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'The correct thing to do': Mother and Baby Homes Commission members urged to appear before Oireachtas committee

Tánaiste Leo Vardakar said the authors of the report should come before the Oireachtas “without delay”.

The survivors must be the number one priority, a spokesperson for the Taoiseach said.
The survivors must be the number one priority, a spokesperson for the Taoiseach said.
Image: Sasko Lazarov

Updated Jun 3rd 2021, 4:45 PM

AUTHORS OF THE Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes report should engage with the Oireachtas Children’s Committee, a spokesperson for the Taoiseach has said.

“The survivors must be the number one priority. The Government is committed to following through on the recommendations of the report, in particular with the Information Tracing Bill, the Memorial Centre, the protection of records and redress.

“We are working with the Minister for Children on that.

“It would be very helpful, and the correct thing to do, for those who were on the Commission to engage with the Oireachtas Committee and to outline their perspectives on the inquiry,” they said. 

The comments come after Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said this afternoon that it’s “not acceptable” that representatives from the Commission have not answered questions about their findings.  

The Oireachtas Children’s Committee has previously made a request for chairperson of the Commission, Judge Yvonne Murphy, to appear before it but this has not taken place. 

One of the three commissioners, Professor Mary Daly, yesterday spoke via Zoom to a history event by Oxford’s Hertford College, defending the much criticised final report

Before that appearance, none of the three commissioners involved in the investigation have spoken at a public event about their work. The third commissioner is Dr William Duncan. 

Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon, Varadkar said that it was “not acceptable”  that the members of the commission have not “explained their report”. 

“Essentially the report was left on our desks,” Varadkar said. 

The commission members did not engage with the Oireachtas and did not engage with the survivors, either to explain the report or to tell us how they came to the findings they did or to answer any questions. And I think that was not the correct course of action on the part of the committee members.

He added: “I can see no excuse now, and certainly no valid reason for the commission members not to be willing to do that. And to do that without delay.”

Labour leader Alan Kelly TD had called on the government to “repudiate” the report and said that it should be “done again”. 

“This government is going to have to put forward proposals for a new commission to actually finally have some justice to these women, they all deserve it,” he said. 

It was revealed during yesterday’s appearance by Daly at the Oxford event that the Commission had discounted the testimony given by hundreds of survivors to the Confidential Committee when coming to its conclusions. 

The Commission heard evidence via two Committees: the Investigation Committee and the Confidential Committee.

Daly said that the Confidential Committee was there “to listen to the experiences” of survivors and had a different legal weight to evidence provided to the Investigation Committee. 

This is disputed by a number of legal experts, who have said that Terms of Reference for the Commission gave it the ability to rely on the testimony given to the Confidential Committee “to the extent it considers appropriate”.

Speaking about yesterday’s revelations, Kelly said the Commission was “fundamentally flawed from the beginning”. 

Varadkar said it was important the the Commission members “clarify how they treated the evidence and testimony given by women and survivors to the Confidential Committee”.

“There is a difference between evidence and testimony. On the one hand proof and establishing fact, on the other evidence can be true testimony and can be valid but it doesn’t constitute proof, it doesn’t constitute a fact unless it’s been open to challenge,” Varadkar said. 

Speaking on RTÉ’s News at One this afternoon, chair of the Oireachtas Children’s Committee Kathleen Funchion said that the members of the committee are “very angered and frustrated” that the members have “snubbed our invitation” before appearing at the academic event. 

“I think it was extremely disrespectful and extremely insulting to survivors that she chose to speak publicly at a forum about a report that was about their lives and yet she totally refused to come before the Oireachtas committee or even directly engage in some forum with survivors,” she said. 

Funchion added that some of the questions that need to be asked relate to the “language and tone” of the report and the finding that there was “no evidence of forced adoption, despite evidence that contradicts this”. 

Speaking on the same programme, Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman also said it was “not appropriate” that the first public discussion of the report took place in a “restricted event”. 

He echoed the call for the members of the Commission to come before the Oireachtas to “clarify urgently” how the evidence from survivors was dealt with. 

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He added that he did not expect they would refuse to come before the committee. 

“The Commissioners have been deeply involved in this for five and a half years, they’ve met with so many survivors, they’ve read the material they know what survivors have suffered and I suppose I’m hoping and I’m inviting them to act in a compassionate way, that they will see the degree of upset that these particular comments have caused, and I think the best way that that can be resolved is through that respectful dialogue at an Oireachtas Committee,” he said. 

O’Gorman added that any prospect of “setting aside” the report could have a “major impact” on the proposed redress scheme for survivors. 

- With reporting by Órla Ryan and Christina Finn

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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