185. Deputy Marc Ó Cathasaigh asked the Minister for Justice her plans to publish a progress report on the Hickson Commission of Investigation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [57999/21]
Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): The Deputy will be aware that the Commission of Investigation established pursuant to S.I. 311/2018 (formerly known as the Hickson Commission) is tasked with the investigation of the extent to which a number of organisations, including State bodies, and individuals were aware of the activities of Bill Kenneally and whether they failed to take appropriate action.
Mr Justice Michael White is the sole member of the Commission, replacing Mr Justice Barry Hickson following Judge Hickson’s retirement. While Judge White retired from judicial office on 1 October 2021, he has engaged with the work of the Commission since his appointment on 1 July 2021.
The work of the Commission is at an investigative phase. The Commission held an opening hearing in November 2019.
During 2019 and 2020, the Commission’s legal team attended a number of locations on a number of occasions to interview relevant parties. The Commission’s legal team continues to contact relevant parties and interview witnesses. The Commission has received and reviewed a large volume of disclosure. It has also sought, on an ongoing basis, submissions from interested parties (having regard to its terms of reference) in relation to its ongoing work, including in relation to the scope for and conduct of physical hearings under the public health restrictions.
Minister of State Hildegarde Naughton met with the victims and their legal representation in June this year, following on from my meeting with them in April. I fully appreciate how important it is that this work progresses and I would continue to urge all victims and survivors to engage with the Commission.
As the Deputy will be aware, all Commissions of Investigation are completely independent in their work. I am satisfied that Judge White is committed to advancing the work of the Commission and I am assured that the Commission is active and working full time.