Founder of the Irish First Mothers support group Kathy McMahon confirmed that the group has formally notified Children’s Minister James Reilly of its intent to challenge the process used to establish the investigation.
Ms McMahon said that the group’s challenge was grounded in the fact that the assistant secretary in the Department of Children and Youth Affairs is a former CEO of the Adoption Authority.
The group claims there is a conflict with “with her potential oversight of the inquiry via adjustments to its terms of reference under the minister’s order”, saying the current process violates the legal dictum of ‘nemo judex in causa sua’ — that one cannot be judge in one’s own case and thus justice cannot be seen to be done.
“I call people of goodwill towards birth mothers to assist us,” said Ms McMahon. “We cannot allow this already flawed inquiry to be further influenced by persons close to matters under investigation.”
In a statement, the department said it had been made aware of the possible legal challenge and the matter was under consideration by Mr Reilly.
“The scope of this investigation, including the process for its establishment and its comprehensive terms of reference, were decided by the Government,” said the department’s statement.
“The department is satisfied that the process to establish the commission complied in full with the legislative requirements of the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004.”
The department said that the inquiry was independent in the exercise of its investigations, and officials will have no role whatsoever in directing the investigations.
“The Government is confident that this commission, with the significant powers afforded under legislation, provides for an effective and transparent mechanism to examine these complex and sensitive matters while also respecting fair procedures and natural justice,” said the statement.