News & Events

Parliamentary Questions – 27th June 2018

Residential Institutions Redress Scheme

Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the survivors of the redress board undergo forensic style examinations in order to be believed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28253/18]

Richard Bruton T.D., Minister for Education and Skills: I assume the Deputy means survivors of children’s residential institutional abuse who applied to the Redress Board, not survivors of the Redress Board.  The Residential Institutions Redress Board was established in late 2002 to make fair and reasonable awards to persons who, as children, were abused while resident in any of 139 specified institutions. Awards were made following applications from survivors who provided evidence of having been in a specified institution and evidence also of injury arising out of abuse suffered while in residence. The amount of an award was determined by reference to the Board’s assessment of the severity of the abuse and the consequential injury. A Residential Institutions Review Committee was set up to review decisions and awards made by the Redress Board.

Redress schemes offer victims a potentially faster and less onerous justice process.   This is acknowledged in the Comptroller and Auditor General’s special report 96 on the Cost of Child Abuse Inquiry and Redress which states that ‘The setting up of a redress scheme following the work of the Commission (to Inquire into Child Abuse) provided reparation to those who had suffered abuse in the institutions. Without such a scheme, civil litigation cases taken by former residents through the courts system could have resulted in substantially higher legal costs and could have led to a backlog of cases for many years as a result.’

The purpose of the Redress Board as established by the Oireachtas under the Residential Institutions Redress Act 2002, was to make awards to the survivors of abuse. The statutory functions of the board as set out in section 5 of that Act include a requirement to “ensure in so far as is practicable, that hearings are conducted as informally as possible having regard to all the circumstances. The “forensic style examination” referred to in the Deputy’s question would clearly be at variance with this provision.

Structured Dialogue Process

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Taoiseach if he has held recent meetings with representatives of churches and faith communities as part of the church-State structured dialogue process.

Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his recent meetings with faith leaders; and his plans for future engagements.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Taoiseach if he has met with church leaders and faith communities recently.

Leo Varadkar T.D., An Taoiseach: I propose to take Questions Nos. 4 to 6, inclusive, together.

On 22 January 2018 I met with representatives of the Church of Ireland, Presbyterian and Methodist churches. I was accompanied by the Minister for Justice and Equality, the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, the Minister for Education and Skills, the Minister for Health, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport and the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

This was the second in a series of meetings that I will be holding with dialogue partners. We discussed important social and economic issues facing Irish society, including Brexit, education issues and the eighth amendment of the Constitution as well as international affairs.

On 31 August last, I held a formal meeting under the structured dialogue process with representatives of the Catholic Church, led by Archbishop Eamon Martin. I was accompanied at this meeting by the then Tánaiste, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, and by the Minister for Education and Skills, the Minister for Health, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport and the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection. A wide-ranging discussion took place on a range of important national and international issues, including the world meeting of families in August and the possibility of a visit to Ireland by the Pope, education issues, including school admissions, the eighth amendment, Northern Ireland, overseas development assistance and social justice.

Churches and faith communities play an important role in Irish life and I believe it is beneficial that Government should engage with them in a structured way. Some of the issues we discussed at these meetings were challenging. These are issues on which people have deeply-held views and many are matters of conscience. Our discussions were valuable not only because they dealt with important issues but particularly because they were conducted in an atmosphere of respect for the views of others and everyone sought to be constructive.

I also received a courtesy call from Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, as is traditional around the new year period, and I attended a Jewish Seder with the head of the Jewish community in Ireland.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: I share the Taoiseach’s view that these conversations are important not least because of the fact that now, as we move into the beginning of the endgame of separating church and State, there is a need to reassure people of faith that their freedom to practise and freedom of religious expression is unfettered and supported by the State and Government.

In so doing, it should be reiterated that no theological view should shape or demand expression in the laws of the land. In my view, the referendum on the eighth amendment will be seen in time as a tipping point where mainstream public opinion in Ireland showed that it understood that essential division. In that context, the Taoiseach’s conversations are very important.

I am very interested to know what employment affairs were discussed, if any. The Taoiseach listed various ministerial briefs. What would be discussed under that heading? There is increasing concern that within schools of a particular religious ethos, certain members of teaching staff might run into difficulties because of their own identity, including their sexuality or sexual orientation. Is that the type of thing that might be discussed in this forum? I should ask if the Minister, Deputy Madigan, has been involved in any of these structured dialogues. From the exchange between herself and the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr. Diarmuid Martin, it might be a good idea if she was on the next delegation.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: I also think this is a useful interaction. Faith groups are an important part of our social infrastructure and a greater variety of faith groups have established themselves on the island of Ireland in recent times. The growth of the Muslim community and its increased visibility is one example. For that reason, we must address some matters.

As I have said in the past, the role of churches in controlling education is a very important issue so that all faith communities and none will have access to appropriate education and faith training but all have a common curriculum. We touched upon this earlier. If one reads the history of countries such as Belgium, the Netherlands or France, a separation of new migrants from indigenous communities has caused huge problems. Often, after generations, there are people who do not even speak the main language of the country. Separateness is encouraged. We need to think very carefully and have an inclusive curriculum and understanding of what Irishness involves, with a full respect for the expression of religious beliefs and a capacity for religious training in that. One suggestion I made on this matter is that it might be appropriate for the Citizens’ Assembly to look at the provision of education into the future to address different demands in order that we do not have demands in the future for particular types of religious education that might be seen as excluding people from mainstream education. It is something that we should have regard to and I would be interested to hear whether these were the types of issues which were touched upon by the Taoiseach in his dialogue with religious leaders of all faiths. The pre-eminence or dominance of one faith in this State, namely, the Catholic faith, is changing. It is anxious to divest some of its schools to allow for a different tapestry of provision. I am interested to hear the Taoiseach’s view on this issue. It should not happen in an ad hoc way, but we should have a vision of what future education provision might look like.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Both the marriage equality referendum and that on the eighth amendment show that there has been a sea change in Irish society and that whatever people’s religious convictions, or none, that people believe that religious expression and freedom should be separate from the policies and institutions of the State. There is no doubt in my mind that that is the majority opinion by a significant margin in this country now. That message must be taken on board and the churches, and particularly the Catholic Church, need to understand that. That means that we have to move towards the complete separation of church and State in the management of our schools and hospitals. It is simply not acceptable that the religious persuasion of particular schools or school patrons would, for example, influence sex education when it is such an important matter. It involves issues such as consent, contraception and abortion, all things that young people have a right to know and the State has an obligation to teach in an objective manner. It is not acceptable that the religious views of a patron body would impact and prevent pupils being educated on those things. Furthermore, it is not acceptable that as we speak, religious patrons such as the Christian Brothers are flogging off school property to bolster their own finances at the expense of school children and school facilities. Nor is it acceptable that there be any question marks over what kind of medical treatment might be available to people in hospitals because the religious persuasion of hospital patron bodies might impact on the services those hospitals are willing to deliver. After the repeal of the eighth amendment, is it the Taoiseach’s understanding that we have to convey this to the religious institutions and bodies in this country?

Deputy Micheál Martin: The pace of divestment of schools has slowed down in recent years, in my view, because the Government has decided to take a conflictual approach, with a great deal of conflictual rhetoric, rather than co-operation which was achieving quite a lot previously. The last initiative to dramatically change the dynamic of school formation was a decision I took myself in the late 1990s to eliminate the local contribution which was necessary when trying to build a new school. That was a big barrier to Educate Together schools, especially, in Dublin and other cities, in affording land prices and so on. Educate Together has always instanced that as a significant milestone in enabling it to build new schools.

It is now seven years since the Government, of which the Taoiseach was a member, announced that 1,500 schools were to change patronage beginning in January 2012. It is also seven years since that same Government convened a commission on school patronage. By any measure, there has been a failure to deliver on the revolutionary rhetoric and very little has been achieved on this front. This is causing frustration in many areas. Many schools are concerned about uncertainty and in the one or two examples where divestment happened, the changeover has not been that effective as some Educate Together schools are now reporting to CEIST or some other body. That jars with what ought to be the case. The Archbishop of Dublin, Dr. Diarmuid Martin, has said again that he believes the majority of schools under his patronage should be divested. Has anything been done to take him up on that?

The wider issue of religion in education has evolved over time. From the late 1990s, we took a view of plurality of education provision. We signed deeds of trust that covered religious and non-religious schools, such as Gaelscoileanna, which all had different patrons. That was the approach that we took. It needs to be evolved further. The raison d’être is education. The religious became involved in education considerably earlier than the State became directly involved, particularly in second level provision. Historically, that evolution has been ongoing and the capacity of the religious to sustain it into the future, in governance, management and so on, is a big issue.

It is more pressing in the area of health. This is something I raised more than a year ago. It seems the capacity of the religious orders to sustain their governance of major hospitals such as the Mater and St. Vincent’s is highly questionable. The idea that this governance will be vested in lay trusteeships and small groups of people whom no one knows and who are not accountable to anyone is not on—–

Deputy Brendan Howlin: It is unacceptable.

Deputy Micheál Martin:—–given the level of taxpayer and State investment in hospitals and the complexity of healthcare in terms of the management of a large tertiary hospital. These are hospitals in which the State puts all the eggs – heart disease, cancer, and diseases of all the major organs of the body – in one basket. An important discussion needs to be had with the faith leaders on the reality of all of that and of moving into a new scenario.

Deputy Joan Burton: Could the Taoiseach advise us how much money is still owed by the churches in respect of the redress scheme for institutional abuse and the sums they agreed to pay towards it, small as they are? It is important we know whether these amounts are outstanding and, if so, how much.

Has he raised the issue of the ownership of school properties and lands at his discussions? Almost all were the product of public donations rather than the private contributions of those orders. The public of 100 years ago gave donations to buy the church lands and to build the church institutions. I am concerned that an air of enormous fragility now attaches to those properties and lands, particularly because of what has happened in a number of recent cases in which different orders have moved to sell off playing fields used by schools. That is not good enough in terms of religious bodies having an active and ethical citizenship in our country. They are privileged to meet the Taoiseach but they see themselves as private property owners and consider how they deal with their private property, which was previously donated by the public, as their private business. I have attended those meetings and I would like to think that the Taoiseach would have the courage to raise these fundamental issues about what are public assets, if one looks at it in a broad historical context, the ownership of which, however, may legally rest with a particular order. As has been said, trustees and other lay representatives now control what happens to these valuable educational and community assets.

Leo Varadkar T.D., An Taoiseach: The Minister of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Deputy Regina Doherty, was present because social justice issues were discussed with the religious groups. Members will be familiar with organisations such as Crosscare, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and the Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice, all of which are Catholic organisations but which have a lot of knowledge about how to reduce poverty and how the welfare system can be improved. I engaged with them a lot as Minister for Social Protection. For that reason I thought it was appropriate for them to be there to have input into policies, particularly those around welfare and housing. The Minister, Deputy Doherty, was not there because of anything to do with schools; it was to do with policies on employment, welfare, housing and so on. To the best of my recollection, the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Josepha Madigan, was not at any of the meetings but we will certainly give that consideration for the next one. It might add another dimension to the meeting were she to be there.

Deputy Brendan Howlin made a valid point on schools and ensuring that the schools system we have, which involves different forms of patronage, does not give rise to segregation. We do see elements of that. There is certain element of it in my constituency. There may be a Catholic parish school close to an Educate Together national school or a community national school. The Catholic parish school would tend to have large numbers of children who come from ethnic Irish backgrounds while one might see a much higher proportion of children from Poland or from African backgrounds in the community national school or the Educate Together school. I can see how that could become a problem in the future. That is why the Education (Admission to Schools) Bill 2016 is so important. I am keen to get that through and to get it implemented on the ground. We intend to accelerate the divestment programme. The vast majority of new schools being built also tend to be Educate Together schools, education and training board, ETB, schools or Gaelscoileanna. There are still some new Catholic schools but far fewer.

On divestment, an analysis was conducted of primary school parental preferences in 2012 and 2013. It indicated that there was sufficient parental demand to support immediate changes in school patronage in 28 areas. The main patron, the Catholic bishop or archbishop in each of these 28 areas, was asked to consider divestment options that would free up school accommodation for the provision of education by the first-choice alternative patron. Ten new schools have opened under the patron divestment process. The pace of progress under this process has, however, been far too slow. As a result, the Minister for Education and Skills announced new plans on 30 January which are aimed at providing more multidenominational and non-denominational schools throughout the country in line with the choices of families and schools communities and the programme for Government’s commitment in these areas.

I agree with Deputy Boyd Barrett that people want the separation of church and state. They have wanted it for some time. However, I do not necessarily think that separating church and state is the same as absolute secularism. People may want the church and the State to be separated, but that does not necessarily mean that they want religious or religious inspired bodies to be driven out of education or welfare entirely. There is a difference between a separation of the church and the State and extreme secularism. The public is probably somewhere in between on that issue.

For example, people want to have a choice when it comes to education. Many parents want to send their kids to the local parish school. They want their kids to have their first communion in the school with the other kids in the class. They do not have a problem with that. Rather than forcing a change on people that they do not want, we should respect parental choice in education, ask parents what type of school they want and do our best to accommodate that. It is easier to do in urban areas, where people may be near to a number of schools, than in rural areas but that is the approach we should take rather than the forced secularisation of schools against the wishes of parents, which would not be right. The same applies to freedom of religion. If religious bodies are willing to get involved in helping to provide welfare, housing and emergency accommodation – as they do at the homeless hub in the Mater Dei Institute, for example – we should welcome them as partners and not tell them to go away because they are religious. That type of secularism is not the type of secularism people want. They do, however, want a separation of church and state.

The only point I would make on healthcare would be around volunteerism. As other Members have pointed out, it is not appropriate any more for churches, or even lay trusts, to own and control major public hospitals that are funded by the State to the value of hundreds of millions of euros. However, we need to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater in making our reforms. If one looks at the three maternity hospitals in Dublin, they are all voluntary, as are the Mater and St. Vincent’s. These are often the best run hospitals because they have their own boards and they have a tradition, an ethos and a pride in their institutions. They are much less likely to pass a problem on, which would be much more common in HSE-run hospitals. It may be possible to retain that voluntary ethic in a secular way. Notwithstanding its name, St. James’s is an example of how that can be done. The new national children’s hospital is being established as a voluntary hospital but not a religious one.

European Court of Human Rights Judgments

Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of victims of sex abuse by those that have been convicted of same that have not had access to the redress scheme due to not having made a prior complaint; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Richard Bruton T.D., Minister for Education and Skills: The Deputy may be referring to the ex-gratia scheme established in the aftermath of the ECHR judgment in the Louise O’Keeffe case.  Since this Judgement, the State Claims Agency (SCA) which is mandated to act on behalf of the State in cases of historic child abuse, has been notified of many claims.  These are either (a) claims which are entirely newly instituted or (b) are pre-existing claims against school authorities and in which claimants are now more recently seeking to join the State as a respondent.  The number of such claims is 170.   Information on whether the individual claims to be a victim of a convicted abuser is privileged.

The SCA has engaged and will continue to engage with claimants’ solicitors to clarify the circumstances of new claimants’ claims and to make settlement offers where the claims come within the terms of the ECtHR Judgement and are not statute barred.

The position of historical cases which were discontinued has, as you may know, been reviewed.   In July 2015, the Government agreed to respond to those persons who had instituted legal proceedings in relation to school child sexual abuse which were subsequently discontinued by offering ex gratia payments to those persons who come within the terms of the ECHR judgment and whose claims were not statute barred at the time of their discontinuance.

Persons who believe that their cases come within the criteria can contact the SCA and provide supporting evidence.  The SCA has received 49 applications of which 44 applications have been declined. All of the applications that were declined were advised that they could apply to Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill, the independent assessor I appointed in November 2017, for an independent assessment of their application.   21 people have applied for this assessment.

Mr Justice O’Neill has looked for a submission on: ‘whether the imposition of the condition which required that there had to be evidence of a prior complaint of child sexual abuse on the part of the employee in question to the school authority (or a school authority in which the employee has previously worked), to establish eligibility for a payment under the ex gratia scheme, is consistent with and a correct implementation of the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Louise O’Keeffe v. Ireland’

The submission forwarded to Mr Justice O’Neill on 27th April was prepared with the advice and assistance of the Attorney General and Senior Counsel and is now published on the Department’s website.

European Court of Human Rights Judgments

Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the previous time he or his officials met a group of sex abuse victims that have not had access to the redress scheme due to no prior complaint having been made; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Richard Bruton T.D., Minister for Education and Skills: The Deputy may be referring to the ex-gratia scheme established following the ECHR judgment in the Louise O’Keffe case.  While I am very familiar with individual cases who are in the position that they don’t meet the terms of the ex-gratia scheme, neither I nor my officials have met with this group of sex abuse victims.  I have, however, met with the Deputy on a number of occasions to discuss the issue of child sex abuse and some of the individual cases that fall into this category.

Papal Visit

Deputy Eamon Ryan asked the Taoiseach the details of the papal visit in August 2018. [26557/18]

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the preparations for the visit of Pope Francis in August 2018. [27578/18]

Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach the details of the papal visit; and the role of his Department in organising the events for August 2018. [27719/18]

Leo Varadkar T.D., An Taoiseach: I propose to take Questions Nos. 1, 2 and 3 together.

On Monday, 11 June, the Vatican announced the programme for the Pope’s visit to Ireland for the World Meeting of Families from Saturday 25 to Sunday 26 August 2018. While the main impetus for the visit is the World Meeting of Families, it will also have a number of official and public events, including engagements with the President and myself on Saturday, 25 August, a visit to Knock Shrine and a public mass in the Phoenix Park on Sunday 26 August. Also included in the programme are visits to St. Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, the Day Centre of the Capuchin Fathers, the Festival of Families event in Croke Park and a meeting with the bishops.

Preparations for the visit are ongoing and involve the civil authorities and various agencies. As is the norm for an official visit by a Head of State, staff in the protocol division of my Department, together with protocol staff at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the event management unit at the Office of Public Works are involved in co-ordination and organisation, in the main concerning protocol, security and logistics around the visit.

Deputy Eamon Ryan: I thank the Taoiseach for those details. With regard to the reception in Dublin Castle where the President, the Taoiseach and the diplomatic corps will attend a visit by Pope Francis where he will give a speech, is it expected that leaders of party groups here will be invited to the event? What is the mechanism if someone is interested in going? Obviously, space will be limited but I am keen that there is representation from the Oireachtas there and I am keen for the Taoiseach to outline his plans in this regard.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: It is regrettable that the Pope will not visit the North during his stay in this country. I have raised this with the Taoiseach before and I know it is not our remit to set an agenda for the Pontiff. That is a matter for himself and the Vatican. There is a huge level of disappointment. Very many people, and not only Catholics, would have welcomed a visit by Pope Francis.

Has there been discussion or is there scope for the Pontiff to meet delegations or people from the North who might travel for such meetings? I do not know if the Taoiseach can answer that but I will put it to him. Will he give some sense of the kinds of interactions he will have with the Pope and what events he will attend? Will he be at Knock or in the Phoenix Park? What will be the extent of the Taoiseach’s engagement?

Outside of theology, what discussions will the Taoiseach have with the Pope and what matters does he intend to raise with him? Does he propose to raise the mother and baby homes, the Magdalen laundries and all of those experiences? Does he intend to raise the fact that so many victims and survivors feel very let down by church authorities? I raise these matters very conscious of the fact that we are legislators and we operate in the secular sphere. It is not for us to issue instructions to the church but certainly where church actions encroach on the public space and where damage has been done, it would only be right and proper that the Taoiseach would raise such cases with the Pope. Does he intend doing that?

Deputy Brendan Howlin: I thank the Taoiseach for his reply. He has told us the events management unit of the Office of Public Works, OPW, will manage the Phoenix Park event, which will be the biggest, with 500,000 people. I know from my time in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform that in advance of the visits of Heads of State, including Queen Elizabeth II and US President Obama, there was a comprehensive estimate of costs, including Garda overtime costs. They were approved in advance. Has such an estimate been carried out for this and what is the indicative cost for Garda overtime and from the OPW for management, transport, looking after the park, corralling and all the other required elements? The event on 26 August involves engagement with civic groups. It is a long event, from noon to 3 p.m., and it will involve a speech by Pope Francis. The Taoiseach has the programme but he does not control it. Will there be formal engagement between the groups and the Pontiff? Will there be an exchange of views or do we have any idea as to how that will be structured?

Deputy Micheál Martin: Any fair assessment would conclude there is a warm public response to the Pope’s visit in August. He is coming here in exactly the spirit we would hope for from the leader of the world’s largest organised religion and faith on this island. This is an important opportunity for our society to demonstrate that it respects the faith and sincerity of people at a time when significant progress on important matters has occurred. I hope reports of people trying to get hold of hundreds of tickets to block people from going to the main events are untrue. If such actions occurred, they would be petty, intolerant and certainly the opposite of progressive.

An area in which Pope Francis has demonstrated exceptional personal leadership is his advocacy for the rights and humanity of migrants. He is doing this at a time when people claiming to represent Europe’s Christian heritage are promoting a deep intolerance. We can look at what is happening in Hungary and the commentary from political leaders in some European Union member states, which is a cause for real concern. Ireland’s representatives did not attend the weekend’s mini-summit but this week’s European Council will address the matter of migration in detail. Will the Taoiseach assure us that Ireland will speak up in support of the brave stance of Chancellor Merkel in welcoming large numbers of migrants and remain committed to showing solidarity, irrespective of whether the resettlement system is maintained? We have not fulfilled the commitments we have given thus far with respect to refugees. At a moment when some leaders are queuing to try to exploit and increase fears of migrants, Ireland has a duty to speak up against them. What does the Taoiseach propose to say on the matter in the next two days?

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: The visit of the Pope will be an important event for those of the Catholic faith in this country and they have every right to celebrate his visit and the occasions around it. I acknowledge Deputy Micheál Martin’s comments that Pope Francis has spoken in a very progressive manner on migration against a frightening background of a rise in far right xenophobic and anti-migrant political forces in Europe. That is positive. The Pope has also spoken positively about the need to address global poverty and on behalf of the people of Palestine. We should be respectful of the visit and the celebration of those who are of that faith. However, it is also important that this would not prevent us from asking important questions of the Vatican. The questions that matter most to people who felt they have been hurt by the church and its role in the likes of the adoption scandals and particularly in clerical abuse relate to the Vatican files on what it knew, when it knew and what it did about reports of clerical sex abuse. That is terribly important. The survivors and victims of clerical sex abuse deserve that and we must ask those hard questions. There have been reports and tribunals here but those questions must be asked of the Vatican itself.

Deputy Joan Burton: Pope Francis will be a very welcome visitor to Ireland, particularly for people of the Catholic faith and of Christian faiths in general. Will the Taoiseach give us details of the budget allocated in respect of the reinstatement of the Phoenix Park after the Pope’s visit? There will be 600,000 people in the park and that will put enormous pressure on the ecosystem. We have seen recently what happened with two very successful events, the Ed Sheeran concerts and the Bloom festival, which involved fractions of the number of people going to see the Pope. Has a budget been tied down to reinstate the park?

Second, I refer to the Taoiseach’s interaction with Pope Francis when he arrives. Will the Taoiseach raise the matters that have caused such grave scandal in Ireland generally and particularly in the Catholic Church relating to its treatment of different groups of people? Will the Taoiseach confirm that when the Pope visited Ireland previously, the visitors stayed in the nunciature at the Navan Road? Barely a stone’s throw from that nunciature is St. Patrick’s Home on the Navan Road, which was one of the largest mother and baby homes in Europe. It probably has a significant history connected to the adoption scandal Members have discussed in recent weeks. Between 2,000 and 2,500 babies in Glasnevin Cemetery died in that home, or at least they are the burials we know of. There are people who stand, week in and week out, at the gates of Leinster House. These are a number of women who were in St. Patrick’s Home and still feel enormous hurt, as many do because of what happened to them in that home.

Will the Taoiseach raise this matter with the Pope? He could tell Catholic parishes all over the country to open up and welcome back people who may have been given up for adoption out of their parishes. He is a man who has sought to reach out to people in difficulty. He would welcome such an approach from the Taoiseach that would provide some level of both recognition and healing for many wrongs done to many different people. In particular, could the Pope lay a few flowers at St. Patrick’s Home on the Navan Road? It would be very appropriate.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: If we are to adhere to the time, the Taoiseach only has three minutes to respond.

Leo Varadkar T.D., An Taoiseach: The event at Dublin Castle will of course be space-limited but it is intended to invite all officeholders and party group leaders from both the Dáil and Seanad. The Government would support a visit to Northern Ireland.

That would certainly be welcome, but we regret it is not possible on this occasion. Anyway, I am glad that the Pope will be getting out of Dublin and will be visiting the basilica at Knock and saying mass there.

I am not involved, nor is my office, in organising any delegations or deputations to meet Pope Francis. That would have to be done through the Papal Nuncio. My role will be very limited. I will be at the event in Dublin Castle to receive him and I intend to attend the mass in the Phoenix Park, which is in my constituency. I am unsure how long my meeting with the Pope will be. I am unsure whether it will be one-to-one or long or short. None of that has been worked out yet, but certainly I will use the opportunity to welcome him to Ireland on behalf of the people and I think he will be most welcome in Ireland. I will use the opportunity to raise issues of historical abuse against our citizens by church authorities. I think people would expect me to raise them at such a meeting.

We do not have a cost or budget yet either for the security or for the reinstatement of the park, but we estimate it will be in the same ballpark as Queen Elizabeth’s visit. In other words, it will probably be more than €10 million and less than €20 million but that is only an estimate at this stage.

Deputy Martin mentioned the fact that some people have been applying for tickets that they do not intend to use as some sort of protest. I firmly believe that such actions, if they are happening, are wrong, petty and mean-spirited. Protest is legitimate and okay, but denying other people the opportunity to attend a mass or an event is not legitimate protest in my view and is most unfair. It should be condemned.

Magdalen laundries

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health the details of the medical card provision to survivors of the Magdalen laundries; the scope of its cover; the services it does not provide for; the similar provisions that apply in other cases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28215/18]

Simon Harris T.D., Minister for Health: Qualification for health services under the Redress for Women Resident in Certain Institutions (RWRCI) Act 2015 is based on the following:

(i) The Minister for Justice and Equality has determined that a woman is eligible under the Restorative Justice Scheme, which provides for the making of ex-gratiapayments to women who were admitted to and worked in a relevant institution; and,

(ii) A woman has accepted a formal offer made to her by the Minister for Justice and Equality under the Restorative Justice Scheme.

These women will receive a 2015A Scheme card from the HSE, which identifies the holder as qualifying for the health services specified in the RWRCI Act 2015.

The following primary and community health services are available to cardholders in Ireland and will be provided on the basis of assessed needs:

(i) General Practitioner Service

This includes standard attendances for routine general practitioner services at a GP chosen by the cardholder from the list of GPs participating in the General Medical Services (GMS) scheme or a non-GMS registered medical practitioner providing general practitioner services.

(ii) Drugs, Medicines and Medical and Surgical Appliances

The card holder is eligible to receive free of charge all medicines, medical and surgical appliances that are currently reimbursed by the community drugs scheme. This eligibility refers to items prescribed by a clinical professional. Cardholders are not required to pay any prescription fees.

(iii) Dental, Ophthalmic and Aural Services

The card holder has access to public dental, ophthalmic (eye sight) and aural (hearing) services.

Dental Services

Service under the Dental Treatment Service Scheme include:

– A free oral examination every calendar year

– Two fillings every calendar year

– All extractions

– Free emergency dental treatment for relief of pain and sepsis

– Dentures (every 5 years, if clinically necessary)

– Additional fillings, prophylaxis, other more complex dental treatments if clinically indicated

Ophthalmic Services

This service includes:

– Free eye examination by an optometrist or an ophthalmologist

– Any necessary standard spectacles, (frames and lenses, once every two years more often if required in certain medical circumstances). Lost or broken spectacles may be replaced within two years.

Aural Services

The HSE provides aural services, including hearing tests, hearing aids and repairs of hearing aids.

(iv) Home Nursing Service

The card holder can access the home nursing service, which is provided by the HSE under section 60 of the Health Act 1970, (as amended). The nursing service, which is defined as care provided at home, can provide advice on matters relating to the cardholder’s health and assist her if she is sick.

(v) Home Support Service

The card holder can access the home support service, which is provided by the HSE under section 61 of the Health Act 1970, (as amended). This service assists her to remain in her own home and provides assistance with personal care. The extent of support will be determined following an assessment by a registered medical practitioner or a registered nurse that the service is so required.

(vi) Chiropody Service

The card holder can access chiropody services, which are provided by the HSE, following a referral made by a registered medical practitioner, registered nurse or Primary Care team.

(vii) Physiotherapy Service

The card holder can access physiotherapy services, which are provided by the HSE, following a referral made by a registered medical practitioner or Primary Care team.

(viii) Counselling Service

The card holder can access a counselling service, relative to her admission to and/or work in any of the institutions specified in the Schedule in the RWRCI Act 2015. The counselling service is provided by the HSE, following a referral made by a registered medical practitioner, e.g. the woman’s GP.

In order to access the services of the RWRCI Act, card holders are required to produce their cards as evidence of eligibility to gain access to services.

Seanad Éireann: National Archives (Amendment) Bill 2017: Committee Stage

Other areas discussed…….

Senator Marie-Louise O’Donnell: I wish to make a general point. The Minister may be aware of this. We need to provide access to the records of institutional abuse held by the religious orders, private agencies and dioceses throughout the country. We need some truth-telling in that regard. Every day, the House hears about mother and baby homes, adoption agencies, Magdalen laundries and those who were incarcerated in industrial schools. The persons concerned want access to their records and they have a right to access them. Telling the truth is part of atonement. Apologies lose their power and meaning if they are not part of an effort by the State to hold to account the private institutions involved in these abuses and the State itself. Providing this information is the most important way of ensuring we have accountability.

I would like the National Archives Act 1986 to be further amended to bring within the remit of the National Archives the records of historical institutional abuse which are currently held by non-State entities. Religious orders, dioceses and other private entities hold information that is of great value. While I was not a member of what became known as the McAleese committee, I was a Senator at the time. When the committee interacted with the Magdalen laundries, the religious orders co-operated extremely well and provided access to their records and archives. However, the committee was required to send all of the records back at the end of its investigation and it did not keep copies. The Commission of Investigation into mother and baby homes is gathering records from all institutions and individuals that have information of value to the investigation. The records should be brought within the control of experienced teams at the National Archives – that is my essential point – in order that access can be provided to sensitive information, as it has been for decades in the National Archives. The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Zappone, is proposing, in the Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill, to bring records previously held by adoption agencies within State control. This can be done, therefore, and I would like it to be done.

The Dean’s lecture at the National University of Ireland Maynooth was given by the brilliant Dr. Catríona Crowe, who was the head of all special projects at the National Archives. Dr. Crowe called for the religious archives to be opened up to survivors of institutional abuse and scholars. I ask that amendments to this effect be brought forward.

We should take up the challenge to finally provide accountability to people who have been gravely wronged and hurt. The records of those people should be part of the remit of the National Archives. I do not know whether this is the right time or place to make that point but——

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): The Senator has said it, which is the main thing.

Senator Marie-Louise O’Donnell:I have said it. There are not many Senators present. It is a very good and tremendously important Bill. However, it is very important that those records come under the remit of the National Archives such that people have a right to that information, given its sensitive experiential aspect. It must not be held in institutions which are not prepared to open it up to inspection.

Deputy Josepha Madigan: Other matters discussed: I thank Senator Marie-Louise O’Donnell for her comments. I appreciate her concerns and the very important issues she raised. However, those issues are within the remit of the Department of Education and Skills, which is working towards dealing with them. It is not a matter to be dealt with in the Bill.

Senator Marie-Louise O’Donnell: I appreciate the Minister’s response but it is extremely important to have this on the record because, although I know that it cannot be inserted into the Bill, the records must come under the remit of the National Archives. It must be thought of in that way. There is an urgent need to bring it forward under the National Archives Act. I know it cannot be inserted into the Bill but I wished to put on record that there is an urgent need for this to be dealt with and that I will be raising the matter again. I will take the Minister’s advice in regard to the Department of Education and Skills but I also think it could be amended within the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill reported without amendment.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan):When is it proposed to take Report Stage?

Senator Tim Lombard: Next Tuesday.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Is that agreed? Agreed.

Sitting suspended at 4.35 p.m. and resumed at 5.40 p.m.