As I recently advised the House, I am in the process of setting up a Selection Panel to oversee the independent selection of representatives to a Collaborative Forum of former residents of mother and baby homes and related institutions.
For the avoidance of any confusion, I would like to clarify that no invitations have issued to participate in the Forum itself.
The establishment of the Collaborative Forum is a new approach in the State’s response to the theme of “nothing about us without us” which emerged from my consultations with former residents and their advocates. This innovative approach will facilitate and empower former residents to actively contribute to decisions on matters of concern to them and their families.
I have published a Charter for the Forum which sets out the general functions of the Forum; provides a blueprint for its programme of work, and details key principles in the methodology and approach to be adopted in this important work.
The establishment of an effective selection process is essential to the successful commencement of this project. For this reason I have identified some key persons and organisations from the areas of human rights promotion and protection, former residents and their advocacy groups, and academics with professional experience in relevant areas to assist in this process.
The Deputy may wish to note that the umbrella organisation to which the Association of Mixed Race Irish are associated has been invited to participate in this selection process.
My Department has made the necessary contacts and I am awaiting confirmation of a response from a number of those approached.
Furthermore, officials from my Department were in contact with representatives of the Association of Mixed Race Irish last week to clarify the arrangements being made in relation to the Forum. My officials have assured the organisation that its members will be able to seek representation on the Forum in due course.
My Department will facilitate a comprehensive advertising campaign so that interested parties are made aware of the relevant details. This is an opportunity for former residents to create and drive forward a process that they can support and trust and actively participate in developing actions and solutions to address their concerns.
I strongly encourage all interested parties to participate in this process.