The Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes was established by Government in February 2015 to investigate concerns related to the institutional care of unmarried mothers and their babies during the period 1922 to 1998. The Commission is tasked with providing a full account of what happened to vulnerable women and children in these institutions.
The scope of the Commission’s remit includes several specific areas of practice and procedure in the care, welfare, entry arrangements and exit pathways for the women and children who were residents of 14 named institutions and the representative sample of County Homes identified by the Commission.
The Commissions of Investigation Act 2004 provides an effective mechanism to investigate complex and sensitive matters of significant public concern. The Act gives the Commission robust powers to compel persons to produce information and answer questions. It is important to recognise that a statutory Commission is fully independent in the conduct of its investigations. The precise approach to examination of evidence are matters for the Commission to decide and progress.
The Deputy may wish to note that the Commission's terms of reference do not require the Commission to make any findings or recommendations on redress.
While I am aware of calls for redress as an interim step, the Government has already clarified that it is not possible to consider such matters in advance of the findings and conclusions of the Commission. When the Commission delivers its final report, its conclusions on all matters regarding the treatment of former residents of Mother and Baby Homes will be taken into careful consideration when determining the State's response.
In the interim, the Government has agreed to consider supports and services to respond to the identified health and well-being needs of former residents. In July of last year I established the Collaborative Forum, as a progressive response to the theme of “nothing about us without us” which emerged from my consultations with former residents of these institutions. This innovative approach has empowered former residents to actively contribute to the Government's deliberations on matters of concern to them and their families.
The Forum has recently submitted its first report to me and I will be bringing my recommendations to Government in the coming weeks.