"In the public interest, I wish to clarify matters relating to the Government decision in May to establish a Commission of Investigation into the handling of specific sexual abuse allegations in Waterford.
In responding to the very serious allegations about the handling of specific sexual abuse allegations in Waterford, the Government decided on 30 May 2017 to establish a Commission of Investigation. However, in deciding on the timing of such a Commission, the Government was obliged to take into account legal advice received from the Attorney General’s Office. The legal issues that prevented the Commission from being established at this time related to additional complaints of sexual abuse received by An Garda Síochána. With an obligation on the Commission to disclose relevant information in its possession to a person giving evidence to the Commission, this might compromise evidence that such persons might give in criminal proceedings, thus jeopardising the rights of the victims to having their complaints investigated and prosecuted and any potential accused to a fair trial. It would be entirely inappropriate for this Government to take any action which risks seriously compromising those investigations and/or criminal proceedings. Criminal investigations are ongoing in respect of a number of such cases and files have been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions in relation to several cases and directions are awaited. Any victims coming forward with allegations of sexual abuse are entitled to have their claims fully investigated and, where appropriate, prosecuted. An Garda Síochána have given assurances that they will ensure that any victims who have reported allegations are contacted by a Garda liaison officer to ensure they are kept informed of any developments.
Therefore, even if a Commission were to be established now, its work would be seriously delayed to allow for the completion of outstanding investigations and prosecutions. This would not be in the public interest, or in the best interest of those directly affected.
As a result, the Government decided in May 2017 that a Commission of Investigation would be established when the outstanding legal issues are finalised. This decision was communicated to KRW Law by phone by an official in my Department following the Government meeting and has been reiterated in subsequent correspondence to them.
I continue to monitor developments in this case closely.
I wish to stress that any complainant who is not satisfied with the manner in which their allegations were dealt with by An Garda Síochána, has the option of contacting the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Office (GSOC) which is the independent body charged with receiving complaints from the public concerning members of An Garda Síochána. Contact can be made with GSOC at their offices at 150 Upper Abbey Street, Dublin 1 and by telephone on Lo-Call 1890 600800. Further information is also available on the website, www.gardaombudsman.ie."