Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Thursday, 3 Jun 2010

Business of Committee

Before we adjourn, I wish to raise one matter, which is not related to today's business. Information has come into the public domain since we met last week that is relevant to a previous meeting on 4 March 2010, which was attended by witnesses from the HSE, including Professor Brendan Drumm and Ms Laverne McGuinness. Ms McGuinness stated at the meeting 14 weeks ago:

Twenty children have died in the care of the health services over the past ten years. Some of them died from natural causes, as a result of congenital defects, or by misadventure.

The information to which I refer has been released by the HSE since last week's meeting; hence, this is my first opportunity to raise it. According to the HSE, 37 children have died in the care of the health services over the last ten years, 19 of whom died from natural causes, while 18 died of unnatural causes. I am not satisfied, as a member of this committee, about the fact that information was given to us in public session which subsequently transpired not to be true, especially on an issue as important and sensitive as this. The HSE thinks it does not have a responsibility to come back and correct the record. We must bear in mind that HSE staff cannot be tackled in the Dáil Chamber; we can only ask them questions here.

The quote I provided was the direct answer given to a question I put that day. I want Ms McGuinness to appear here next Thursday morning to explain the difference between the figure she gave here in public session and those published last week. It is not on for public servants to come in here and give information that subsequently proves not to be true, thinking there are no consequences. It is too serious a topic to ignore, and we would be ignoring our responsibilities if we did not act when statements given on the public record were subsequently found not to be true. Next Thursday morning we are issuing our annual report, so we have a free hour. I want Ms Laverne McGuinness here in public session to discuss this topic.

I want agreement on this before we leave. It is not my fault there are so few of us here; that is the way it is. I could have interrupted business much earlier, but I did not want to.

We did have a meeting in private earlier at which we discussed the business for next Thursday's meeting, and everybody was present.

We should have discussed the Deputy's point there.

The reason I left it until this late stage was that the discussion with Ms McGuinness to which I referred took place in public session, and the HSE has since put information into the public arena. My discussion with Ms McGuinness and the HSE that day was in public; that is why I left it until now to raise the issue, even though it is after 2.30 p.m.

I would prefer to have discussed this earlier, when the full membership was here. However, since it is such an important issue, I feel the committee should accede to the Deputy's request.

Having said that, I believe there are other instances in which information has been given to this committee which has turned out to be untrue. For example, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, as well as the Minister for Finance, told us that our jurisdiction could not be extended to include the Dublin Docklands Development Authority without legislation, although it was since stated in the Dáil that it could be done through ministerial order. We did not receive the courtesy of a correction of the record from either Department. This is happening too regularly.

I agree totally with the Deputy.

We must put down a marker. On another occasion, officials from the Department of Finance dodged a question at a meeting of the committee by saying they would send the answer in writing; however, three weeks later we received a letter saying the information could not be provided. I would have preferred to tackle that on the day. The idea of witnesses saying something in public and then releasing different information without informing the committee is unacceptable. We must watch our corner to make sure what is said here stacks up. Out of courtesy to Ms McGuinness, I would prefer if somebody contacted her about this, so she does not hear it indirectly. The reason I raised this today and not last week or the previous week is that the information in question was released only last weekend.

Do we agree on that proposal? Agreed. We stand adjourned until next week — I must change my script now.

What time are we meeting next week?

We will meet at 10 a.m. next Thursday. We have the launch of the annual report at 11.15 a.m., so in view of what we have just agreed, we may adjust the timing of the launch until later that morning.

The committee adjourned at 2.35 p.m. until 10 a.m. on Thursday, 10 June 2010.