The children’s minister says the government needs more time to decide how to respond to certain recommendations in the report
The children’s minister has revealed that the publication of a government report into mother and baby homes has again been delayed.
Katherine Zappone was due to release the second interim report of the Oireachtas Commission of Investigation by the end of March.
Speaking in the Dáil today, Minister Zappone said the government needed more time to decide how to respond to some of the recommendations in the report before publishing them.
The report has been in the possession of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs for eight months, since July of last year.
The minister said she aims to publish “as soon as possible” adding that she had briefed her Cabinet colleagues on the situation this morning.
“I am very conscious that it has not been possible to publish the second interim report so far,” she told the Dáil. “This is for very good reasons, and I can assure the House that I have no wish whatsoever to delay it unnecessarily.”
“I expect to be able to clarify the time-frame for completion of the Government's deliberative process within the coming week.”
The Labour Party spokesperson on children and youth affairs, Jan O’Sullivan expressed her disappointment at the delay.
She questioned whether the hold-up was linked to reports that the commission had recommended that the state’s redress scheme for victims of residential child abuse be extended to mother and baby home survivors.
The cost of the first scheme totaled €1.5bn up to the end of 2015.
“If this is the case, the women who lived at the homes and their relatives have a right to know,” said Deputy O'Sullivan.
“I am calling for Minister Zappone to publish the report on schedule, even if the full Government response is not yet ready.
“The public - and importantly the people directly affected by the mother and baby Homes across the country - deserve to see this report."
Minister Zappone said it “would not be helpful” for her to respond to media speculation on the contents of the report - but confirmed that certain aspects of the recommendations extend beyond her remit.
She said she has been engaging with her Cabinet colleagues on the recommendations but insisted the government needed time to decide how to respond.
“This has proven extremely challenging,” she said. “I am very happy to say that there is significant engagement across Government departments to find that way,” she said.
“I have decided it is more helpful if the Government can have a little more time to formulate a plan for responding to the recommendations of the commission.”
Sinn Fein spokesperson on Children and Youth Affairs Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire said the continue delays to the reports publication have “gone beyond the point of being farcical.”
“There is no justification for such a delay,” he said. “It appears as though the Government are deliberately dragging their heels on its publication - and that is purely for political reasons.”
“This is a completely cynical move on their part and, quite frankly, insulting to the victims and survivors at the centre of this Investigation.”
Mr Ó Laoghaire said it is his understanding that the report contains no recommendation to expand the terms of reference of the investigation.
Earlier this month, the Minister committed to carrying out a "scoping exercise" to examine whether the Commission of investigation should be expanded to include other homes around the country.
“It is also my understanding that the report contains a recommendation of redress for those whose lives have been dogged by the trauma experienced in these institutions," he said.
“This report is not just another one to be shelved.
“It is integral to us identifying whether or not what the Government has done to date is adequate.”
Minister Zappone said she has further meetings scheduled with Cabinet colleagues this week and is hopeful that she will “soon” be able to publish the report.
“I acknowledge that the process has taken longer than I initially envisaged,” she said. “I am very sensitive to the expectations of former residents and their advocates who want to see the contents of the report.”
The minister said her department will contact representative groups before any public announcement.
She insisted that the time taken by the government is not hindering the progress of the commission’s ongoing investigation.