TDs raise questions over costs associated with Mother and Baby Homes probe

Questions have been raised by TDs on the costs associated with the continuing Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes.

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone today confirmed an extension has been approved to the investigation. The Commission is now not due to publish its findings until February 2020.

The commission, established in 2015 to investigate living conditions of women and girls in 14 mother and baby homes and four county homes from 1922 to 1998, was initially due to publish its findings in early 2018.

A one-year extension was then granted by the government with findings due this month. But another extension has been approved.

Outlining the need to grant an extension, Minister Zappone said: "The Commission advised that it would not be able to deliver its report in the previously agreed timeframe. It requested an extension of one year to allow it to complete its work. Government has agreed to this extension and it is now due to submit its final reports by February of 2020."

The report includes an update on the work to date, including the personal experiences of 519 witnesses and the review of documents recently handed over the Department of Children.

However, despite the work, the Commission "is strongly of the view that it will not be possible to complete any of its reports in isolation from its companion reports", Minister Zappone said.

"If a decision had been made not to grant the extension sought, the commission would have been obliged to submit incomplete reports. Clearly, such a scenario would ultimately undermine its findings and impact," she added.

Among the outsanding work, according to the report, was the need to interview a further 26 individuals, some of whom are based in the US.

It also noted that 'extensive material' had been submitted by the Department of Health and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs but that it had 'only recently received the bulk of this material and further material is in the process of being provided'.

Documentation continues to be provided by the HSE, it added.

Independent TD Catherine Connolly and Independents4Change TD Clare Daly said further information about the cost of the investigation was needed.

Both TDs noted that despite the request for more time, the Commission had not sought additional funding to complete their work.

Ms Connolly said: "I accept that there is a pile of documentation but there has been no request for an increase in resources or staff or money. How can that happen?

"It was set up for a specific period of time. It has gone way over that time and, yet, there is no request for any increase in funding. That is very strange."

Meanwhile, Ms Daly added: "How in God's name can you have a commission set up with a budget of €21 million that goes over by two years?

"It is renting nice offices in Baggot Street for two years longer and employing people for two years longer than it is supposed to and, yet, the budget hasn't changed. How could that be?

"The sums don't add up - did we get the budget wrong or is there something wrong now?

"Either this has been done in a monumentally disastrous, ham-fisted way or there is something more sinister afoot."

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