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If government extends term of Commission we need to know it will serve a purpose - Varadkar

The Tánasite said he could not make a commitment today that it would be extended beyond 28 February.

TÁNAISTE LEO VARADKAR told the Dáil today that he cannot make a commitment that the term of the Mother and Baby Homes Commission will be extended beyond the end of the month.

A number of TDs and Senators asked if the Commission’s term could be extended beyond the 28 February in order to answer some outstanding queries, in particular, the concerns around the destruction of recordings of the women’s testimonies. 

A number of witnesses have also said there are inaccuracies in how their testimonies are presented in the Commission’s final report.

People Before Profit’s Bríd Smith said she was appealing to the Tánaiste today to ensure that the term of the commission is extended. 

She said survivors are calling for the extension, appealing to Varadkar to “do your best to get this done”.

“We’ve let them down with the commission report, we’ve let them down massively by destroying their records, their own records without their permission. Can we please do this one thing, and extend the lifetime of the commission to allow investigations into what happened those precious records,” said Smith.

Varadkar told the Dáil that in his view, the commission “did a good job”, but acknowledged there were some “big flaws” Varadkar said. 

“One big flaw is the fact that when the commission reports, it reports. And it’s almost left to the government to explain the report, even though it was not our report,” he said.

He said the second flaw is that many of the survivors didn’t get the opportunity to tell their story in public, like they wanted to.

Varadkar said the Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman is liaising closely with the commission and the Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) “to ensure these matters can be appropriately addressed by the Commission and the minister is committed to having robust processes in place for the management of the archive”.

Additional time

O’Gorman is “exploring all avenues that would best serve the interests of survivors”, said Varadkar, adding ”at this point it’s his view that additional time wouldn’t assist in any way”.

When asked about the extension again by Social Democrats TD Jennifer Whitmore, he said:

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“I’m not saying that we wont to extend it, I’m saying that the minister is giving that consideration, but that if we do extend it, we want to know that it’s actually going to serve a purpose, to help us solve the problem that has arisen around the audio recordings. We don’t know if they’re recoverable or not. I think that that’s the question.”

O’Gorman is engaged with the commission, the DPC, and the Attorney General on the matter of the possibility of an extension, said Varadkar.

He said such a move raises legal questions and has implications for the operation of future commissions. 

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