back to latest news

Senator Bacik speaking on Child Sexual Abuse and the Murphy Report

29 October 2009

Order of Business

Senator Ivana Bacik: I ask the Leader for a debate on a serious matter, namely, the operation of the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004. That may sound technical but it is the Act under which the commission of investigation into the archdiocese of Dublin and allegations of child sexual abuse in that diocese had been established. The commission is chaired by Judge Yvonne Murphy and was established in 2006. Its terms of reference are to examine the allegations that have been made, or a sample of them, and to examine also the response of both the church and State authorities to those allegations. The reason I emphasise "State" is because I am very concerned about the process in the 2004 Act by which the Minister may effectively delay or bring about a delay in the publication of reports from commissions of investigation.

We know the report from the Dublin diocesan inquiry is ready and that its publication is anxiously awaited by survivors and victims of abuse. However, we know also that the Minister has been to the High Court under section 38 of the Act to seek directions, as he is entitled to do, and we know that the High Court has already ordered that one chapter of the report should be deleted in its entirety and other changes be made.

I am conscious the matter is before the court and none of us knows the findings of the report. I am simply asking the Deputy Leader for a debate. Reading the section, it strikes me that it does not provide for any person who is a survivor of abuse or for anyone representing the commission of investigation itself to make any representation to the court where the Minister seeks directions from the court. Interestingly, only the Minister, the Attorney General, the Director of Public Prosecutions and a person who is a defendant in criminal proceedings, as may be relevant, may be represented before the court. The hearing is in private yet this commission is, and other future commissions will be, inquiring into the response of the State authorities and the State is seeking direction from the court. The result of the direction has been, as we know already, the delay of the report and some deletions from it.

I am very concerned that the mechanics of the section may operate so as to compromise reports. We should all be very wary about this. An urgent debate on the operation of section 38 and how it could be improved upon to give a voice to the commission and to victims is essential at this time