In The Sunday Times.
Further to Health Minister Simon Harris’s announcement that he is to establish a Commission of Investigation into CervicalCheck in September…
Justine McCarthy wrote:
After all the skeletons Ireland has unearthed in the recent decades of shameful revelations, the main lesson the state has learnt is how to bury them again.
This sinking realisation lends a horror movie tone to health minister Simon Harris’s announcement that, come what may, he is going to establish a commission of investigation into the CervicalCheck scandal in September.
For, if he does, the whole rotten mess will be swept into a forum that has been designed to be as impenetrable and as impervious to public scrutiny as Fort Knox.
…What part of transparency does the government fail to grasp as it plans to brush the official state inquiry behind the closed doors of a commission of investigation?
Once in there, the shutters will be legally pulled down against the public’s gaze. Its hearings may not even be reported by the media. Indeed, under the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004, anybody who divulges what goes on at a commission “is guilty of an offence”.
Investigation commissions are the Irish state’s Da Vinci code. Anybody who knows even a smidgen about the Vatican archives understands that the truth can find many hiding places in the dark.
You can have the strictest and fairest chairman or chairwoman in the world, but once a commission is a no-go area for observers, the potential to spot false assertions is restricted. Legalism has an uncanny habit of getting in the way of the truth.
…As Harris contemplates establishing a CervicalCheck commission he might also contemplate why the mother of “Grace”, a pseudonomised, nonverbal, intellectually disabled woman, has stopped co-operating with the commission investigating her case.
Grace was left for 13 years in a foster home after a complaint of sexual abuse was made. After a whistleblower exposed what had happened, the HSE repeatedly misled the PAC, even asserting it had formally apologised to Grace when it had not.
As politicians have a genetic immunity to the adage of once bitten, twice shy, it would be foolish to expect them to learn from the past.
Therefore, before one more commission is established, the law that created them ought to be amended, requiring them to do their business in public, with special exemptions allowable on application.