by Deputy Higgins is covered by subsection (2). I would expect it to be covered anyway and the Deputy is trying to ensure that it is covered. References in this legislation to abuse of children in institutions or which occurred in institutions include:

. . . references to any case in which abuse of a child took place, not in an institution, but while the child was residing or being cared for in, or attending, an institution and the abuse was committed or aided, abetted, counselled or procured by, or otherwise contributed to by an act or omission of, a person engaged in the management, administration, operation, supervision or regulation of the institution or a person otherwise employed in the institution.

The important reference is "being cared for" in an institution. The Deputy is thinking of instances where the children might go somewhere on a temporary basis and return. However, at that time they would be cared for within the institution.

The Minister is on thin ice in this regard but the text defeats him. He is trying to suggest, and I accept, that there is a moral duty of care but the text does not cover the temporary setting. I am anxious to be helpful. The phrase "a temporary residential setting" in my amendment would probably include what is explicit in Deputy Bruton's amendment.

There is another amendment which refers to a person engaged in the management, administration, operation, supervision or regulation of the institution or a person otherwise employed in the institution. There are people who visited institutions and who were not involved as employees or management or with specific detailed duties of supervision who could have been perpetrators. We will reach that amendment shortly.

The text to which the Minister referred says "being cared for in". That does not deal with it. The subsection states: "References in this Act to abuse of children in institutions or which occurred in institutions include references to any case in which abuse of a child took place, not in an institution, but while the child was residing [the child is not residing] or being cared for in . . . ". The child is out of care and is in another setting. It is most important to make it clear that the child's location is what is important, even if it is a temporary setting. I ask the Minister to concede that. The phrase "a temporary residential setting" will clarify the section.

There would be others too if one were to take that view. However, I will have a look at it for Report Stage. It refers to "while the child was residing or being cared for in". It means during that period. If the child is out on a temporary basis, it is still covered legally by "while". I will look at it again on Report Stage.

The type of situation I have in mind is where a person takes a child out to a farm. I want to be certain on this point.

They are still in the custody and under the management and care of the institution. That is the point but I will look at it again to be sure about it from that point of view.

I appreciate that both the Minister and I are trying to achieve the same thing. I hope the Minister will look at it again.

We will do that.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 11:

In page 4, subsection (1), line 20, after "are" to insert "placed in residence or intended to be".

What I have in mind is where a formal order or allocation has not been made and the person is, in effect, waiting.

It is the same point, Deputy. They would still be under the care.

I will treat it the same as the others.

I will accept the Minister's assurance that fostering is definitely included.

It is definitely included.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 12 not moved.

Amendments Nos. 13 to 15, inclusive, are out of order because they involve a potential charge on the Revenue.

I wish to express my complete dissatisfaction with that decision. The purpose of amendment No. 14 is to ensure that all the cases are included. I went back before 1940 to the foundation of the State. My argument is simple and I will come back to it later. I will not delay the select committee but the fact that this has arisen is a major reflection on the attitude of the State to children. If we are to do something about it, we cannot only say that it was unusual or an aberration This is where I differ. The philosophy was wrong and deficient. If it is to be put right, it should go back to the foundation of the State in 1922. I cannot do anything about my amendment being ruled out of order but that is my opinion.

The Bill provides that the commission can go back further in time.

I know.

It is a discretion available to the commission.

Amendments Nos. 13 to 15, inclusive, not moved.

Amendment No. 17 is an alternative to amendment No. 16 while amendment No. 18 is related and all three may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 16:

In page 4, subsection (2), line 40, after "institution" to insert "or any person associated or connected with the institution who had any measure of control or authority over children resident in the institution".

This amendment arises where, for example in a case brought to my attention, an adoption society might have been involved in the placement of a child in an institution which exposed the child to abuse. There was a concern that the role of such a society in placing the child might not be properly addressed in the definitions in the Bill as it stands. The amendment was tabled as a way of copperfastening the situation and ensuring that it is comprehensive in that respect.

My argument is the same. Amendment No. 17 is to similar to amendment No. 16. The purpose of my amendment is to make the situation explicit. It seeks to insert "or a person associated or connected with the institution who had any measure of control or authority over a child resident or formerly resident in the institution". I deliberately included the phrase "control or authority" because they are different. Control is an explicit relationship in a specified setting. Authority relates to where a person has a connection which he or she abuses.

Amendment No. 18 seeks to be inclusive. It states "a person who enjoyed access to the institution" and this relates to the McBride commission hearings some time ago. There was a practice where some people called into institutions and picked out people to go and work in the fields. I want that included.

In relation to amendments Nos. 16, 17 and 18, I appreciate the concerns of Deputies. My advice is that the points are covered in the Bill. However, in the context of Report Stage, I will consider the question of making it more explicit.

Amendment No. 16 should be considered. I am sure the Minister has received correspondence in which a person set out the background to their particular case. I am happy to wait for Report Stage to see how the Minister proposes to cater for that situation.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendments Nos. 17 and 18 not moved.

Amendments Nos. 25, 26 and 43 are related to amendment No. 19 and all may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 19:

In page 4, between lines 41 and 42, to insert the following subsection:

"(3) References in this Act to the management, administration, operation, supervision and regulation of institutions include references to such management, administration, operation, supervision or regulation effected, supervised or regulated, in whole or in part, by a Department of State, a vocational education committee established by the Vocational Education Act, 1930, a health board, a local authority for the purposes of the Local Government Act, 1941, or any other public body.".

In proposing a commission to inquire into child abuse and in publishing this Bill, it was always the expressed intention of the Government that the investigative remit of the commission would extend to public bodies. Some concern was expressed on Second Stage that this was not clear from the Bill. I am happy to put the matter beyond doubt in this amendment. It provides, in effect, a definition for systems of management as referred to in sections 4 and 12. It provides specifically that these systems include Departments and other public bodies. I believe this amendment meets the concerns underlying amendments Nos. 25, 26 and 43.

My amendment covers the legislative framework, the system of justice, the system for funding, regulation and inspection of institutions, the system of investigation and responding to complaints. The State is undoubtedly as equally in the dock as those who were in the front line in terms of inflicting abuse. Deficiencies have been exposed in the whole legislative framework, for example, the way in which children were snatched from their homes on the whim of individuals who were perceived to be in some position of authority. They did not have any representation at the hearing of their case. Decisions were made and implemented without any proper or acceptable arrangements.

Equally, when people were in care, undoubtedly the funding provided by the State was seriously defective. The regulation was also defective and, in some cases, inspection was totally absent. There was a refusal within the Department of Education to permit visiting committees which would have been seen as a nuisance. There was a culture where it was believed that the important thing was to protect the Minister. As a result, decisions such as that to board out were not supported by the Department. There is a long list of areas where incontrovertibly the State failed dismally. While the Minister's reference appears comprehensive in relation to the number of public bodies, I am not sure he has covered issues such as the judicial system for hearing cases or the system of funding, for example, the inspections. Are those aspects adequately addressed? Funding or the legislative framework are not specifically mentioned. Both are areas where the commission could not only identify failings in the past but be very useful in giving pointers for the future in terms of legislative environments.

Those aspects are covered. The amendment is comprehensive and covers all the activities. It deals with the management, administration, operation, supervision and regulation of work done by a Department of State, a vocational education committee and other bodies. The provision in relation to a Department of State deals with the funding, regulation, inspection of institutions, systems of investigation and responding to complaints. This work is already under way. All the files from the Department are already with the commission and are being investigated. Nobody is trying to hide anything. However, it is for the commission to make conclusions about which Departments or people were deficient in their performance. This is what the commission has been asked to do. I assure the Deputy that is a broad definition.

Which words specifically cover funding and the legislative framework? These are the proven areas. We know failings have been identified in studies done.

That is part of the administration of the Department. The Department goes before the Committee of Public Accounts to outline how it was administered the previous year.

The Department was able under the law at the time to refuse to have visiting committees. It could say it complied with the law as it existed, therefore, it was not culpable. Management in administration presupposes an outer framework within which it operates, but it has failed. If the law was defective in not adequately requiring complaints to be heard from children or representation for children to ascertain their needs, can the Department——

That is part of the way the Department manages its work.

Can the Department say the legislation of the day did not prescribe it?

It would be a function of the Department to point to the needs. If the Department said to the Government that it needed certain committees, although the commission would outline how Departments or public bodies performed, and the Government said it would not allow it, that would be part of the investigation. The commission may say it was interesting that the Opposition in the Oireachtas did not draft a Private Members' Bill along those lines. The definition is broad and will cover how a Department dealt with its management in this area.

The Minister should reflect on what his predecessor said in the Dáil when the Kennedy report files were missing. One of the most illuminating items of information the Minister gave in the Dáil was the communication between two Departments. It was not an inter-departmental matter. The communication between the secretaries suggested it would be terrible if the matter was made public. The issue was not about how to address it or about which one should be doing more about it. That suggests there was more than a departmental management defect. The ideology was to hide facts.

This raises another issue in terms of the difficulties the secretary to the committee had as regards taking and checking minutes and keeping records. We are not talking about one Department but about the head of a Department writing to the head of another Department and expressing the view that the matter should not be made public. That indicates a general attitude beyond departmental management.

It is an attitude of two Departments. Once that is substantiated, it is a fault in the management of two Departments. The management covers it in the two different cases. Communications between Departments are part of the record. It is wrong to say that is not part of the management. The difference is that it is part of the management of two Departments. They are both at fault in such a case.

When the Minister guides Departments into the management web, he will eventually hit Government as well.

Of course. Everything is on the table.

These amendments are at the heart of what will be investigated. The State had the power and responsibility to look after the institutions in its care, to ensure they were financed and run properly and that the necessary regulations or legislation was in place. I am concerned the Departments may slip away from their past responsibilities.

The Department of Education stands indicted in the Donal Dunne case, for example, because it did not take the necessary action at the appropriate time to protect the children who were subsequently abused over a long period. Will the person whose responsibility it was be called before the commission and held accountable for not taking action in this case or will they be able to pass responsibility to the board of management of the school?

The funding of such institutions is also questionable. This brings us back to the day to day running of Departments. Will there be further inquiries in 20 years time into possible abuse because Departments are not providing enough money to cater for children in their care? A 14 year old boy was recently before a court on a criminal charge. He was supposed to be detained in Oberstown for two years but because there was no space there, he was sent to St. Michael's. The judge said if there was no place in Oberstown the following Thursday when he would hear the case, he would send the 14 year old to Mountjoy. If institutions are not properly funded in these affluent times, what was it like in the past? Many institutions were run on a shoestring because the money paid by Departments was totally inadequate.

The nub of this inquiry will be how Governments of the day and Departments carried out the day to day management of the institutions. They appear to have been totally negligent and they must carry the responsibility. It is important that the amendment is all embracing so that there is no ambiguity.

Amendment no. 26 complements amendment No. 19 which I welcome. It has the clarity Deputy McGrath seeks and it relates to the legislative framework, the system of funding, etc. I am not persuaded by the Minister's argument that that is fully comprehended by his amendment No. 19. For example, his amendment says that the State has a responsibility where it "effected, supervised or regulated". I take "effected" to mean where it ran it itself. That does not refer, for example, to funding or the legislative framework. The Minister would have to amend this substantially to put in references to funding, for example, before I would be persuaded by it. Perhaps, the best way to do that is for the Minister to accept both his amendment No. 19 and my amendment No. 26, which amplifies exactly what should be investigated by the commission in relation to the State.

This amendment includes the kitchen sink. It includes everything a Department would or could do. To return to the point made by Deputy McGrath, it says "by a Department of State". That clearly means any Department and covers any two or three Departments talking to one another. It is comprehensive and inclusive. It covers their administration, activities, funding and everything else that is involved. Deputy Bruton's amendment is too specific and limiting and would be dangerous in that sense.

I will look further at this very broad amendment, which, looking at it as a Deputy and Member of the Oireachtas, seems to be quite comprehensive and to cover everything we have in mind. Nevertheless, I will look at for Report Stage to ensure it meets all the points raised about funding and so on. However, it arose from our earlier discussions. I tabled an amendment which the parliamentary draftsman and the legal adviser say is the comprehensive amendment that everybody wants. I will look at it, bearing in mind what Deputies have said, but I do not want to give the impression that it is anything less than fully comprehensive. It covers administration, which covers funding and the other matters which Deputies were concerned about. However, I will look at it.

I want to make a point about my amendment No. 25, which is very similar to amendment No. 26 tabled by Deputy Bruton. It refers to "the role of the State or any of its organs (including the Minister, his or her Department and the courts)". I used "State" as a term which would transcend the responsibility of any one Department and also to cover a territory that might be shared between the Legislature and the Executive.

I do not want to be unhelpful and I will give an example of what I have in mind. I have had a concern for some time, dating back to when I served on the commission for penal reform, which was referred to as a self-appointed commission by the Minister of the day and included people such as President McAleese, John McBride and others. I referred in the amendment to "the role of the State or any of its organs" because one aspect of the justice system which intrigued me is that it is well known by most people in the legal profession and by many judges that youngsters sent to institutions and people being sent to prison will be raped. One could argue that one was administering justice and doing things properly in a Department, but there is a moral requirement to act.

I might be wrong, but I understood that in the interests of justice any judge could visit any prison or place of detention at any time, almost without warning, and that they had an access that legislators or visiting committees did not have. However, that is hardly ever exercised. Making a committal order, knowing what will happen in an institution, indicates an extraordinary attitude. I do not see how that can be defended.

The problem is not just the deficiencies in funding or the absence of training and administration — there is a bigger problem in relation to very significant omissions at the level of the State, to which people are pointing. We are not talking about the performance of a Department within a departmental boundary, but about commission and omission by the State in its broadest sense.

However, if the Minister is willing to look at his amendment No. 19 to see if it can be extended between now and Report Stage, I will withdraw amendment No. 25.

What is the Minister saying in respect of the representation of children in court and the role of the justice system? Does he believe his amendment embraces that?

Yes, I believe it can.

Is the Minister saying——

Or any other public body.

——he will look at this issue again?

No, I want the amendment inserted, but I will consider what the Deputies have said for Report Stage.

Amendment agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 1, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

I would like to hear the Minister's response to the 18 years of age issue that Deputy Higgins raised. Even if only one or two people in institutional care are over 18 years, I do not understand why they would be excluded.

An issue has been raised about the definition of evidence used. Some people feel that "evidence including expressions of belief, opinion or intention" is very loosely drafted. Will the Minister clarify that such a definition is in accord with normal court practice? While I can see that people might think opinions or intention might not constitute evidence, my understanding — which, perhaps, the Minister could clarify — is that one can give opinion evidence in any court and that it is admissible. Perhaps this definition, which has caused concern to some people, is quite a standard one.

Yes, it is a standard definition. It was used most recently by the Committee of Public Accounts in its DIRT inquiry. It is a standard definition and the most up-to-date practice.

With regard to amendment No. 9, the commission recommended that 18 years should be the cut-off age. In addition, to the knowledge of the Department from the large amount of information that has come forward to date, few, if any, such cases would arise.

While we do not want to create a situation where all sorts of new things are investigated, I do not think the Oireachtas would like the idea that someone would be ruled out because they were eighteen and a half years.

In relation to section 1, if somebody, such as a teacher, Department official or civil servant, is named by an individual as someone who perpetrated abuse, what will be the system for giving them a chance to reply? Are they likely to get notification of the allegation so that they can reply before it comes into the public domain? Allegations of supposed abuse can be made in the glare of publicity. What protection is there for someone's good name? As I said out the outset, we were brought up in an era of attending schools that were quite tough regimes. If somebody makes an allegation against teacher X, will he or she be contacted by the commission and given a chance to give evidence or bring forward rebuttal evidence or statements from other people, rather than leaving such an allegation hanging there and their good name being taken away? We have a right to our good names. As a muinteor náisiúinta himself, the Cathaoirleach will understand that it would be very easy for somebody to come forward with any allegation at all, but unless one has an opportunity to defend one's good name one could be left in a very bad situation.

Those protections and principles underlie the entire Bill. Everybody will be entitled to their full constitutional rights. A person would be informed and given every opportunity to defend themselves, including all the fair procedures that Deputies are concerned they should have. There is no question about that. This will be dealt with in more detail later in the Bill where one has two different situations — the investigating side and the listing side. Those principles, however, underlie the entire Bill and that is what the practice will be.

What was the objection to going back beyond 1940, say, to 1922? As there may have been so few cases, why not include them?

It is left to the commission to do that; it is at the discretion of the commission. That is what was recommended by the commission. We set up this commission and spent a lot of time trying to look at how to tackle this effectively. They have made recommendations to us and the Government said it was accepting all their recommendations, not piecemeal but all of them, so the public at large could be happy that we were not fiddling around with the thing anywhere. That is basically what is in it. We took their recommendations but we are allowing them the discretion if they want to go back. That is all.

May I ask for clarification on one other point in section 1? It arises from the point that I was trying to make in one of my amendments that was ruled out of order. It is the question of where an institution in the State has a premises outside the State, and a child was transferred to it. As regards the experience of the child outside the State in an institution under the control of an institution in this State, is that child protected?

If, for instance, it was an Irish person, the State would still have the responsibility and duty of care in relation to that person.

Even if such a person had been transferred to a premises that was outside the State?

It would depend on the circumstances, but certainly it would only apply to an Irish person.

Question put and agreed to.
Section 2 agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 20 and 61 may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 20:

In page 5, subsection (1), line 11, after "as" to insert "An Coimisiún chun Drochúsáid Leanaí Fhiosrú, or, in the English language,".

I accept these amendments.

Is that agreed?

Is maith an rud é go bhfuil seo á ghlacadh ag an Aire agus creidim féin go bhfuil sé tábhachtach nuair a bhíonn reachtaíocht ag dul os comhair an Oireachtais nó os comhair na gcoistí éagsúla go leanfaí leis an deá-shampla a bhí ann cúpla bliain ó shin, sé sin go mbeadh sé intuigthe go mbeadh dhá fhoirm den reachtaíocht ar fáil i gcónaí agus go mbeadh an teideal ar fáil i nGaeilge. Rud eile atá tábhachtach freisin agus tá mé buíoch de mo chomhleacaí faoi seo, agus is é sin go bhfuil botún sa bhfoirm Ghaeilge mar atá sé. Is féidir linn é a cheartú ag an Report Stage, is é sin "An Coimisiún chun Drochúsáid Leanaí a Fhiosrú".

I suggest that we agree an oral amendment to that now rather than returning to section 3.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 21 and 35 are related and may be discussed together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 21:

In page 5, subsection (4), line 18, after "satisfied," to insert "with the consent of both Houses of the Oireachtas and".

I agree that we discuss them together but I as I am accepting the amendments in principle I will move an appropriate amendment on Report Stage if the Deputy agrees.

On that basis I will withdraw them.

Amendment, by leave. withdrawn.
Section 3, as amended, agreed to.

I move amendment No. 22:

In page 5, subsection (1)(a), line 29, after “Committee” to insert “and an opportunity to make observations, reflections or other submissions (personally or through their legal representatives) to a Committee on any matter relevant to its functions”.

The amendment seeks to establish the principle that submissions could be made as well as matters submitted as evidence.

The section deals with the functions of the committee. These, I believe, should be firmly focused on the core functions. The provision should not include matters which are, in effect, procedural. The primary objective of the commission is to give persons who were abused an opportunity to tell of the abuse. How that is done and what else the persons concerned might choose to tell the commission are matters of detail and procedure which should be left to the commission to decide. The commission is, after all, independent in its functions. On the general issue, I fully accept that submissions of all kinds may be made to the commission directly and indirectly. That is how it should be.

I can accept that.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 23:

In page 5, subsection (1)(b)(ii), line 33, before “to” to insert “, where it is satisfied that abuse has occurred,”.

I accept that amendment, subject to a change from a capital "W" in "where" to a lower case "w" for drafting reasons, and to the insertion of "such" before abuse. The amendment would then read:

In page 5, subsection (1)(b)(ii), line 33, before “to determine” to insert “, where it is satisfied that such abuse has occurred,”.

If the Deputy can agree to that we can agree to the amendment.

Amendment, as amended, agreed to.

I move amendment No. 24:

In page 5, subsection (1)(b)(iii)(II), line 40, after “supervision” to insert “, inspection”.

I accept this amendment also, although "regulation" as used in the Bill was intended to include "inspection".

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 25 not moved.

Amendment No. 26 has already been discussed with amendment No. 19.

I move amendment No. 26:

In page 5, subsection (1)(b)(iii), line 41, to delete “and” and substitute the following:

"(III) the State through the legislative framework; the system of Justice; the systems for funding, regulation, and inspection of institutions; the systems of investigation and responding to complaints, and".

I will definitely be coming back on Report Stage with this amendment because, given all our discussions, we want assurances that the investigation of the capacity of the State will be comprehensive. But on the basis that the Minister is also revisiting that issue on Report Stage I will withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 27:

In page 6, between lines 38 and 39, to insert the following subsection:

"(7) The Commission shall maintain a full record of its proceedings and those of each Committee.".

Section 7(6) of the Bill is weak. This amendment requires a record to be kept. It was the experience of the Kennedy committee which suggested this to me. It is important there is a record of the proceedings and the committees. I presume, if the amendment is agreed to, it will include any special investigations which may take place and visits or whatever.

This is an important matter. What happens to the evidence people submit? People will want to know there is access to a record. Equally, people who were victims will recognise that names can be omitted when the record comes into the public arena — one need not include the names of victims or those accused, unless the commission decides to do so, in the report. The idea of a full record with proper protection for the rights of individuals is an important principle and is one I support.

I, too, am anxious that there is a full record of proceedings, evidence and so on. There must be sensitivity in relation to the names of victims and of possible abusers or alleged abusers, at least until they have had a chance to put their side of the story. Will it be like the Dáil reports where one has a full copy of the proceedings one week later and which is available for public inspection within one or two hours of the debate? If so, the names of those mentioned will be in the public domain immediately. Will it be published at a later stage with names excluded or at least the names of those who produced rebuttal evidence?

There is a need for a full report but people have the right to their good name and a right in law to the protection of that good name on which the Minister gave a commitment earlier. This relates not only to people but to institutions as well. There are two sides to this issue. We need a full report but safeguards need to be built into it.

This is a procedural issue which should be left to the commission. The Bill already provides in section 7(6) for the making of a record as the commission considers appropriate. The commission will report to the public on the outcome. In view of its independence, I suggest the matter be left at that and that we do not agree to this amendment.

With regard to the confidential committee, one can see that it could be very damaging if people felt these records were available because the purpose was that they would be confidential at the time and for good. It is a matter for the commission to decide what materials should be brought forward from that. On the investigation side, I will look at that before Report Stage but I believe it would be better to leave that matter to the commission. I will certainly look at that aspect.

I ask Members to bear in mind that my amendment suggests that the commission shall maintain a full record of its proceedings in those of each committee and does not suggest publication. There are two separate issues. One is the maintenance of a record to which those interested might have a right of access. I take the point about the publication of names. I am anxious to achieve what everyone, including the Minister, is trying to achieve, that is, the maximum confidence in the commission.

If the commission produces a summary, an abbreviated summary or version, some people may be unhappy. It is all very fine to say one distrusts the commission — I do not. The point is that a commission should be in place, people should be willing to participate in it and that it should enjoy trust. That is the thinking behind my amendment.

I go along with Deputy Higgins. A full record should be maintained. The issue of access will be important as well, and I am not sure if the Bill has really dealt with that. The Bill states that one cannot use evidence from the commission in prosecuting a civil case afterwards. Does one have access to records of what evidence was submitted from both sides? Can a counsel subsequently ask questions of a person which were asked at the commission in a civil case? Can they review what was said at the commission so that they have the opportunity to ask these question at a fresh trial? I am not sure what rights of access the Minister intends.

If people are accused, do they have the right to see the full testimony of their accusers? These issues will have to be disentangled as we go through the Bill. Without an obligation on the commission for a full record to be maintained, which Deputy Higgins seeks, many of those issues cannot be addressed adequately. Deputy Higgins's amendment is sensible and correct. I am not suggesting that the commission would do otherwise but the ground rules should be clear from the outset. There can be no mistakes if everything is maintained.

The main difficulty with this is the confidential committee. If we are setting out to give people the opportunity to go to a confidential committee, to say what they want, to have hearings and to have the counselling which goes with it, we will need to be extremely careful about the subsequent use of any of that information. Let us not forget what freedom of information implies and the statutory rights of individuals.

Freedom of information does not——

It would be after the event, not during it.

Will all the records be discoverable under the Freedom of Information Act after the commission finishes its work?

Other than the confidential committee.

The Minister is defending his position on the basis of the confidential committee. That is not an adequate defence.

The confidential committee?

Yes. If the Minister is saying the confidential committee is not discoverable under the Freedom of Information Act, that is not a defence against Deputy Higgins's amendment.

The Bill leaves this up to the commission. What one is saying in this amendment is that one does not trust the commission and that because one does not trust it, one wants to have the maximum confidence in the commission — the words the Deputy used — and that one wants to make sure this material is kept and, therefore, should be recorded. From a procedural point of view, I was happy to leave it to the commission and to trust the commission in terms of the way it will handle that. I will look again at the investigation committee side on Report Stage. Some of the people have come to me as a north Dublin TD and one of the institutions, as Deputy Bruton knows, is in that area. Some people want absolute confidentiality for a variety of reasons. We must be careful not to create a situation where some people are hurt further. I will look further at the investigation committee aspect for Report Stage.

Sitting suspended at 1.32 p.m. and resumed at 2 p.m.

Section 7(6) addresses many of the concerns regarding protections raised by other members of the committee, and I am happy enough with that. It states:

The Commission may make such arrangements as it considers appropriate for the making of a sufficient record of the proceedings of the Commission and the Committees and in relation to the custody, and the disposal (otherwise in a manner that would contravene the National Archives Act, 1986), . . .

My original intention in tabling amendment No. 27 was greatly informed by the discussion on the Kennedy committee case where files were missing. I felt that the Minister's predecessor was doing his best in giving us as much information as was available to him because he came back a second time with further discovered files, etc., but there were members of that committee visiting institutions and it was not clear where the obligation lay regarding the keeping of a record in what was described in that case as an "exploratory" visit. At this very time, the most horrific things were going on, some of which perhaps had been drawn to the attention of some members of that committee. On considering the adequacy of section 7(6), can the Minister assure me that it meets the point I am seeking to address?

I am happy that it does so and we are meeting the commission's requests.

I wish to put one final point to the Minister which is beyond the request he may have received from the commission. If a person sought a judicial review on the procedure at any stage, he or she would seek to discover the proceedings. My amendment, in fact, protects the commission regarding its record. I thought that it would be valuable even to the commission itself.

That would be possible. In that case, it could be a person looking for a review for their own purposes and for their own sake, but they would probably get the information anyway. While I know the Deputy is trying to consider every possible eventuality, they would be entitled to and would receive all the information which they would want. If they felt the commission was not administering its functions properly and sought a judicial review to ensure that it did take certain actions, they would have that access.

Would they have access to the record kept at the discretion of the commission?

They would have access to the record at the discretion of the commission?

Yes. However, all the information on the investigation side would be available. It is largely a difference between the confidential aspect and the investigation side. The confidential aspect is different.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 4, as amended, agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 28 and 36 are related and may be taken together by agreement.

I move amendment 28:

In page 6, between lines 38 and 39, to insert the following subsection:

"(1) The Commission shall report on its activities not less frequently than every 6 months.".

The purpose of this amendment is to ensure regular reporting.

I appreciate the objective of these amendments which is to ensure that there is regular feedback from the commission to the public. However, I am concerned that if the amendments were made they would amount to an excessive interference with the independence of the commission which should alone decide when to report and when, or if, to make an interim report. I am satisfied that the commission will act in the interests of victims of abuse and in the public interest at all times. To effectively force the commission to report at predetermined intervals could result in it making reports when it was not ready to do so. Such reports could be misleading or incomplete. It is preferable, therefore, that the commission will report at its discretion. The commission is free to make interim reports and it will make them when it is ready to do so.

I am amazed at the Minister's suggestion that the commission would make misleading or incomplete reports. If it was obliged to make reports every six or 12 months, I am sure the commission would ensure that such reports were factual. In addition, I am sure it would not draw conclusions if it was not in a position to do so.

In recent years tribunals have been established and have deliberated for long periods without the Dáil receiving any notification regarding the course an investigation is taking or the future intentions of such tribunals. That has not been good practice and I thought the commission would not be adverse to an amendment of this nature. I also believed the Oireachtas would welcome the amendment, given that it established the procedure in the first instance.

When drafting this amendment, I was concerned with the generation of the maximum possible trust and confidence among all of those who will come before the commission. Perhaps it is unreal but there could be a perception that if one opens a hearing of this nature it will become a black hole into which everything will fall. People will want to believe that there will eventually be an outcome.

I wish to reply to the Minister's point on whether an unfair onus or obligation would be placed on the commission. The commission, for example, could at any stage supply preliminary observations or early conclusions and later move towards final observations or conclusions. It could even provide statistical information regarding the number of submissions it received, the number of witnesses it heard and the number of occasions on which it met. Even its staffing or resource requirements could form the basis of a six monthly report. Stipulating that it should make interim reports means that the commission could indicate what progress is being made. That would provide assurances and ensure transparency.

The process should not be long and open-ended because that would depress people. The stories of those to whom I refer would break anyone's heart. They would not be pleased if they were informed that the process could take years. What is the Minister's thinking on this matter to which we will return later with regard to seeking the approval of the Dáil in relation to extensions, etc.?

We have tabled an amendment which deals with that matter.

Yes, we will deal with that later. I refer here, however, to the management of the commission's work. I do not agree that it would be onerous for the commission to supply a report within six months.

Deputy Bruton referred to reports which might be misleading. When I used that term, I was referring to reports which could be misleading because wrong conclusions were drawn or because the commission did not go far enough in order to reach a reasonable conclusion.

In effect, Deputy Higgins is saying that the commission should devote its time to reporting within six months. The commission's work may not have proceeded very far at that stage but anything that is reported would have to receive a great deal of attention which would absorb much time and effort. In light of the way it has operated to date, I am satisfied that the commission will report at the earliest opportunity. I suggest that the Deputy consider introducing an amendment on Report Stage to request the commission to report within 12 months. It may defeat our purposes to ask it to report after six months. We will consider the matter before Report Stage.

I will withdraw the amendment on the basis that I will be able to table a further amendment on Report Stage following the Minister's further consideration.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 29:

In page 6, subsection (2)(a), line 48, after “it” to insert “, including changes in the coverage of the Statute of Limitations”.

The operation of the Statute of Limitations vis-à-vis the work of the commission has given rise to significant controversy. Many survivors of child abuse feel the Government is on totally untenable grounds in seeking to confine the lifting of the normal Statute of Limitations to cases of sexual abuse only and excluding cases of physical abuse. I accept that there is separate legislation to which the Government is not so far disposed to make amendments. It appears that, given the numbers involved, this will remain the case. It is for that reason I suggest that as well as referring this issue to the Law Reform Commission — I understand such action has already been taken — it would be wise for the Government to seek explicit recommendations in respect of it from the commission on child abuse.

The commission will have access to the greater part of the evidence relating to this issue and it will be able to consider it not only from the point of view of the purest principles of law — I have no doubt that the Law Reform Commission will adopt this approach — but also from the point of view of the experiences of those who suffered abuse. Ms Justice Laffoy and her commission will undoubtedly have held many hearings by the time they come to make their recommendations and we should seek their views on this issue, which is one of enormous importance to those affected.

As an independent statutory body, the commission may make whatever recommendations it considers appropriate. It is not appropriate that the House would set out in advance, except in the very broad terms for which provision has now been made, the matters with which its recommendations should deal. In the interests of clarity, the Deputy should note that the commission will not be bound by the Statute of Limitations. It is open to the commission to consider any——

I was referring to civil liability. Perhaps my amendment is not clear in that regard.

That is a separate issue. The commission can, on the basis of its findings, make any recommendation it pleases. In relation to that issue and how it should be dealt with subsequently, on the last occasion we discussed the possibility of a tribunal being established. In that case, the question again arises as to whether we want to wait for the commission to consider the position and arrive at a recommendation or whether it might happen in the meantime in any event. The question of civil liability is a separate issue. The commission can make any recommendation it pleases in relation to that. The commission's considerations are not bound by the Statute of Limitations.

Section 4(1)(a)(iii) states that “without any prejudice to the generality of any of the foregoing” the commission will be given an explicit mandate to determine certain matters. It is all right to say that the commission has a general power to make recommendations but, equally, when it does so, it should be outlined that the view of the Oireachtas is that the recommendations should at a minimum include important matters of public concern. I am no expert in this field but an important matter of public concern which has been raised at any meeting I have had in this regard is the ban on those who suffered physical abuse from taking a civil action unless they do so within three years of the abuse occurring. The Minister has deemed it appropriate to lift this condition in regard to sexual abuse but has held the official line in other cases.

This is hugely controversial among the survivors of abuse. Some groups have indicated that they will not co-operate with the commission if that issue is not addressed. Hopefully, they will co-operate in any event but one way that we could make a valuable gesture in that regard would be to explicitly ask the commission to make recommendations in relation to this issue of substantial public controversy.

The Minister is right in saying that it is separate legislation——

This could put the entire process back a long way. On Second Stage the Deputy wanted us to at least consider a tribunal as a means of dealing with the civil cases.

Amendment No. 30 in my name deals with that.

That can be considered in the meantime. However, we do want to end up having to wait for the final report under the Statute of Limitations (Amendment) Act, 2000, to examine the issue, which is being handled by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform separately anyway. Members mentioned that some people are concerned that there will be limits to this investigation. We have made it very clear that there will be no limits on the considerations in regard to various forms of abuse. That message must be sent out loud and clear as far as the commission's work is concerned.

The Minister cannot have it both ways. He cannot say one minute that the commission can make recommendations in this area and then say it would be dreadful if it did because it would hold everything up.

No, if an obligation is put on the commission to make recommendations and we decide to go ahead with other arrangements in the meantime, we could be obliged to wait until the commission's report is published. The commission is free to make any recommendation in that regard. It is important that these two issues are not mixed up, as they have been by the Deputy. He mentioned that people are concerned about that issue but it does not affect the commission, which has a wide brief. However, it can report on any form of abuse which occurred. Even under this section it can make any recommendations on action it considers should be taken to alleviate or otherwise address the effects of the abuse referred to in section 4 on those who suffered. Civil liability and what would be expected to follow from the commission is a separate issue and must be dealt with thoroughly in its own right. The intention is to allow the commission to proceed in the most comprehensive manner and to report as it sees fit.

All the indications are that the Government will not deal thoroughly with this. It has made a move in regard to sexual abuse cases but is saying that it is not timely to make any such moves in terms of physical abuse. The issue has been sent to the Law Reform Commission which, undoubtedly, will bring important legal arguments to bear. Justice Laffoy, an eminent High Court judge, will hear the cases and will have access to the evidence on the basis of which people have sought similar treatment of physical abuse cases. Is it not right that we would seek her views? If by that stage the Government has decided to concede the point, the fact that Justice Laffoy can make recommendations does not preclude the Government from doing anything. No one will suggest that we should not improve the regulation of institutions or the training of people in them just because Justice Laffoy is presiding and might make different recommendations.

Government will continue to legislate as appropriate but people would have more confidence in the commission if it were clear from the outset that certain matters would be addressed in its recommendations. My amendments Nos. 30 and 31 also address some issues about which recommendations should be explicitly sought. I do not accept the Minister's argument that certain matters will be delayed or will prevent the Government from acting or will impose undue burden on Justice Laffoy. She must address these central issues if she is to alleviate or address the effects of abuse. It should be clear that she must examine issues of enormous controversy about which the Government has taken a different view to the survivors of abuse.

Does the Deputy agree that all those issues are included in this section and if two or three are specified, others are reduced by the relationship between the two? Why not say openly to people that they are included?

Earlier, the Minister stated that this was a matter for the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. He was almost on the point of saying that he would not want Justice Laffoy to make recommendations outside his——

I did not say that. The Deputy should not misquote me.

It is precisely because that concern——

I did not say this was a matter for the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. I said he is considering this matter separately. I also pointed out to the Deputy earlier, and if he connected the two statements he could put it together, that if a tribunal were formed, its scope would then have to be decided. A number of Members suggested on Second Stage that a separate tribunal might be the best approach. I said I would look into that seriously and I am doing so. If such a step were taken, that could very much benefit the people to whom the Deputy referred.

Let us be clear. It is completely open to Justice Laffoy under section 5(2)(a) to suggest any measures which she considers desirable to alleviate or otherwise address the effects of the abuse. That covers everything, including compensatory measures. It is a matter for her to decide. The Deputy wants the legislation to explicitly cover her recommendations and I think it does. She is well used to reading legislation and understanding its implications.

I am not enormously moved by the argument that by making something explicit one narrows the territory. If it were a significant gesture and would encourage co-operation and participation by making explicit what the Minister says is there, we would simply indicate to Justice Laffoy that among the other things on which her discretion will undoubtedly want to make a reflection will be the following: all that does is simply state it will include these and more, if necessary. I do not recognise how it brings a disability to the legislation and Deputy Bruton has argued that well.

I am mystified by the Minister's response. He constantly promises to do something great very soon. However, this in no way suggests that Ms Justice Laffoy should not make recommendations on areas of public concern. It is not right for the Minister to say he will handle everything and we will leave the matters unaddressed. As Members of the Oireachtas, we would like to see the issue of compensation addressed. If the Minister comes around and introduces a tribunal of compensation, the views of the commission on child abuse would be important in those considerations. I would expect the Minister to consult with the commission. There is an advantage in making this explicit in the commission's terms of reference so that if the Government takes action in areas of public concern, it does not ignore the expertise and valid views of the commission. This is a reasonable amendment and I will press it.

Amendment put.
The Select Committee divided Tá, 7; Níl, 8.

  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Hayes, Brian.
  • Higgins, Michael.
  • McGrath, Paul.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Sargent, Trevor.


  • Brennan, Matt.
  • Carey, Pat.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Keaveney, Cecilia.
  • Kitt. Michael P.
  • McGennis, Marian.
  • Moloney, John.
  • Woods, Michael.

On a point of clarification, is the Minister of State, Deputy Hanafin, entitled to be substituted in a vote?

Yes, she is.

Is the Minister of State still a member?

No one has replaced her.

Does that mean a Minister of State is entitled to be a member of a committee?

Until the Dáil decides.

Chairman, I would like you to clarify the position because there was an instance on another committee where a member who was deceased was substituted. The same argument was made that, because the member had not been replaced, a substitute could be used. To the best of my knowledge, a Minister of State is not entitled to be a member of a committee. If that is the case, he or she cannot then be substituted.

As I understand it, she is a member of the committee until she is replaced by an order of the House.

Could you have that clarified?

You asked me for that and I certainly will.

Was it not placed on the Order Paper by way of report from this committee that, once the Minister of State, Deputy Hanafin, became a Minister of State, she would automatically resign from the committee?

I am advised by the Clerk that it is a matter for the Dáil and has not been decided upon yet. I take Deputy Naughten's point and will obtain clarification.

I move amendment No. 30:

In page 6, subsection (2)(a), line 48, after “it” to insert “, including methods of compensation”.

This amendment refers to methods of compensation. As I indicated in my Second Stage speech, there should be a form of compensation tribunal. I represent the Artane area where, in the case of the Stardust tragedy, a tribunal was established at the time which dealt expeditiously and fairly with the issue of compensation. It would be worthwhile to ask the commission to make recommendations as regards such an avenue of compensation so that, rather than cases going to the civil courts, people would have the alternative of a tribunal. The terms of reference and how it could be done have been well established by the Stardust tribunal. Although I am not a legal expert, I believe it offers a model by which Ms Justice Laffoy could make recommendations.

I am taking this amendment to mean that the commission would be empowered to recommend how victims of abuse generally might be compensated rather than recommend compensation in any one case. I am not opposed to the amendment in principle. The Bill contains nothing which would prevent the commission making recommendations on the compensation generally of victims of abuse and it may do so. However, I am not convinced the Bill should emphasise this aspect of possible commission recommendations. The commission is an independent statutory body and may make whatever recommendations it considers appropriate. It is not appropriate that the House should set out in advance except in broad terms — the terms now provided for — with what the recommendations should deal. The commission is open to make whatever recommendations it believes are appropriate. Consequently, I do not accept the amendment.

We discussed the issue of a tribunal on Second Stage and I said I would have this matter investigated as a matter of reasonable urgency. I said I would do that and I will. We discussed the matter on Second Stage because that is the purpose of Second Stage. I listened to what the Deputy and other Deputies who mentioned the same matter, such as Deputy Shortall, had to say and I said I would examine it. The commission is free to make whatever recommendations it wants as regards tribunals or other methods or measures. The commission is aware of all these issues and I do not know why we are becoming so concerned about telling the commission in detail all it should do.

We need to give it a broad brief. It is a highly competent commission chaired by a judge of very high stature who has proved already that she treats this as a matter of urgency and that she will deal effectively with matters which arise in this area. The commission is open and free to make whatever recommendations it wishes. I have taken account of what Deputies, including Deputy Bruton, said on Second Stage. I resent the Deputy's earlier remarks because it is something we discussed earlier and I am following up on those discussions, as I said I would. There is nothing more to it than that and the commission is free to do whatever it wants and make whatever recommendations it wishes.

This amendment from Deputy Bruton does not in any way impinge on the integrity of Ms Justice Laffoy, the commission or anyone else. Legislation should set out the intentions of the House for that legislation. Members made clear that it is the intention of the House that an element of compensation should be available for victims of abuse. It should be open to people who have been abused, especially by State-funded institutions, to receive compensation. Members want that to be made clear to the commission and the judge.

As legislators, we must set out clearly what is our intention. We must detail all that we want to do and include it in the legislation. We cannot refer to what the Minister said on Second Stage because that has been found to be inadequate and measures and undertakings given by Ministers on different Stages but not contained in legislation have been subsequently found to have no effect. The issue of compensation should be mentioned specifically. The Minister should accept this amendment. He has said it is already covered, but if that is so why not include this amendment to be sure? One can underprescribe in legislation, but one cannot overprescribe. This is one way of ensuring this is given a proper hearing and is taken account of.

I have said all I can say about this other than what I said earlier, for which I was attacked. If we ask the commission to look into something specific, as a specific request, which is what the Deputy is suggesting, then there would be an obligation on us to wait subsequently until we hear the commission's final report on that. It would be at least discourteous not to do that when we specifically include a provision in the Bill for the commission to give a view.

On the other hand it is simple for me to wait until the final report comes in two years' time. I understood from the Second Stage debate that Deputies would rather I examined this matter in the meantime and that we saw what could be done or, if feasible, to look at it more urgently. I could say subsequently that the Oireachtas told the commission to look into this, but I will do something in the meantime. However, that is not the best way to go about this, particularly when we have discussed the issue here and said we are going to have a look at this on a more immediate basis. The legislation leaves the commission open to propose any measures it wishes in this regard and it becomes invidious to pick out individual matters. That is really a matter for the commission to decide.

The Minister mistakes the role of the Oireachtas here all the time. He seems to be under the impression that we are here to rubber stamp anything that a provisional tribunal has said. We have an independent role — we are the legislators and we say what we would like to do in different areas. I am not saying the commission will not do an excellent job, but that body could decide that it is not appropriate for it to make recommendations on issues of compensation for different reasons. This is our only chance to say what we would like it to make recommendations about. If there are issues on our mind that the commission should address, we should say so and not leave it to chance. In almost 20 years in the Dáil I have heard many Ministers come and go, saying: "Good idea. I'll have a look at that" and nothing happens.

I have never said that without looking at the issue. The Deputy should show me on the record where I said that.

I am not——

He should show me on the Record where I said that.

The Minister may not be the Minister in a month and then we will only be able to say to his successor that Deputy Woods said he would look at that. As legislators we get certain opportunities and have certain obligations; we should exercise them. The Minister is extraordinarily sensitive. I am confident he can handle this, but I do not share his belief in saying to Ms Justice Laffoy and her commission that they should look at this. When making decisions the Minister should consult the commission. That would not only be courteous but right and would improve any decisions that emerge. If the Minister comes forward early, so much the better.

The Minster seems to think we are here to tick "yes" to different matters he has tabled in a discussion paper. We have a role to look at matters and express concerns. If the Minister makes good decisions before the two years are up I will be the first to applaud him. However, just because the Minster said on Second Stage that he would look after something does not mean we should feel that we need not think about it again and that it has been looked after.

The commission, having heard the primary experience of those involved, will have a very informed sensitivity as to what would be an appropriate method for handling compensation. If that is the case it would be a pity not to say that this is something we look forward to hearing from the commission.

The principle the Minister is asking us to accept is that to mention anything specific is to infringe on the independence of the commission or its capacity to do anything it likes. All the amendment seeks to say is that we have confidence in Ms Justice Laffoy and her judgment, but we want, having listened to the public, to include certain matters. That does not seem to reflect on the capacity, scope, independence or autonomy of the commission. If we take the other approach and follow the logic, if the commission reports and does not include something which concerns us, what are we to say? The apt riposte would be that we had our opportunity. Independence does not mean we are to be silent on our concerns and we are entitled to more than a general indication that if the commission is considering everything it will bear our concern in mind. I support the amendment.

Deputy Bruton's amendment relates to section 5(2), which states that "the commission may include in the report any recommendations it considers appropriate including recommendations in relation to . . . ". The Minister says we do not need to include any specifics but he has included two himself. If the argument not to include anything on compensation is to stand up, then subsection (2) should stop at "appropriate". The Minister has given examples — "to alleviate or otherwise address the effects of the abuse" and "to prevent where possible . . . the incidence of abuse of children in institutions". It is appropriate that we be able to add another instance. We are giving a vote of confidence to the commission, as we are saying that having heard the allegations and testimony of people, it will be in the best position to make the fullest recommendations and that we would like it to consider compensation as that matter is important to us. I see no difficulty in the Minister including this. He will have to delete part of section 5(2) or accept this amendment, but he cannot have it both ways.

To answer that point, we have said how they might consider doing this and it covers everything the Deputy referred to. That is why there is a global term like "alleviate or otherwise address the effects of abuse". How does one alleviate? Either by counselling or compensation or other measures considered necessary. We must make clear that these are the kinds of measures we are talking about and that is how it is alleviated. It is there already; that is the legal advice from the draftsman.

The Minister should accept the amendment.

In that case one almost needs to include an amendment which says that they should provide counselling and do various other things. There is no need to do so. Deputy Higgins spoke about the end of the process in two years but I am not thinking that far ahead. Deputy Bruton thinks I may not be here in two years. None of us may be here in two years but I was not thinking in terms of waiting two years. I like to try and get things done as soon as I can.

We are all anxious to support the Minister.

I considered what I might be doing in terms of investigating this issue and it comes back to Government. The Government will make the final decision and I will work on this issue in the meantime to try and get a decision. In the meantime, the commission is free to make recommendations on any of these areas to alleviate or otherwise address the effects of the abuse.

I am a little annoyed by what the Minister has said. He is suggesting that the Government will make the decisions and to Hell with us as we have no role. The Minister has heard Members' views that this should be included and that it is fundamentally important to any review. The Government will make its own decisions but this is the Legislature. We are on Committee Stage and in a position to make amendments. This is an important amendment and the Minister could at least concede it.

I must correct the Deputy. If there is to be a tribunal the Government will have to make the decision which will be put to the Oireachtas. I thought that was what Deputies were talking about on Second Stage, that the matter would be investigated in the meantime and the Government would make its decision which would then be put to the Oireachtas. Let us be clear, any recommendations made can be dealt with.

Is the amendment being pressed?

The amendment should be accepted.

We can resume on this amendment at the next meeting.

The Select Committee adjourned at 3.05 p.m. until 1 p.m. on Tuesday, 4 April 2000.