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 Header Item Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions (Continued)
 Header Item Death of Former Member: Expressions of Sympathy

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 984 No. 3

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan: Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan] The language of the charter regarding how the forum would conduct its work was it would be "participant-centred", there would be "consensus" and "consistent communication and meaningful engagement", and it would "ensure the specific and separate needs of different groups are identified". That was positive and promising language. It was built around the premise of nothing about us without us and it seemed to indicate a new approach to looking at this area of institutionalisation.

There was a selection process. Nineteen members and a chairperson began meeting in July 2018. There were five plenary meetings and 18 meetings of the sub-committees.

I know some of the members of the forum and, therefore, I know how difficult parts of the work was for them and how heartbreaking it was for them to relive that darkness in their lives but they gave 100% to the process. One of them stated: "We worked our socks off and we delivered a thoughtful, high-quality and authentic report."

The forum was also guided by a belief that its work, and the report, would be a significant contribution to the Government addressing all these issues. They produced a 90-page report containing significant recommendations. It was submitted to the Minister in mid-December 2018 but since then, it has sat on a shelf. It has not been published, there has been no movement on it and no engagement with the forum.

I have a number of questions. First, is there a date for the next forum meeting? Second, has the Minister decided on the new chair? Third, what progress, if any, has been made on implementing the recommendations? If those questions are not answered satisfactorily, the forum's work will have been in vain and it will have been only a talking shop with nothing meaningful coming from it.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I thank the Deputy for raising this important issue, which is very much a priority for Government as we seek to respond to the many wrongs of the past, including the institutionalisation of so many of our citizens.

As the House will be aware, on 16 April, the Government published the recommendations of the collaborative forum for former residents of the mother and baby homes. The Government also approved a series of measures and a comprehensive analysis of the recommendations by relevant Departments, with individuals Departments to revert by the end of June. The Department of Children and Youth Affairs will co-ordinate responses and revert to Government.

The Government agreed that a working group would be established by the Minister for Health to develop proposals for a package of practical help and well-being supports for former residents of these institutions. That working group has been established and is due to report back to Government by September in advance of the Estimates process.

Following the receipt of the collaborative forum's first report, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Zappone, signalled the opportunity to take some time to reflect upon the learning to date. The forum also suggested revisiting these matters. The Minister is currently examining how to best conduct a focused interim evaluation that involves the forum members. Delivering its first report within six months was a significant achievement by the members and reflected a strong commitment and dedication to the task. The Minister and Government very much value their contribution.

The Minister is actively considering suitable appointments to the current vacancies of which there are many, including the chair. She hopes to appoint a new chair very soon and to establish a board meeting shortly thereafter.

Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan: Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan It would have been useful if the forum had known the exact information the Taoiseach has just given me, as I would not have had to raise this issue. I cannot stress enough the extent of the engagement and how much the members of the forum brought to the entire process in a very able way. One member described the feeling now that there was a deep sense of betrayal among the members because they were first told that the forum was independent of the mother and baby homes commission of investigation and that their report would be published regardless of the timing of the mother and baby homes final report. When they asked for a legal adviser at the beginning of the process, they were told there was no need for one because they were the experts. However, they are hearing now that the Attorney General has some problems with it but they are not being told in what areas.

On another point, the Department of Education and Skills reacted by saying that the institutional history is too sensitive for primary schools but that was never recommended. The members recommended it for second level schools.

There is something to be gained from what the Taoiseach's reply but we want the report published because that would be a tribute to the work the members have done. These people have been hurt enough and the hurt continues when they are not listened to.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I thank the Deputy. From my part and that of the Minister, Deputy Zappone, we feel that the establishment of the forum has added to this process. The term the Deputy used is very apt - "nothing about us without us". However, we need to bear in mind that Government committed to consider the recommendations but not to automatically implement all of them. We are currently considering some and implementing others.

On the publication of the report, much of that related to legal advice, which indicated that the report should not be published ahead of the commission's report, principally because there may be references in it that could cause the forum to be sued by other people. We do not want to expose the members to that. The legal advice in that space is that it has to be borne in mind that the report can prejudice the outcome of the commission's report. We do not want to see people who joined a forum and wrote a report in good faith finding themselves being brought before the courts by people who believe they have been defamed or institutions saying that they were defamed by the report. We would never ask somebody to be exposed to that again.

Death of Former Member: Expressions of Sympathy

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl In accordance with an Order of the Dáil of yesterday, we will hear expressions of sympathy on the death of Mr. Jackie Healy-Rae, former Independent Deputy for Kerry South, now Kerry, and father of our colleagues, Deputies Danny Healy-Rae and Michael Healy-Rae. It behoves us firstly to welcome members of the family to the Distinguished Visitors Gallery. There are too many of you to name all of you. I notice that the Visitors Gallery is full almost to capacity so one can only assume that the population of the kingdom is somewhat depleted today.


An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Can we have a little bit of order, please? It has also been commented on that it has been some considerable time since our former colleague, Jackie Healy-Rae, passed away but it might be fortuitous that we are having the tributes today because the reality of political life is that long after many of us will be forgotten, the legend that was Jackie Healy-Rae will be remembered with fondness and respect. On my own behalf, it was a pleasure to have served here with him, to have observed his personal commitment to public service and, above all else, his absolute commitment to the people of Kerry.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Is mór an pléisiúr dom ómós a thabhairt do Jackie Healy-Rae agus mo dhea-mhéin a ghabháil dá chlann. Ní leor a rá gur pholaiteoir é Jackie Healy-Rae. Bhí i bhfad níos mó i gceist leis. Ba cheann fhine polaitiúla é. Rugadh agus tugadh é i dtimpeallacht na sléibhte agus labhair sé ar son mhuintir na sléibhte. Sheas sé mar ionadaí ar son na muintire sin go cumasach agus le misneach. Dá bharr, thug sé guth náisiúnta di. Cuimhním inniu fear a raibh croí-chineálta agus lách agus a raibh grá mór aige dá chlann, do mhuintir Chiarraí, agus dá thír féin. Bhí grá mór acu dó dá bharr. Ba pholaiteoir cumasach thar na bearta é agus is cuimhin linn nár chaill sé sna toghcháin riamh. D'fhág sé oidhreacht ollmhór, a bheirt mhac ar lean siad é isteach sa Dáil ina measc.

Fianna Fáil has made many mistakes over the years but they must be still kicking themselves for not nominating Jackie Healy-Rae to run for them in the 1997 general election. Instead, he ran as an Independent and it marked the beginning of a remarkable political dynasty that continues today.

I am grateful for this opportunity to pay tribute to our former Member, Jackie Healy-Rae. Shortly after his election to the House in 1997 for Kerry South, he was interviewed by the distinguished RTÉ broadcaster, Brian Farrell, who questioned him about who he represented. Jackie's heartfelt and authentic response was, "I represent the plain people of Ireland". When pressed about what that meant, Jackie responded with a line that has gone down in legend, "The people who eat their dinner in the middle of the day."

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