February 12, 2024
Closing the Commission of Investigation loophole ‘long overdue’ – Kathleen Funchion TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Children, Kathleen Funchion TD, has called on all TDs to support her upcoming bill which aims to close a loophole within the Commission of Investigation.

Former members of the commission will be compelled to appear before a relevant Joint Oireachtas Committee when this new legislation is to be debated on Thursday (15th February 2024).

Speaking on the bill, Teachta Funchion said:

“This legislation has been a long time coming.

“I was compelled to act following the manner in which the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation report was furnished to the Minister, coupled with the speed in which commission members discharged their duties, angered survivors and the public who rightly perceived a complete lack of accountability.

“This lack of accountability further intensified when a fuller picture emerged of the commission members account of Ireland’s notorious mother and baby institutions, which was in stark contrast to the reality many suffered in these institutions and continue to suffer to this day. 

“Marred in a litany leaks and breeches of the public’s trust, commission members used a legal loophole which enabled them to decline numerous invitations to appear before the Joint Oireachtas Committee for Children, Disability, Equality, Integration and Youth, a loophole this legislation will now close.

“We cannot in good conscious allow this level of unaccountability to be ever be repeated again, nor can we stand over it.

“The main objective of my bill is to ensure all future commission members cannot simply discharge their duties upon submission of their final report without a certain level of Oireachtas scrutiny. I am acutely aware that commission of investigations must remain independent and within the confines of what is legally permitted, but there must be a level of scrutiny that is lacking presently.

“This bill will strike the right balance. It sets out matters that are or may be the subject of court proceedings, matters relating to any facts established by the commission, certain matters relating to persons who are not identified in or identifiable from the final report and matters relating to evidence that is confidential.

“This bill will mandate for the appropriate examination by elected representatives to scrutinise the terms of reference and methodology, and to ask probing questions of commission members. I firmly believe we will continue to attract our most esteemed judges and academics to these roles, many I know felt uncomfortable with how the Mother and Baby Homes commission of investigations was handled.

“I am asking all TDs to support this bill which will ensure a level of fairness and accountability for all future commissions of investigation.”
 

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