Minister Zappone

  • An announcement could be made today on whether the remains of hundreds of young children feared buried in a mass grave in Tuam will be exhumed.

    According to today’s Irish Independent, Children's Minister Katherine Zappone is expected to brief Cabinet members after considering legal advice on what action to take in relation to the remains, discovered at the site of the former Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home.

    An international Expert Technical Group (ETG) report, which was prepared for Minister  Zappone last year, gave a menu of five options for the site, ranging from memorialisation with no further excavations to exhumation, forensic examination and further investigations.

    The ultimate decision is expected to take into account advice received from Special Rapporteur on Child Protection Dr Geoffrey Shannon, who was asked by the minister to examine human rights issues raised by the ETG.

    It is anticipated that ministers may agree on the best way forward at today's Cabinet meeting.

    Minister Zappone will then brief the various parties involved in the campaign to remember the Tuam babies, before making a public announcement.

    The decision is described as  "extremely sensitive" and financial implications are likely to be down the list of priorities.

     It’s thought to be be "impossible" to take an option that will please all of the interested parties.

    Should the exhumation option be taken, it is likely to be a difficult task.

    The ETG report found the site in Tuam would test the boundaries of forensic investigation.

  • Minister Katherine Zappone says that she is determined that every possible option is examined in addressing the concerns of those most impacted by the discovery of juvenile remains at the site of the former Mother and Baby Home in Tuam. 

    The Minister has updated representative groups on a number of actions now underway.

    In response to the requests to begin collecting the DNA samples of survivors and relatives, Minister Zappone has asked Dr Geoffrey Shannon to examine whether it is possible to meet this request within the current legislative framework. She says the examination will be done in the context of what is scientifically possible. 

    The preparation of legislation is a priority within the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, she insists,  with a new unit established for this task. Additional staff from other Departments are expected to be assigned to the unit in the coming weeks.  

    Scoping of the legislation has commenced and the Minister says that the approach taken will be further informed by the forthcoming report in March by the Commission of Inquiry into Mother and Baby Homes into burials at these institutions. In parallel to the legislative project, work will also be carried out on sourcing appropriate expertise to carry out the works.

  • The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone is to visit Tuam on Monday evening next.

    During the visit she is expected to take time listening to the views of people on the future of the site of the Tuam Mother and Baby Home.

    Speaking ahead of the visit Minister Zappone said:

    “As I prepare to make a recommendation to Government on the future of children’s remains and the site of the former Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, I am anxious to have another opportunity to hear first-hand the views of people affected.

    The consultation by Galway County Council as well as legal and expert advice will help inform my decision. However I do firmly believe that all voices must be given an opportunity to be heard.

    The Minister will hold a meeting at 7pm at the Ard Rí House Hotel, Milltown Road, Tuam, Co. Galway next Monday.

    Minister Zappone has extended an invitation to all those who believe they have yet to be heard and those who wish to support previously express views, to attend.

    Minister Zappone said that notwithstanding the complexities surrounding the future of the site, it is important that the decisions which are taken are just, credible and transparent.

    Next Monday’s gathering is another step to ensure we achieve those goals.”

  • Children's Minister Katherine Zappone wants the Vatican to contribute up to €2.5m as part reparation for its role in the Tuam mother and baby home scandal, according to today’s Irish Independent.

    In a two-page letter to Pope Francis, the minister did not ask for a specific sum ,but rather asked the Church to "contribute substantially" to one of five potential options for dealing with the Tuam home's legacy.

    The Government is said to be weeks away from deciding on the future of the Tuam site, with options ranging from a simple memorial to a full-scale forensic and archaeological excavation.

    The latter could cost between €3m and €5m and involve the exhumation of close to 800 remains over a two-year period.

    Minister Zappone briefed the pontiff on the story ofTuam in Italian when they met at Áras an Uachtaráin on Saturday last.

    She then handed over a letter which gave greater detail about the hundreds of "little ones whose remains are in a sewage system".

    The memo also asked that the Church contributes to the cost of giving the babies some "dignity in death".

    Although she didn't put a figure on her demand, the Irish Independent understands she wants at least half of the costs to be covered by the Catholic Church.

  • Children's Minister Katherine Zappone has announced a three million euro fund for creches and child-minders who sign up to the new National Childcare Scheme.

    It will allow them to purchase ICT support to help record and report on children's attendance.

    Applications for the new grant will open in June with the amounts awarded ranging from € 500 to € 2,000 depending on the size of the service applying.

    Minister Zappone says The National Childcare Scheme has been designed to respond to both families' and business needs.

    She says she knows that 'family life happens' and attendance rules recognise that - and she also wants to make it easy and efficient for childcare providers to meet their obligations when it comes to reporting attendance.

    The Minster says this support grant and a new 'one stop shop' model will help streamline administration - freeing up more time for the work that really matters - providing quality childcare to the country's children.

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    Tuam Home Survivors Network say they are devastated at the further one year extension announced this week by Minister Zappone, extended to the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes.

    Secretary of the network, Breeda Murphy, says that a year delay for a person in their eighties now waiting on that report, and who’s experience in a Mother and Baby Home has had a lifelong impact on their lives, is a very long time.

    The Tuam Home Survivors Network had to read in the paper earlier this month that the Commission of Investigation was likely to be given a year extension, but was not informed of the delay directly from the Minister or her Department, Ms Murphy say.

    In addition, she says even when that report is concluded it is looking at the site and what happened in Tuam, but it does not deal with the effects on the lives of its survivors.

    Speaking to Midwest News Breeda says that an interim report on the status of survivors of Tuam’s Mother and Baby home is urgently required now, in the short term,  and she has been explaining the impact of the year extension to the Commission of Investigation and how it was announced earlier this week, on former residents of Tuam’s Mother and Baby Home.