Dáil Éireann - Volume 569 - 19 June, 2003

Written Answers. - Commissions of Investigation.

  39. Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he intends to bring forward legislation to provide for a new statutory mechanism for investigations into matters of significant and urgent importance, which he first announced on 6 December 2002; when a decision will be made on the form of inquiry to be held into allegations of serious sexual abuse within the Dublin archdiocese; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17112/03]

  Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell): I expect to publish a Bill very shortly that will provide a new statutory mechanism for investigations, to be known as commissions of investigation.

  The legislation I will be bringing forward will be of general application. It will not establish a [180]single or permanent investigations body. Instead, it is foreseen that commissions will be established as required and more than one could be operating at any given time.

  Having said that, it is true that the proposal for a new mechanism was informed, in the first instance, by the public concern over the handling by the Dublin Catholic archdiocese of allegations of clerical sexual abuse and by the meetings and useful discussions which I had with victims' organisations, representatives of the Catholic hierarchy, the Conference of Religious in Ireland, and other affected parties. While I believe that the new procedure could provide a means of examining, for example, the systems in place within the Catholic Church for the handling of allegations and complaints, it would be premature to make a decision on the establishment of any commission of investigation prior to the enactment of the proposed legislation.

I would nevertheless like to make clear that a commission of investigation, should one be established, will not replace or interfere with the processes of the criminal law for the investigation and prosecution of offences.

  Question No. 40 answered with Question No. 11.