HIQA believes there has been a "deficit" in legislation which prevents it from holding nursing home providers to account.
The Health watchdog has been appearing before the Oireachtas COVID-19 Committee on how the virus spread through nursing homes.
HIQA confirmed that it does not have the power to carry out inquiries into individual cases within nursing homes.
It says that it has been calling for greater powers since 2013 to be able to hold institutions to account.
Its CEO Phelim Quinn said: "The regulations as they currently stand would not have been adequate to deal with a pandemic such as COVID-19."
He said that HIQA has been "highlighting deficits" in the regulations for the past seven years.
It also spoke about the impact the pandemic has had on current residents.
On recent inspections, some older people spoke of their fear of contracting the virus.
Others felt a deep sense of isolation and loneliness as a result of the visiting restrictions.
However, it was HIQA's powers, or lack thereof, which quickly became the talking point, something Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane took issue with.
He told the committee: "I would suggest to the Government representatives that rather than calling on HIQA to do something that they cannot do, they would be better served actually giving HIQA the powers to carry out these investigations and inquiries."
HIQA's recent report into Nursing Homes made 86 recommendations, which it says a large number of them need to be implemented immediately.
Reporting by Andrew Lowth