Oral Questions – Minister for Children – Vaccine trials in Mother and Baby Homes

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DÁIL QUESTION addressed to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Dr. Katherine Zappone)
by Deputy Clare Daly
for ORAL ANSWER on 04/07/2017

To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her views on whether new revelations regarding vaccine trials carried out on children at a location (details supplied) in 1974 warrants a separate investigation to ascertain the person or body that gave permission to a pharmaceutical company to carry out trials for baby formula and other products; the measures she will take to secure files relating to those trials; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

Clare Daly T.D.

The Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes and certain related Matters was established by Government (S.I. No. 57 of 2015) in response to significant public concerns relating to the care and welfare of the women and children who were resident in these institutions. The comprehensive scope of the Commission’s remit ensures it can provide a full account of what happened to women and children in these institutions during the period 1922 to 1998.

Article 1(II) of its terms of reference requires the Commission to examine the living conditions and care arrangements experienced by women and children during their period of accommodation in these institutions. In addition to this broad requirement, Article 1(V) of the terms of reference refers specifically to the examination of vaccine trials in these institutions.

The Commissions of Investigation Act 2004, which is the legal framework underpinning this investigation, provides the Commission with robust legal powers to compel persons to produce documents and answer questions. With regard to records held by third parties, the Deputy may wish to note that section 31 of the 2004 Act requires that any person in possession of documents, or information in any form, relevant to the matters before the Commission shall preserve such information until the Commission concludes its work. As the Commission is independent in the conduct of its investigations it should be understood that the precise timing and approach to the gathering and examination of evidence are matters for the Commission to decide and progress.

For these reasons, I am satisfied that separate investigations are not required in relation to the matters raised by the Deputy. The Commission already has sufficient scope and the necessary legal powers to examine these matters, and to make a determination on their relevance to the central issues in question, and where appropriate to make any recommendations to Government which the Commission deems necessary.