Written Answers. - Madonna House Report.

Helen Keogh

Ceist:

21 Ms Keogh asked the Minister for Health whether he will refer the Madonna House report to the Joint Committee on the Family in the same manner as the Kelly Fitzgerald report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8756/96]

David Andrews

Ceist:

36 Mr. Andrews asked the Minister for Health if he will publish the reports of the investigations into the cases of Madonna House and a farmer in the west following the publication of the Kelly Fitzgerald report; the progress, if any, which has been made in respect of the introduction of mandatory reporting of child abuse allegations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8808/96]

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

50 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Health if he intends to refer the Madonna House report to the Joint Committee on the Family; and if so, when. [8965/96]

,Limerick East): I propose to take Questions Nos. 21, 36 and 50 together. I dealt with the question of the publication of the Madonna House report during my address to the Joint Committee on the Family last Wednesday, 24 April, and I will repeat what I said then for the benefit of the Deputy.

It is important to understand that there are significant differences between the Madonna House and Kelly Fitzgerald reports. The report of the inquiry into Madonna House was commissioned by the Sisters of Charity, who were responsible for the operation of the home until its closure in 1995. Many of the allegations made in the case of Madonna House have never been tested in court and are, at the moment, allegations only. A new allegation of abuse of a child at Madonna House was made recently. This allegation is currently being investigated by the Garda Síochána, in co-operation with the Eastern Health Board. In addition, there are a number of civil actions pending against the Eastern Health Board and the Sisters of Charity. These claim damages against the defendants for assault, negligence and breach of duty. This situation is in direct contrast with the Kelly Fitzgerald case where, as far as I am aware, there are no civil or criminal proceedings, pending or threatened, arising from the subject matter of the report.

I wish to reiterate my firm intention to put as much of the Madonna House report into the public domain as is legally possible. Arrangements for the publication of as full a version of the report as possible, including the full recommendations, are almost finalised and I expect to be in a position to make an announcement on publication next week.
As regards the west of Ireland farmer case I have been informed by the health board in question that the work of the group established to review the board's involvement in the case has been suspended on the legal advice of senior counsel. Therefore, the question of publication does not arise as no report has been completed in this case. However, the board has explained to me that it is their intention to have the review group resume their work as soon as is practical and to publish the report, subject to legal constraints.
Putting Children First, the discussion document on mandatory reporting which I launched on 29 February, has been widely circulated to professionals and interested parties in the child care area. To date, a number of submissions on the issues raised in the discussion document have been received in the child care policy unit of the Department of Health. I am heartened by the thoughtful and caring responses which have been received to date on this complex and sensitive subject. The initial deadline for receipt of submissions was 30 April. However, as I announced on Monday last, I want to ensure that all interested parties get a full opportunity to participate in the consultative process which I initiatied on mandatory reporting. While I am anxious to make an early decision on the issue, I am aware of the practical difficulties which many of the larger organisations had in consulting their members and compiling comprehensive submissions. I wish to take the views of all interested parties into account in relation to mandatory reporting and arising from numerous requests, I have decided to extend the deadline for the receipt of submissions on Putting Children First to 31 May 1996. Following the receipt of all submissions, it is my intention to provide opportunities for interested parties to come together to discuss comprehensively the issues involved.