434. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if an all-island inquiry into allegations of sexual abuse by the Provisional IRA was discussed at the North South Ministerial Council meeting; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47709/14]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): As the Deputy will be aware, justice and policing matters are not sectoral areas that are yet included in the North South Ministerial Council (NSMC) framework and such issues, therefore, do not feature formally on the agenda for Plenary meetings of the NSMC. North-South co-operation in these areas takes place bilaterally. However, the health and child welfare aspects of child protection are included in the NSMC framework and the Plenary meeting in Armagh on 5 December last held a very useful discussion on child protection with a particular focus on e-Safety and noted that good collaborative work is already taking place, both within the NSMC structures and elsewhere.
The Northern Ireland Justice Minister David Ford and I attended the NSMC Plenary and this provided us with an opportunity to discuss issues relating to North-South police and criminal justice co-operation in the margins of the Plenary meeting, including the allegations of sexual abuse by republican paramilitaries.
I would emphasise that An Garda Síochána is investigating information in this regard which it has received towards the end of last year and these investigations are ongoing. There are also specific, independent review and inquiry processes underway in Northern Ireland by the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Office of the Police Ombudsman. It is essential to allow the relevant authorities – the child protection and the police services and others – North and South to carry out their ongoing work in this regard unimpeded. It is important also to continue to encourage people with any relevant information to come forward to the authorities.
Minister Ford and I will continue to discuss the need and potential for an additional inquiry or inquiries as well as the issues which emerge from the current and ongoing reviews and inquiries, and we will maintain close contact to review progress with these. I can inform the Deputy that my officials are working with the Northern Ireland Department of Justice to examine, in tandem with the various investigations under way, the legal and practical issues that might arise relevant to the issue of the establishment of forms of inquiry, and they will report on this to myself and Minister Ford.
Finally, I would like to add that there is a range of support services for victims of sexual abuse available in both jurisdictions. Minister Ford and I will keep this under review and we will continue to work closely together in the context of the forthcoming implementation of the EU Victims’ Directive.