Tuesday, 20 October 2020

Questions (445)

Kathleen Funchion


445. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration the plans under way for a collaborative forum for survivors of mother and baby homes. [31119/20]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

The Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes and certain related Matters is due to deliver its final report at the end of this month and I recognise the importance of consultation and dialogue with those who have lived experiences of these institutions. This statutory inquiry is investigating the lived experiences of mothers and children in these institutions and I am acutely aware that this is not simply an historical or legal matter, but that these experiences continue to impact the lives of many women, children and their families today.

I am committed to effective stakeholder engagement on all matters that impact former residents of these institutions. I am considering how best to facilitate that in the immediate term, in particular in light of current public health restrictions related to Covid-19.

The Collaborative Forum process, established by my predecessor as a representative body on these matters, was unfortunately interrupted by the general election and subsequent change in Government. In addition, it was necessary to put these meetings on hold in the context of the restrictions introduced in an effort to reduce the spread and impact of COVID-19. A number of members travel from outside the jurisdiction and, given the age profile involved, some members would also be categorised as being in the at risk groups identified by public health authorities.

From our experience to date, it is evident that remote meetings based on the use of technology would present additional challenges for an engagement process as sensitive as this one. However, I hope to make arrangements to engage with former residents and their advocates in the near future and my Department is examining how best this could be facilitated.

The Deputy may wish to note that a copy of the Collaborative Forum's report was provided by my Department to the Commission of Investigation for its appropriate attention and consideration in the context of its statutory investigations. When the Commission submits its final report in the coming weeks, the Government will be in a position to examine its findings and conclusions and engage with former residents and their advocates in formulating an appropriate State response. The significant work of the of the Collaborative Forum to identify the priority concerns of those most centrally involved will assist to inform this process. At that time it will also be possible to consider publication of the Forum's report subject to any further advices of the Attorney General.