Tag Archives: Catherine Connolly

Report in The Irish Times on Wednesday, January 9; Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone; debate in the Dáil last Thursday

On Wednesday, January 9 last, the Religious Affairs Correspondent for The Irish Times Patsy McGarry reported that the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation was to seek an extension of a year before publishing its final report which was due in February.

The report took survivors, family members and supporters of people who lived in the Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home by surprise.

Following on from the report in The Irish Times, Broadsheet contacted the Department of Children and Youth Affairs on January 9 and asked a spokesman to confirm if The Irish Times article was correct; if it was, to set out the reasons for the seeking of an extension; to outline when the MBHCI made the request for an extension of Government; and to explain when the survivors/survivors’ groups were informed of the request.

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone’s department responded at 5.45pm that evening, essentially confirming The Irish Times article, but without answering the other specific questions, stating:

“The Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes has written to the Minister to seek an extension to the time frame for delivering its final reports. The Minister is considering the request and will meet the Commission next week to discuss it further.

“The Minister will then respond to the request in consultation with her cabinet colleagues.

“The Minister has given a commitment to interested parties to communicate any updates in relation to the Mother and Baby Home issue in as timely a manner as possible.

“The Minister will use existing channels to communicate
with interested parties, including survivors and their advocates in advance of any public statements on this matter.”

Yet, when the matter was raised with Minister Zappone in the Dáil last Thursday evening by Galway West Independent TD Catherine Connolly, Dublin Fingal Independent TD Clare Daly, and Dublin South Central Independent TD Joan Collins, Ms Zappone said “the coverage was misleading”.

She also eventually confirmed, after being asked several times, that she had received the request from the commission in December.

Ms Collins said:

“I ask the Minister to correct me if I am wrong, but my information is that the report was finalised in early December last and had been sent to the Attorney General pending transmission to the Minister and the Cabinet.

“I have also been informed that more files from the HSE have emerged which is why, potentially, a further delay is being sought by the commission.

Survivors have been waiting anxiously for this report, as the Minister knows, and have been physically and emotionally shattered by the announcement in last week’s newspaper. It was a cold and calculated way to inform survivors and their families.

Some survivors in their 70s and 80s were outside the gates of Leinster House yesterday. They were cold and they were angry. It was a disgraceful way to treat these ageing people. Their rights and justice are being denied. Will the Minister please explain exactly what is happening and set out why there was no early warning of the proposed delay? These people are losing confidence in the Minister and her Government and in the commission.”

Ms Daly said:

“The request for a second extension from the commission is the last straw for many of us here and certainly for many of the survivors. The request should be refused.

“I am very curious to hear what the Minister’s attitude is and what level of warning she was given by the commission that this bombshell would drop a year almost after the last extension was granted. Many felt it was a step too far even then yet a year on, here we are.

“It is jaw-dropping to have a scenario in which four years later, we have had three interim reports comprising fewer than 40 pages between them. Of those interim reports, two sought more time while another focused on process. There have been no details and no findings and we must ask what in God’s name is going on in this gathering.

“As Deputy Joan Collins said, a suspicious person might wonder if things were being done in this manner so the community dies off.

The fact that they had to hear this as they did via a newspaper leak has caused more insult to them. In many ways, the process is as important as the outcome. The process here has been an abysmal failure and it has retraumatised many of the survivors.

“I do not necessarily blame the Minister and certainly not before we hear what she has to say. I assume she got the information. It is important for her to tell the House when she got it and whether it was flagged. If it was not flagged to her, why did the commission wait until the 11th hour? If it was flagged and everyone knew, why was it done like this? This is devastating and we need clarity around it. My attitude is that the request should be refused. It is too much.”

Ms Connolly said:

“Has the commission of investigation asked for an extension of time? If so, when was the request made, how was it made and how long has the Minister known?

“…From day one, there was confusion and delay. The third report asked for extension of time. While it caused real upset then, people accepted the assurance that the report would be published in February of this year.

“…Subsequent to what we found out in Patsy McGarry’s newspaper report earlier this month, it was claimed on the Department’s website that “reports in the media did not come from this Department and the speculation contained in these reports is inaccurate”.

“What specific inaccuracies are there? Has an extension been sought? If so, when and why was it sought? I will await the Minister’s answer before I give my opinion.”

In her response, Ms Zappone said:

“The scope of the investigation is broad. It was acknowledged at the outset that the timeframe was ambitious. I received the fourth interim report in December 2018. I met the chair of the commission, Judge Yvonne Murphy, last week to discuss the request for the extension of the timeframe for the delivery of the commission’s reports and to ensure I had a full understanding of the progress to date and the basis for the additional time being requested.

“I know it is important for the commission to complete this sensitive and complex work as soon as possible… There can be no shortcut to finding the truth.

“The interim report is short. Contrary to what the Deputies have suggested, it is not a proposal. It grounds the request for an extension of the timeframe to deliver the three reports from the commission by one year.

“As the request constitutes a change in the terms of reference of the commission, it is a matter for the Government to consider the request in reflection of its statutory provisions. Government approval is also required to publish the report. With this in mind, I intend to bring a memorandum to the Cabinet.

“I have already circulated a draft of the memorandum to Government Departments. I hope to have it on the agenda next week for discussion. Ahead of the Cabinet meeting, it would not be helpful to speculate on what the Government will decide.

I am conscious that the commentary on this issue in the media last week has caused distress and anxiety for those involved in this process. The coverage was misleading and did not originate from the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, as one of the Deputies mentioned.

“I reiterate my commitment to use existing channels to inform stakeholders of any developments in this area in advance of a public notice. I intend to make a public announcement following the Cabinet meeting to clarify the position for them….I will engage with stakeholders ahead of any public announcements. I hope to announce the details of the interim report as soon as possible.”

Ms Collins told Ms Zappone that she still didn’t answer her questions, namely when the commission requested an extension, if it was made at the beginning of December and, if it was, why weren’t the survivors not informed of this request before reading about it in The Irish Times.

Ms Daly said the essence of what was in The Irish Times article was correct – in so far as the final report will be delayed by a year.

She called for a report to be published in February outlining exactly what the commission has done to date, what needs to be done and a timetable of when the work will be done.

Ms Connolly said:

I am afraid I am not so sympathetic. I am holding the Minister to account because her answer is not acceptable. When and how was she approached by the commission in relation to an extension? Why are the grounds for an extension not set out in the Minister’s reply? Why do we not have a copy of the report? The lines that should demarcate who is responsible for what are being blurred.

“An independent commission of inquiry was set up. It has a duty to report in a way that we can see, read and look at. It is not acceptable that the Minister is not telling us where the report is, why we do not have it and what the grounds for the request are. It is ridiculous and utterly unacceptable that she is telling us there are grounds for the request but not telling us what those grounds are or when they were set out.

“The Minister referred to a meeting that took place last week. If there is a shortage of staff, as has been mentioned, we should know about that. If there is a reason the work cannot be completed on time, it should be made known to us in an open and accountable manner. That is the least we deserve in this Dáil so we can represent the people outside who have suffered greatly.

“The Minister knows well that I have attended many of the meetings. The anger on the ground is palpable. There was an absence of trust from day one. I went out on a limb to give the system a chance. Looking back on that, it was rather foolish. Since 2015, we have had nothing but delay, obfuscation and blurring of boundaries. The very least the Minister should do is tell us precisely when the request came and how it came. Regardless of the nature of the report the Minister has, she should publish it.”

It was after this contribution from Ms Connolly that Ms Zappone said the request was made in December.

She said:

“It is an interim report.

“There are procedures in terms of the establishment of the independent commission and the commission has requested an extension for the completion of its work. That request must be presented to Government, which must agree or not to it. Once that has happened, there will be the publishing of the report.

“That is the process and those are the procedures.

“I intend to do that at the next Cabinet meeting. When I have provided my Cabinet colleagues with the rationale for this, in addition to advising them of the discussions I had with Judge Murphy, which I sought as soon as I could subsequent to the presentation of that interim report taking account of the Christmas period, I will engage with my Cabinet colleagues and we will make a decision.

We will let the survivors and those primary stakeholders know. I will publish the report and we will publish our decision. Those are the proper procedures. The Deputies will know then what is the rationale in that regard. I am happy to come back to the House and discuss those issues with them.

“Second, as the Deputies well know, this is an independent commission and therefore there are certain things I can and cannot do. The commission has made this request and laid out its rationale. I am able to talk and have talked to it about that – I have spoken of that – to more deeply understand its rationale in this regard.

“Third, as I mentioned in my opening remarks, I know the Deputies – who represent the people concerned very well – would acknowledge I also am aware of how awful and difficult this news is for these people to receive. I understand that. I will be able to provide the Deputies with the rationale with regard to the response, and my own response specifically to what they have said, next week after I have given that to my Cabinet colleagues.”

Transcript via KildareStreet.com

Previously: ‘A Dishonest Exercise’

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From top: Taoiseach Enda Kenny; Independent TD Catherine Connolly of Galway West

This afternoon.

During Leaders’ Questions.

Independent TD Catherine Connolly raised the Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, Co Galway.

Specifically, she raised concerns about Taoiseach Enda Kenny using “carefully crafted words” to tell the Dáil, “no nuns broke into our homes to kidnap our children”.

And she recalled an interim report the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes gave the Minister for Children Katherine Zappone last September.

This interim report was to identify any matters that the commission felt warranted further investigation as part of the commission’s work and, recently, the Adoption Rights Alliance and Justice for Magdalenes Research groups have called on Ms Zappone to publish it.

Ms Connolly and Mr Kenny had the following exchange…

Catherine Connolly: “A shocking discovery, according to everyone, and particularly to yourself Taoiseach. But this is something that Galway has been aware of for a long time, highlighted by Catherine Corless back in 2014, in her painstaking and self-funded research.”

“By the witnesses, the many, many women who went before the commission of inquiry into child abuse which culminated in the Ryan Report, as far back as 2009. They told their stories about their experience in Mother and Baby Homes. It was brought to the attention of Martin McAleese when he concluded his report on the Magdalene laundries. So none of this is shocking to the survivors.

“What is shocking to the survivors, and to me, is the carefully crafted words that you’ve come into the chamber with. And, in particular, that you say ‘no nuns broke into our homes to kidnap our children’, ‘we gave them up to what we convinced ourselves was the nuns’ care’ and so on. I don’t doubt your bona fides, a thaoisigh, but I certainly doubt your judgement in reading that out, a carefully crafted speech with a sentence like that in these circumstances. My question: please answer. Where is the interim report that has sat with the minister since September last year? Please confirm that the site will be sealed off as any crime scene is sealed off.”

“Please confirm that records will be made available to those that are seeking them and somebody like Peter Mulryan doesn’t have to go to the High Court to seek the records of his sister. Please stop the hypocrisy…”

Enda Kenny: “That was the reason that a Commission of Investigation was set up and that has its independence with wide-ranging, wide-ranging terms of reference and it hasn’t actually reported its official findings yet. Nor indeed has the coroner declared what he considers the next step to be. The gardai have independent responsibility. What you’re asking me to do now, is to direct an independent commission to do certain things. The questions that you ask are valid questions and they do need to be answers and I expect that they will be answered. And you can refer to carefully crafted sentences if you like. The fact of the matter is: the nuns did not take the children out of the houses of Ireland. They were sent to these Mother and Baby Homes, in the vast majority of cases, by the families themselves. The disgrace that was wreaked upon parish after parish, simply because a young woman became pregnant, to give birth to a child…”

Connolly: I’m not sure if you’re completely and utterly out of your depth or that you just stick to prepared scripts. I really don’t know what the issue is. I haven’t asked you anything about the coroner, nor the guards. I specifically asked you, in relation to publishing an interim report that your minister has since September last year. There’s the reply. She is going to publish it. I’m asking you now to confirm, why it hasn’t been published? Eight months later? What’s in it that’s so frightening? What’s in it that prevents it being published? In relation to your commission and our shameful past, who made it shameful to have what was natural, a pregnancy and a baby? Who made that shameful? Who instituted that those babies were taken? Not directly by the nuns in the middle of the night but as a result of a visit from a priest or someone else doing their job.”

“Please don’t insult the women of Ireland on International Women’s Day and just, and answer the question: when is the interim report going to be published? Please confirm that the site in Tuam will be sealed appropriately. Please stop talking about a memorial at this point which is utterly premature and deal with the facts and the issues that the representative organisations are asking you. At some stage the Government has to learn.”

Kenny:Far from insulting the women of Ireland, I want to stand by finding out answers to these particular problems and these particular questions. And it is beneath you to take that line, deputy Connolly. Beneath you to take that line.”

“Now, the gardai themselves have a duty here. Certainly contact them if that site is not sealed off already. I haven’t read the interim report that Minister Zappone has. I’m quite sure she’s in consultation with people about this. I see no reason why the report cannot be published, the same as any other report. It may have to be in some redacted form, I don’t know. I haven’t seen it, I haven’t read it. I’m quite sure the minister will answer for that.”

“But I want you to understand this Deputy Connolly, I am as committed as anybody else to seeing that we deal with this for once and for all. I come from the west of Ireland, as you well know, and I can’t put a figure on the number of young women in my time, since the 1950s, who were sent away to foster homes or to other countries to have their children. Simply because they became pregnant out of wedlock. If you think that I insult the women of Ireland, by trying to do what I want to do here, in respect of our Government and our people, then you’re very much mistaken.”

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This afternoon.

During Leaders’ Questions.

Independent TD Catherine Connolly raised concerns about Galway University Hospital with Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

To begin with (before the clip above), Ms Connolly said:

“Taoiseach, it’s Galway University Hospital is at crisis point. This is a hospital that serves a core population of 800,000 people and six core counties. In addition, it serves a number of other counties, given it really a population of a million that it serves.”

“Taoiseach, it’s operating in code black alert – the highest emergency code, together with a full capacity on an ongoing and prolonged basis. As a direct result, quite clearly, the obvious things happen, elective surgeries have been cancelled, large numbers of people have been left on trolleys, reaching a peak of 50 at Christmas time.

“And, in addition, and directly arising from that, we have an ongoing review of an operation performed in a ward; we’re awaiting a review of a death of somebody on a trolley in their 80s; we’re awaiting the conclusions of a report in relation to spinal surgery, inappropriately carried out in some places and causing premature deaths in two cases.

We’re still awaiting confirmation that all of the recommendations of the Savita case have been implemented. In addition, we have very ill patients walking out of casualty on a daily basis and we have people with mental health problems being shoved through casualty.

“Indeed the capacity of the hospital, which is not a local issue nor a parochial issue, which I’ve said serves a million people, the capacity or rather the lack of capacity has placed it at number one on the risk register.

….In addition, we have a report, independently commissioned by the Saolta Group and in relation to the accident and emergency, the physical environment is shocking and disturbing and unfit for purpose. We have a submission from Saolta itself and the clinical director of the hospital, telling us that ‘The current ageing facilities of the hospital are not fit for purpose, do not provide an appropriate environment to safely manage the current and future care needs of the population of that region.”

Thanks Mick Caul

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Fine Gael TD Kieran O’Donnell, Fianna Fáil TD Lisa Chambers, Vincent Boland, Ireland correspondent at The Financial Times and Independent TD Catherine Connolly

Last night.

On TV3’s Tonight with Vincent Browne.

The panelists were Fine Gael TD Kieran O’Donnell, Fianna Fáil TD Lisa Chambers, Vincent Toland, of the Financial Times and Independent TD Catherine Connolly.

From the discussion:

Kieran O’Donnell: “Firstly, Vincent, America is made up of 50 states, right? So I see that as one..”

Vincent Browne: “Oh, really? 51 states.”

Catherine Connolly: “52 [inaudible].”

O’Donnell: “51 states, I stand corrected. 52, look, well, whatever. ”

Talk over each other

O’Donnell: “Companies have, in the main, pay federal tax, right? So I don’t buy the argument. Europe is made up of distinct countries with their separate tax laws, right? That’s number one. And I think that, number two, the Revenue Commissioners have operated independently of Government…they operate independently of Government and I think that’s why we have a situation whereby that, if Government ministers were aware of every ruling with or with the opinion given by Revenue Commissioners, people would say that’s interference, you can’t have it both ways, so, effectively we have a separation…”

Connolly: “I actually don’t want it both ways but ye want it both ways.”

O’Donnell: “We don’t.”

Connolly: “You do. You want to be part…”

Talk over each other

Lisa Chambers: “Catherine, is this a state aid matter or is it a taxation matter? State aid should not encroach on taxation matters and it is a fundamental principle..”

Vincent Browne: “I would say the opposite..”

Chambers: “It is a fundamental principle of taxation law that it should not apply retrospectively. This is going back 25 years. 25 years.”

Connolly: “That’s not accurate, sorry, it’s not accurate, it’s not 25 years.”

Browne: “This is quite wrong.”

Connolly: “That’s not accurate, the second thing is, we’re a part of Europe, ye have endorsed Europe, you’ve endorsed the Commission and their rules and now that it doesn’t suit you…”

Chambers: “But if one of the rules that… a country defines its own taxation law…”

Connolly: “One of the basic rules is you cannot give state aid selectively and that’s the crux here, on top of the other crux…”

Chambers: “But it’s a taxation matter…”

Browne: “Ah, Lisa…”

Chambers:It is not state aid, I’m sorry, it’s incorrect.”

Connolly: “The commission is saying that you treated Apple selectively. You gave them special treatment, compared with other companies. You’re saying ‘no we didn’t’.”

Chambers: “But why are you backing the commission and not your own country?

Connolly: “I’m not backing anything. I’m looking at the judgement.

Talk over each other

Vincent Boland: “It’s not a question of patriotism. It’s a question of law and of policy and of…”

Chambers:Sovereignty and taxation law.”

Watch back in full here

Thanks John Harrington

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 TV3’s Tonight with Vincent Browne last night; Independent TD Catherine Connolly

Last night, Tonight with Vincent Browne’s panel discussed the fallout of Brexit.

The panel included Sinn Féin vice president and Dublin Central TD, Mary Lou McDonald; retired Senior Lecturer Emeritus in Social Policy at Trinity College Dublin, Anthony Coughlan, Fine Gael TD for Dublin South East, Eoghan Murphy; and Independent TD for Galway West and barrister, Catherine Connolly.

During the debate, this is what Ms Connolly said:

I thought I’d reached an age where I wasn’t shocked. But to see Peter Sutherland saying that, ‘we must find a way to rerun this referendum’ or to see Tony Blair come out saying, ‘it has to be rerun’ actually has shocked me. I thought I was beyond shocked.

That’s number one.

Number two, like Anthony [Coughlan]. I didn’t think this Brexit was going to win, certainly after the murder of Jo Cox – I didn’t think. So I woke up to the result on Friday morning.”

I cannot believe what the establishment have done prior to Brexit, during Brexit and after Brexit.

I’m absolutely full of admiration for the English people who have stood up to a terrible bullying campaign. I would have no truck with anti-racism [sic], nor the famous poster with refugees, I abhor it and I appall it.

But to judge the 17 million people who voted for Brexit in that manner does the person who says that no service and does the people no service.”

They stood up and said ‘We see the EU for what it is’ or, at least, that’s what I’m taking out of it. Is it the start of a new dawn? I do not think so.

But I think it’s the first step in exposing the EU.

I thought it was exposed when we were forced to rerun the Nice Treaty. I thought it was exposed when we were forced to rerun the Lisbon Treaty. I thought it was exposed during the financial crisis but, unfortunately, the establishment, the politicians that were in power, plus the media, by and large, helped to stop that exposure.”

“I think it’s exposed again now and I think it’s open for us to grab that opportunity and not let the Right have the narrative or tell the story. It’s up to us to grasp it.

How could you possibly say that the EU is good, as it stands when we have a country where we have to get permission to build homes for our people – that came out recently the committee, that we have to get permission to fiddle with the fiscal treaty to get money, how can we possibly say that this EU is a social EU that allows 10,000 minors, unaccompanied minors go missing in Europe and we haven’t had one single urgent debate at EU level in relation to that.

On top of that, we have the Lisbon Treaty and I’m all for a social Europe, I’m all for Europe. However, the Lisbon Treaty, which I canvassed against and I canvassed against it after reading it in detail.

I would hope that there was scope in that Treaty to bring out social Europe but I’m afraid the emphasis is on the militarisation of Europe, page after page, and we made this point at the time. It’s in relation to the neoliberal agenda page after page, in relation to freeing up the markets.

There are good, there are good articles in it like the one I quoted in the Dáil that all democratic decisions should be made as near as possible to the citizen. That’s the dream. The reality is we have taken power repeatedly from local politicians, just as one example, so I would love if someone took this [the Lisbon Treaty] away, that was able to study it better than me and show us the way forward to bring out the social Europe.”

“But I think it’s dominated by clauses that have a neoliberal agenda and dominated by the militarisation of Europe.

Watch in full here (go to 27.05)

Earlier: A Choice Between Two Sides Of The Same Dismal Coin