Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Questions (415)

Denis Naughten

Question:

415. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice the reason the coroner has not been called to the site of the burials at the Tuam mother and baby home; if the coroner will now be called in; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2281/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I understand that the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes first formally notified the Coroner for North Galway on 2 March 2017 of its discoveries at the Tuam Mother and Baby Home. Both the Coroner and the Gardaí provided any cooperation requested by the Commission during its work at the Tuam site. However, I understand that there is no active investigation being conducted into the Tuam discovery by the Gardaí or by the Coroner.

The Coroner is an independent quasi-judicial officer and it is a matter for him how to conduct any death investigation in accordance with his statutory functions, on the basis of the information made available to him.

The Final Report of the Commission does not recommend any particular action on behalf of the Coroner with regard to the Tuam site.

The Minister for Children, Disability, Equality, Integration and Youth will progress the Certain Institutional Burials (Authorised Interventions) Bill, which will provide for the establishment of a dedicated agency, by Government Order under a sponsoring Minister for a specific site, to undertake where necessary, a forensic standard excavation, exhumation and, where possible, identification of discovered remains, and provide for their respectful reinterment.

This legislation will support intervention at the Tuam site, and any other site, where intervention is reasonably required based on the manifestly inappropriate nature of the interments.

This is a bespoke approach to address the very sensitive matter of the discovery of human remains at the Tuam site. The approach will effectively displace the relevant role of the Coroner, by disapplying the exhumation process in section 47 of the Coroners Act 1962. This is the most appropriate means to address the particular needs arising in my view.

I support the approach proposed by Minister O'Gorman and have assured him of the full co-operation of my department and its agencies in implementing the actions set out in the legislation.