Tag Archives: Catherine Connolly


Dail Eireann.

Independent Galway West TD Catherine Connolly spoke during a debate on the extension of Covid regulations under the Health and Criminal Justice (Covid-19) (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2021.

Ms Connolly said:

“At what point will this stop? I do not mean the ever-changing virus. I do not mean the need for us to make our people safe and have a public health structure on the ground that is fit for purpose and hospitals that are fit for purpose. When will the never-ending regulations without scrutiny stop?

I mean the ones that give the Minister unlimited power to decide I need three boosters to have a cup of coffee or I need five boosters to have a pint or six boosters to stay a couple of hours to have dinner. At what stage will that stop or has the Minister ever even thought about that?

“They are very serious topics that should be discussed. We should discuss where we are going with the pharma solution to this, which should be only one part of it. Of course, all the while the rich countries, including this one, seem to have endless pockets and the poorer countries have no access, and there is no equity of access for them.

“I indicated on Second Stage that I was against this Bill. I was keeping an open mind about amendments, but it seems that the Minister has indicated by his silence that he will not accept any of them. That is entirely unacceptable and undemocratic.

The approach of the Government poses the most serious threat to our democratic system and to the sense of solidarity we all should have with one another in dealing with the public health crisis.

Earlier: Beg For Pause


Dail Eireann.

During leader’s questions, Catherine Connolly raised the much-delayed redress scheme for former residents of Mother and Baby Homes and asked, why, after four years, children’s remains are still interred at Tuam?

Deputy Connolly said:

“My question relates to the promised redress scheme. There is a different name on it, but there is not a sign of it. I ask this question in the context of the finite group of people who are waiting patiently for the Government’s action.

“Notwithstanding their courage and fortitude, former residents of mother and baby homes are becoming more anxious, worried and vulnerable with each passing day, not to mention angry. The Government has a duty to act expeditiously, particularly in view of the background to this matter and the delay to date.

“On 19 January last, the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Deputy O’Gorman, said that the redress scheme would be drawn up by the end of April. An explanation was then given for the delay to the effect that there were many submissions.

“Again in July, we were told that the interdepartmental group had effectively completed its work. There was still no sign of its report, however. Then we were told it would be in the early part of the new term. We are now in the middle of the new term, and there is not a sign of the report.

“Will the Taoiseach tell me when details of the redress scheme will be published and accessible to those who are waiting, Uimhir a haon, and; No. 2, what communication has the Taoiseach had with the religious orders regarding their participation in the amount of money needed to fund the scheme?

“We have seen the report on television [‘The Missing Children on ITV] on Sunday night, to be broadcast on RTÉ [last night], in regard to Tuam, which is intimately connected with this question.

“More than four years ago,
an expert team went in and looked at it in response to the commission of investigation, which had a press release saying there were substantial human remains there.

“The expert team went in and one member is quoted in the documentary as saying: “I have never walked away from human remains in that context.”

“Their work was a scoping exercise to see what was there. They temporarily protected the site for six months and nothing has happened four years later.

“We are sitting here today after a series of mistakes and delays. A report from the commission that was in the Government’s offices from October last year was only published in January of this year and was never given to the former residents until afterwards, and so on. There is a whole list of other delays and obfuscations, not to mention the tapes and the press release saying they had been destroyed when, subsequently, it was found they had not been.

“I am conscious I am over time, but given that background, it is extremely important that the Taoiseach gives us a date today so we can have confidence and hope.”

Taoiseach Micheál Martin responded:

“In the context of the restorative recognition scheme, I can say to the Deputy that the interdepartmental group set up to develop detailed proposals for the scheme, taking into account the recommendations of the commission and going beyond that, has made recommendations.

“It was informed by consultation with survivors which took place during March and April, with a very strong response received to that consultation process. The Minister then considered that further and made proposals. The development of the scheme is a key priority for us.

“The Minister [Roderick O’Gorman] will be bringing a scheme to Cabinet shortly and there are consultations with the leaders of the parties now, and with the other Ministers, and I expect that this will be brought before Cabinet fairly quickly now, within the next number of weeks, if not sooner.

“We are anxious to get the balance right and to devise and approve a scheme that would be responsive to the survivors of mother and baby homes and county homes. I accept the delay is one to be regretted but, nonetheless, since the decision was made by Government to develop such a scheme, the Minister has applied himself to this very diligently, has worked with the groups concerned and has interacted with Government Departments and with external bodies as well from a human rights perspective. We do understand the importance of this and it will come to Government very shortly.

“In regard to Tuam, as the Deputy knows, the Minister and I would view it as imperative to afford the children buried at Tuam the dignity in death that has so long been denied them.

“He did prioritise the drafting of the proposed Bill. It is a very complex piece of legislation. That said, it went for pre-legislative scrutiny by the Minister, Deputy O’Gorman, in January 2021. Numerous submissions were made to the joint Oireachtas committee and a number of people gave powerful and moving testimony.

“The committee published its report on the legislation in July. The Minister is now carefully considering the recommendations from that process. His intention, following that consultation, is to publish the Bill by the end of the current parliamentary session and bring it through the legislative process as quickly as possible. He is going to do that.”

Ms Connolly replied:

“While I welcome that the Taoiseach talked about it being in the next few weeks, I have heard that since January so I ask him to forgive my reluctance to believe that. On the scheme, we have had ample time to learn from previous schemes.

In the redress institutional scheme we created an offence such that if somebody disclosed what they got, they committed a criminal offence. Then we set up the Magdalen scheme and the Ombudsman told us there was maladministration. Then we set up Caranua, which was an insult to the Irish language because we talked about a new friend when it was the old enemy in disguise.

We go on perpetuating the abuse, delay and obfuscation
. I want an exact date for when the redress scheme will be published. I want the Taoiseach to answer me about Tuam and the archaeologists.

The specialist forensic archaeologists protected the site for just six months and four years later, that site is not protected. We know from the sterling work of Catherine Corless that there are 796 death certificates but we do not know if that number of children and babies are buried there.

We do not just need to excavate the site to rebury them, which is extremely important; we also need to excavate to examine. It is time we grew up in this country and analysed and examined what happened so that we can look and learn from it.”

Taoiseach Martin said:

“The legislation was published and it went through pre-legislative scrutiny. It is intended to complement the Coroners Act 1962, in that it does not seek to undermine the authority of the coroner and prevent or prejudice any coronial investigation into what happened at Tuam. The Minister has acted assertively and proactively on the Tuam site with legislation.

“To be fair, what is envisaged is somewhat unprecedented but he is going ahead and doing it. Likewise, in respect of the birth information and tracing legislation, this is the first Government to produce such radical legislation in terms of access to information without hindrance and that no one can prevent.

“No one person can prevent access to any information sought and that would mean an awful lot to an awful lot of people out there. It has been in pre-legislative scrutiny in the Oireachtas for a fairly lengthy period and the Oireachtas joint committee is meeting people and so on. That is important legislation.

“On the Government’s intervention by way of the restorative recognition scheme, that will be before Cabinet within a matter of weeks. We were not hearing that all year because we could not. That was because the interdepartmental group had to deliberate on it for quite some time, which it has done and the scheme has come to Government. There are serious issues that have to be addressed by the Government in respect of the scheme. We will do so and the scheme will be back in the House.”

TD questions why mass grave of 796 babies at Tuam has still not been excavated four years after it was revealed (Independent.ie)


…Michael Kiernan writes:

That site is a crime scene and should have being excavated Immediately when It was discovered. Four years and still those bodies have not be properly laid to rest and investigated. Catherine has great patience to have to listen to this garbage day in and day out. I can see a day very soon where a Government like our current one, no longer exists and that people like Catherine will be leading us into a better future. The way it is now is a hellish existence…


Dáil Eireann at the Convention Centre.

Independent TD Catherine Connolly (above) returned to the Mother and Baby Home report.

Deputy Connolly addressed statements on RTÉ Radio One from former President Mary McAleese (top) that the report by the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes was ‘scholarly and profound’ and had “tremendous compassion”.

Catherine Connolly said:

“This is my second time to take part in this debate. My anger has increased, as has my sense of despondency. Once again, I will take courage in my hand, with my privileged position and decent salary, and speak up. If the Minister wants to put the survivors – I hate that word, but I will use it because they have used it themselves – to the fore, he might explain how there was a leak. He has had time to investigate.

He might explain why the survivors have not got copies of the full report yet. He might explain why Deputies did not have copies of the executive summary last week when they spoke in the Dáil. Does he think he could do that? These explanations were not included in his speech.

He might confirm that those who had the courage to go before the commission and the confidential committee will be given copies of their full testimonies. Could he do that? It would be a start. He might publish the report of the collaborative forum, which he mentioned in his speech. God help us, but he also mentioned that he would set up a new interdepartmental committee. Lord protect us from interdepartmental committees. He will also engage with the collaborative forum. Its recommendations were published in April 2019 but not its report.

Perhaps he might balance the power between an interdepartmental committee with no representation by a collaborative forum or survivors and the collaborative forum and the people on the ground. He might confirm that he will make full copies of the commission’s report available to all of us who want them, beginning with the survivors. He might explain how half of the €23 million that was allocated was used last October, although not to print a single copy. He might say that the Government made a mistake in having a webinar without giving out the report in the first place.

Enough on that for the moment and I will now turn to the report. The report refers to all of society. For a change, I will quote a philosopher rather than a poet. When one attributes blame in that manner, one has no responsibility. I touched on this point last week. I will cite Dr. Hannah Arendt, who was speaking in a different context but whose words are equally applicable to this report. According to her, the person who says that we are all guilty, as was the case in Germany, is unknowingly covering up for the ones who did it.

That is why we should not generalise guilt because doing so would be to cover up for the guilty. I do not believe that this finding has been laid out in the report unknowingly. I will bow down to anyone who has read its 3,000 pages – it is not possible. I have spent hours spending 500 to 600 pages. I have read the whole executive summary and what I was given by the Department.

I have read the chapter on Tuam, the statistical analysis of Tuam, the chapter on discrimination and the chapter on vaccines, to which I hope I will have time to return. I glanced at a few other chapters. All of this has taken hours and hours.

The Minister gave his speech, some of which I welcome in terms of the specifics for urgent legislation and access to records, including birth certificates, which is a basic human right. We did not need a report to tell us that, but I welcome it anyway.

However, when the Minister follows other recommendations without even listening to the people on the ground who have not had a chance to read the report, then he is doing exactly what was done to these mothers and children before, in that he is patronising them and carrying on a patriarchal mode.

Let us halt that for a minute and do what the Government should do, that is, legislate and provide access to records. It should set up an archive and so on, but bear in mind that the National Archives have been under-resourced for years. Is the Minister now making a distinction between the 18 institutions in question and the other institutions where mothers and babies were kept?

The report tells us that it is unrepresentative because it has only taken a sample. That is good. This point should have guided the conclusions, but the commission seems not to have followed it. As such, we have an unrepresentative sample and the report makes strong conclusions that are at odds with witness testimony.

The report then adds insult to injury on page 12, which shows a beautiful picture in autumnal colours, but all colour disappears quickly when one reads the witness testimony. That testimony jumps off the page – sexual abuse, rape, babies taken and an absence of any sense of understanding of the bond between mother and child.

This testimony should be preserved and acted upon, but the conclusions were that there was no evidence of forced adoption – I could not possibly accept this – and no evidence of pressure to put people into mother and baby homes.

[Fianna Fáil] Deputy Jim O’Callaghan reinforced the myth that society was responsible. It was not society, but the powerful in society, led by the church. I am not here to scapegoat nuns because the nuns reported to the bishop, who reported to the archbishop, who reported to Rome. What did our Governments do? They bowed down in deference. The Minister mentioned what our local authorities did. The county managers played a powerful role.

All of this has been set out in the report, but we are then told that the evidence from some of those who came forward – only residents, mind you – is “contaminated”. Sin an bhfocal – “truaillithe”. Imagine telling people who had the courage to come forward that some gave evidence that was contaminated. How many is “some”? In what way was their evidence contaminated?

Equally, was the same measuring stick used for the professionals that came before the commission? I refer to the doctors, priests, nuns, social workers and the witnesses from the county councils? The reason it was contaminated was because the former residents spoke to each other. Presumably, the nuns and the county managers did also, but their evidence was not contaminated.

I am not sure if the Minister read it. I am openly telling him that I have not read the report’s 3,000 pages. Our former President [Mary McAleese] tells us that she read it, and as a result of reading it she tells us it is scholarly and profound.

With the greatest of respect, I fundamentally disagree that this is scholarly and profound. If somebody has read 3,000 pages then he or she must have had the report before the Minister published it.

We will again look at the conclusions. There is a conclusion regarding vaccine trials. [Fine Gael] Deputy Naughten went through this forensically today. I have read that chapter. There is a paragraph in the summary that tells us that the trials did not comply with the regulations or the law at the time but, magically, there were no ill effects.

If one reads the chapter on the vaccine trials, one sees children getting sick with diarrhoea, convulsions and so on, not to mention the 10,000 deaths at a minimum, yet this commission of three people tell us there were no side effects.

They do not even pose a question on whether there could have been side effects or if more money changed hands. It was pointed out that it went to the doctors. Did more money change hands? What about the other trials? We only looked at seven institutions. Were there trials in other institutions? Does the Minister think the commissioners might have raised a question in regard to that?

Will the Minister indicate whether any of the three commissioners sat and listened to the 500 or so residents who came before the confidential committee? I know there was a tiny overlap of fewer than 100 between some residents who went to both. Did the commissioners sit in? This reminds me of paint-by-numbers pictures. Does the Minister remember that? One was allowed a little discretion in what colour one put into the number, but the picture was predetermined.

The picture was predetermined here because on page 2 the commissioners tell us that it might disappoint somebody that they are going against the prevailing narrative. That is to add insult on top of injury because they confirm the prevailing narrative of the powerful, which is that all of society was to blame.

They add insult to injury by even twisting language. The Minister has a golden opportunity to lead and to bring about transformative action and language. I will back him every step of the way, but he has got to lead. He must break away from the four and a half pages that he delivered here today, which is more of the same.”

Transcript via Oireachtas.ie

Video via Mick Caul

Tuesday: Eamonn Kelly: One Voise Raised In Anger

Last week: Hollow Applause


Catherine Connolly TD

This afternoon.

The Dáil, sitting in the Convention Centre.

Independent TD Catherine Connolly spoke during the motion on pay for student nurses and midwives.

She described Junior Health Minister Anne Rabbitte’s speech on how “exciting” the nursing career is as ‘disingenuous’. As was, she added, an ovation by TDs ahead of the debate for student nurses in the chamber.

Deputy Connolly said:

“The clapping. I felt embarrassed, I have to say, I clapped on two occasions. I did it with some, with some shame really, as I clapped for the nurses.

Because the hollowness of my clap and the hollowness of the clap of all of us was deafening really because, at the same time, we were in receipt of constant representations from nurses, student nurses who weren’t really being protected.

There was the whole debacle over the protective gear and all of that and then carrying out a huge burden without any payment. And then for a little while we brought in some payment for them and then took it away again, ostensibly because the situation has changed now. The situation hasn’t changed.

“Of course it has changed to the extent that we’re not using as many intensive care beds and there are not as many in hospitals but we’re actually going to face, as you well know, another surge in January or February.

Now what’s being asked here is a temporary measure as I understand it in relation to Covid and Covid is very much still with us and we talked about €18billion of extra funding going to businesses and rightly so and going to other organisations but not for student nurses, not the nurses on whom we depend.

And any study in a previous life, in psychology, any study that I ever read or looked at showed that people got better quicker as a result of interaction between nurses and the patient. I might add the porters and the cleaners as well if we treasured them and we should treasure them much better.

“But that was the greatest predictor of a patient getting better. Not the actual doctors which I pay tribute to them as well but that wasn’t the predictor of patients getting better…”

Earlier: Not All Heroes Get Paid

This afternoon.

Dáil Eireann, Leinster House, Dublin 2.

Following yesterday’s shenanigans…

…Independent TD and newly-elected Leas Ceann Comhairle [Deputy Chairperson of Dáil Éireann] Catherine Connolly  on her first day as the first woman in her role.

G’wan the Catherine.

Yesterday: ‘Potentially 15 Government TDs Voted Against Their Agreed Candidate’

RollingNews /Oireachtas TV

From top: Fine Gael’s Fergus O’Dowd and Catherine Connolly

This afternoon.

Amid sweary voting drama, Independent TD Catherine Connolly was elected the Dáil’s first female Leas Cheann Comhairle.

Via The Irish Examiner:

Ms Connolly beat the agreed government candidate, Fine Gael’s Fergus O’Dowd, in a further embarrassment to the Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Green Party coalition.

It’s understood the government had 84 available votes, with Mr O’Dowd only garnering 74. Sources say “a post mortem” was underway in the aftermath of the result, as the vote is held in a secret ballot, it is not yet known who defected from the government.

One source said that the suspicion is mostly within Fianna Fáil, who last night agreed in a parliamentary party meeting to back Mr O’Dowd “through gritted teeth” but there is potential some Fine Gael colleagues also voted against the government.

Seemed to go well.

Catherine Connolly is the first woman to be elected Leas Ceann Comhairle (irish Examiner)

Ms Connolly pic via John Campbell


Jack Chambers


Above:Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon on RTÉ Radio One this morning; Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty

This morning.

The Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon spoke to Miriam O’Callaghan on RTÉ’s Today with Miriam O’Callaghan.

It followed Ms Dixon’s finding that there is no legal basis for anyone to have to present a Public Services Card in respect of any transaction between a person and a public body outside the Department of Employment and Social Protection – such as obtaining a drivers’ licence, passport, education grants, etc.

And her finding that the supporting information that the 3.2 million card holders had to hand over in order to get their card – such as utility bills, proof of ID, etc – must now be deleted.

Ms O’Callaghan told listeners that the show sought an interview with the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty – who famously, in 2017, said the cards were  mandatory but not compulsory” – but she was not available.

Her spokesperson said she has received Ms Dixon’s report and that she will respond in “due course”.

Ms Dixon clarified a number of her findings outlined in her press release issued this morning.

In respect of her call for the destruction of data held on the 3.2 million card holders, she said:

They have to delete the supporting documentation that they collected. They do not have to delete the PSI dataset elements and what that Public Sector Identity set elements are are the name, address – the information that they extract and validated from the supporting documentation will not be deleted. Because existing cards are not invalid. It’s the supporting documentation that they must delete.”

In respect of how the card has been used – by departments outside the Department of Employment and Social Protection – Ms Dixon said that she has found other departments have recently been rowing back on demanding that a Public Services Card be presented.

She said:

“As far as we can see the only mandatory requirements at the moment, outside of the department itself, are from the immigration service for citizenship applications and the passport office for new adult passport applicants.

“So in fact, already, some of the bodies have rolled back and usefully so in light of our findings.”

She added:

“As I say, what the Government does from here, and what it intends and wants the system to be, is a matter for the Government.”

Asked by a listener if they should cut up and destroy their card, Ms Dixon said:

“No I hope it’s clear from what I’ve said that cards that have been issued are valid, can continue to be used to avail of free travel and if the individual asking is a benefit recipient from the department then they must still produce it as required.” 


Independent TD Catherine Connolly

Independent TD for Galway West Catherine Connolly also joined Miriam O’Callaghan this morning.

Ms Connolly said:

“As I understand it, the Department has had a copy of the draft report since August of last year and I’ve just heard Helen Dixon say that in August last year, notwithstanding that the Government had a copy of the draft report with all of these concerns, they simultaneously extended the requirement to have this card for other services.

“That in itself tells me something.”

Ms Connolly also said that since she started being a TD in 2016, she and other TDs have consistently raised the issue in the Dáil and the Public Accounts Committee.

She also paid tribute to a “female Irish Times” journalist who has been writing about the matter but failed to mention her name. Presumably Ms Connolly was referring to Elaine Edwards.

Ms Connolly said:

The response from the minister and the Government was patronising. They said they knew best. We were raising matters that weren’t relevant, that we were making a big deal out of nothing.”

She added:

“What has happened here is it was the introduction of an identity card by stealth. There may well be arguments for an identity card but they were never discussed in the Dáil. In fact, it was frankly denied by the Government.”

Ms Connolly also asked why no comprehensive business case was given the Public Accounts Committee for the roll-out of the cards – which is estimated to have cost €62million to date.

Listen back in full here

Earlier: Your Card Has Been Declined


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