Children’s Minister James Reilly is to seek Oireachtas approval for the establishment of the inquiry into mother-and-baby homes before Christmas.
He told yesterday’s meeting of the committee on health and children it was “absolutely his intention” to complete a plan outlining the inquiry’s terms of reference in the next number of weeks.
Dr Reilly said he was meeting with opposition spokespeople and other interested parties to update them on emerging issues and to seek any further views they might have.
He was anxious to achieve the widest possible consensus at this critical stage of the process.
At the heart of the matter was a desire to get to the truth of the allegation that the bodies of hundreds of children were buried at the mother-and-baby home in Tuam, Co Galway.
There was also a clear consensus around the need to thoroughly examine the manner in which Ireland treated many mothers who babies in mother and baby homes.
Dr Reilly said many of the groups he met had issues that were wider than the issue of the mother and baby homes.
His overriding concern was that the Commission of Investigation into mother- and-baby homes might be flawed if the terms of reference were too wide.
Dr Reilly said the commission could not be viewed as a vehicle to inquire into all matters where there was a deficit in the treatment of people.
“If we don’t get this bit right we could end up in protracted, prolonged tribunal that fails to address the issues which Oireachtas Eireann asked us to address,” he said.
However, survivors of the Westbank Orphanage in Wicklow and other Protestant children’s institutions have expressed concern that they are to be excluded from the inquiry.
After meeting Dr Reilly, the Bethany Survivors’ Campaign said it was clear to them the experiences of children— while in these institutions and after they left— would be excluded from the inquiry.
Westbank survivor Victor Stevenson said the group had been told previously it and other Protestant institutions would be included in the inquiry.
“James Reilly’s predecessor, Charlie Flanagan, said when we met him he was anxious to include Westbank and the other institutions, besides Bethany Home,” he said.
“I asked if I could quote him on that and he said ‘yes’. What has changed? Why are we out in the cold all over again?”
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