Leaders' Questions (Resumed)

On behalf of the Social Democrats, I extend our deepest sympathy to the family of the late former Deputy Peter Mathews. He was a popular and committed figure in the last Dáil. We all miss his presence in this Dáil and extend our heartfelt sympathy to his wife, Susan, and family on his tragic passing after a short illness.

We find ourselves yet again discussing in the Dáil another scandal. This time it involves the most horrific treatment of one vulnerable person but possibly more. It involves, at best, negligence and utter incompetence on the part of State agencies. It involves inexplicable actions and delays on the part of An Garda Síochána. It involves the shocking treatment of one whistleblower and a lack of attention shown to two others. Of most concern, however, is the official obfuscation and that there has been little evidence of political determination to get to the truth and bring those responsible to account. Once more the response from the Government is the establishment of a commission of inquiry when what we need are answers and accountability now. At the heart of the case are criminal matters which should have been, and need to be, dealt with by the criminal justice system.

I have questions for the Taoiseach. Why did the HSE not disclose to Tusla the names of the people involved in key decisions in Grace's case? Did the Minister for Health direct the HSE to hand over this information to Tusla? Is it not entirely possible that some of the people who were involved in decisions concerning the care of Grace are still involved in child protection services? Can the Taoiseach give a guarantee that none of them is involved in child protection services?

Will the Taoiseach clarify the role of the Garda? What criminal cases are under way involving sexual abuse? Will the Taoiseach also clarify if there is a current criminal investigation of reckless endangerment involving the people responsible for taking key decisions concerning the care of Grace? Have the two expert reports been made available to the Garda and, if so, when was that done?

That is the reason we are having a commission of investigation. The questions the Deputy asked are very pertinent.

Will the Taoiseach answer them now?

No, I cannot.

The Taoiseach needs to answer them.

I cannot answer for the Garda as to whether there is a criminal investigation still ongoing, nor do I have information on whether personnel who were working at the time are still working in the child care area.

I have outlined all of the changes that have been made in terms of legislation. The Deputy says there is little evidence of political action. The political system responded on 2 February 2016 by agreeing because of the seriousness of the issues involved to set up a commission of investigation into Grace's case.

The terms of reference to be brought before the Cabinet and the Dáil by the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath, will possibly deal with the option of dealing with other cases that have been mentioned, but the first issue here is the Grace case. The Government does not take setting up such a facility lightly. That is the political response. I mentioned to Deputy McDonald that, because of the understanding that there were criminal investigations going on, the opportunity to publish both the Dignam report and the Resilience Ireland report was somewhat delayed. When legal advice was received that their publication should not be prevented, they were published promptly. These reports speak for themselves. The questions that Deputy Shortall asks are very pertinent, germane and central to the commission of investigation set up for that very purpose.

These questions are central and germane and they could be answered now, if the Taoiseach's Ministers took the trouble to ask the questions and had the legal power to insist on getting answers. As leader of this Government, the Taoiseach has a clear responsibility to find out what the current situation is. I asked him if he could give us a guarantee that none of the people involved in decision making around the Grace case are currently involved in child protection services. The Taoiseach can find that out today if he has a will to do so. He has a responsibility to give that guarantee to ensure that other children are not being put in danger.

The other question is in respect of the gardaí. The Taoiseach can find out today if the gardaí are involved in investigating a criminal case in respect of sexual abuse and, secondly, in respect of reckless endangerment by State staff. We need those answers now. The Taoiseach should stop kicking these issues down the road into a commission of investigation. He should do his duty, take his responsibility seriously and provide those answers to us now.

I take my responsibility seriously and that is why Cabinet decided collectively back in 2016 to set up a commission of investigation. If I were to say "yes" or "no" to the Deputy's question about criminal investigations-----

That is what the Taoiseach has been doing for the last year.

-----that would not solve any issue as to what happened here-----

The Taoiseach is not so special in Cabinet.

Deputy Shortall, please.

-----who was responsible or who is accountable to make sure that this cannot ever happen again. I do not accept the Deputy's premise that we are neither interested nor have we taken any action.

The Taoiseach has no credibility on this. He can find out-----

Deputy Shortall, please.

That is why we set up a commission of investigation to investigate these things and to get the answers to the questions that are raised. As I said earlier on in response to another Deputy, I am quite sure the gardaí will supply the Minister for Justice and Equality with the answer as to whether there is a criminal investigation currently going on.

Has the Taoiseach not asked for that?

The other question the Deputy asked was in respect of sexual abuse or endangerment. These are all questions that are going to be answered in full by the commission of investigation.

They could be answered today if the Taoiseach asked the question.

There would not be a need for it if I could answer that question now. This has gone on for years as the Deputy is aware.

The Taoiseach should stop long-fingering it.

It is a very serious issue-----

The Taoiseach is long-fingering all important decisions.

Deputy Shortall, please.

-----and that is why Government takes its response seriously, by setting up the commission of investigation.