Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Questions (778)

Mary Lou McDonald


778. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes has been granted an extension to complete its work due to Covid-19 restrictions; and if the disappointment of the survivors and their families arising from the latest delay to completion of the work of the Commission will be acknowledged. [13483/20]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

As the Deputy will see from the Commission of Investigation's Seventh Interim Report, which my predecessor published on 12 June, the update received from the Commission highlights that its work, like every other activity in Ireland, has been affected by the restrictions imposed as a consequence of Covid-19.  As a result, the Commission requested a revision of the timeframe for submitting its final report.

Shortly after my predecessor received the Report, she met with two of the Commissioners to discuss their request for additional time. Judge Murphy confirmed that the Commission had been working remotely in an attempt to complete the report by the end of June. Although the final report is well advanced, Judge Murphy advised that delays had been incurred due to the inevitable logistical challenges related to Covid-19.

At its meeting on Friday 12 June, the then Government agreed to amend the Commission’s terms of reference to provide for the extension sought. The Commission's final report is now due to be submitted on 30 October 2020 at the latest. The Commission has engaged with hundreds of former residents in its work and is attempting to comprehensively analyse information at a level beyond that ever been possible before.  In agreeing to this further extension, the Government’s priority is to safeguard this substantial work so that the independent Commission can comprehensively address and conclude these crucial matters as expeditiously as possible in accordance with the legislative framework. The Government considers that the public interest is best served by facilitating the Commission to produce an evidence based determination on what happened to vulnerable mothers and children in these institutions.

I know many former residents and their families are deeply disappointed with this delay.  However, I also know that they will understand the overwhelming impact which Covid-19 and the associated public health restrictions have had on all our lives. My Department used existing channels of communication to ensure that former residents, their families and supporters were the first to be made aware of the new timeframe ahead of this information appearing in the media.