Oireachtas should not interrogate mother and baby homes inquiry members – Martin

Members of commission have not replied to calls to appear before Oireachtas committee

The Oireachtas should not "interrogate" members of State-appointed commissions of investigation, but a means to allow "a proper exchange of views" needs to be found, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said.

“I don’t believe the Oireachtas committees should interrogate commissioners, but I do think we have to work within the Oireachtas to work out what are the best models of inquiries to allow for the proper exchange of views,” he said in Cork on Tuesday.

The three members of the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation – former judge Yvonne Murphy, Dr William Duncan and Prof Mary Daly – have not replied to calls to appear before an Oireachtas committee.

Last week, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar told the Dáil the authors of the commission's report should come before the Committee on Children, following anger after Prof Daly's appearance at an Oxford seminar.

Mr Varadkar said the commissioners had not engaged with the Oireachtas or the survivors, either to explain the report or say how they came to the findings they reached, or to answer any questions.

And Mr Varadkar claimed such engagement had taken place “for previous reports of this nature – the Ryan report, the Scally report, the McAleese report – maybe not the same legal structure, but the same essential processes”.

Confidential strand

Mr Martin, however, accepted that previous comparable commissions – including the Murphy report into the Diocese of Cloyne and the Archdioceses of Dublin – had not come before the Oireachtas.

More generally, Mr Martin said he had seen from the commission, first led by Ms Justice Mary Laffoy and later by Mr Justice Sean Ryan, that getting people to testify before an Oireachtas committee could prove difficult.

Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman is considering how survivors from mother and baby homes might tell their stories through “a confidential strand” before an Oireachtas committee.

During the Laffoy/Ryan investigation, ministers had wanted industrial school survivors to tell their story before an Oireachtas committee, but that became adversarial because religious orders sought legal representation.

He went on: “That is not actually suitable or appropriate for the situations like this, where really we want survivors to be in a comfortable position to articulate their story and tell their story.”

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times