Government to set up Commission of Investigation into response to complaints against Bill Kenneally

The commission will take up to one year to report

Government to set up Commission of Investigation into response to complaints against Bill Kenneally

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan at Iveagh House in Dublin | Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

Updated 19.45

The Cabinet has approved a proposal to establish a Commission of Investigation into the response to complaints or allegations of child sexual abuse made against Bill Kenneally.

The Government also approved the appointment of retired Circuit Court Judge Barry Hickson as sole member of the commission.

The Houses of the Oireachtas will now be required to pass motions so that the commission can be formally established.

This is expected to take place in the coming weeks.

Kenneally, a former basketball coach, is currently serving a 14 year prison sentence in relation to 10 sample counts of indecent assault against minors - which took place in the 1980s.

A number of survivors of that abuse have claimed that the State and other bodies failed to intervene sufficiently in order to prevent him continuing to abuse children.

They allege there was collusion between An Garda Síochána, the Catholic Church authorities and elements within the political system, which prevented Kenneally from being arrested and charged at a much earlier stage.

As a result of these concerns, the Government agreed in principle on May 30th 2017 to establish a Commission of Investigation.

The commission will be called the 'Commission of Investigation (Response to complaints or allegations of child sexual abuse made against Bill Kenneally, and related matters'.

'Pending criminal prosecutions'

Following a Cabinet meeting, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said: "This is an important day for the survivors of abuse committed by Bill Kenneally.

"I and my officials have consulted closely with the victims and their legal representatives on the draft terms of reference which Cabinet noted today.

"I am particularly conscious of the importance of ensuring the commission does not impact upon any pending criminal prosecutions and, accordingly, I have consulted with the Attorney-General and the DPP who will monitor the commission proceedings.

"I have always been conscious of balancing the rights of the survivors who have come forward and made allegations more recently to have their allegations fully investigated against the rights of those who have sought to have these very important matters investigated by a commission."

Minister Flanagan added: "It could well be that more people will come forward now that the Commission has been established.

"Obviously every effort must be made to ensure that the Commission doesn't engage in anything that might cut across the Garda investigation or the criminal proceedings that are underway."

The Justice Minister said he will seek time in both Houses of the Oireachtas in the next fortnight for a debate on these issues and a vote on the necessary motions.

Once the approval of both houses is received, the Government will formally set and publish the terms of reference and establish the Commission of Investigation.

It is thought the commission will take up to one year to report, and and will be held predominantly in private.

However there is scope to hold certain parts of the commission in public, and this will be done at the discretion of Mr Justice Hickson.

A budget of approximately €1.3m has been set aside for the commission, to include all reasonable third party and witness costs.