THE government effectively undermined the independence of the Commission on Child Abuse and left it powerless, the chairperson of the inquiry, Ms Justice Mary Laffoy, claimed in a dramatic letter of resignation which the Minister for Education has refused to publish.
In the letter, which is revealed for the first time by The Sunday Tribune, the judge complained strongly that the government had never provided the proper resources required by it to full the functions set out by the Oireachtas.
The publication of Laffoy's letter, which the cabinet had sought to keep under wraps, will heap further pressure on the government and lead to renewed questioning of its handling of the inquiry.
A clearly unhappy Laffoy resigned from the commission last Tuesday after the Minister for Education, Noel Dempsey, announced that the government had ordered a second review of its mandate without ever publishing an earlier study into its functions carried out in recent months by a group headed by the Attorney General, Rory Brady.
Laffoy said the government's decision to order another review of the commission's mandate was just the latest in a series of measures and delays which had impeded the inquiry in completing its work in a timely manner.
"A range of factors over which the commission has had no control have together produced a real and pervasive sense of powerlessness. In retrospect, it appears to me that since its establishment, the commission has never been properly enabled by the government to full satisfactorily the functions conferred on it by the Oireachtas".
The judge, in her letter to the Secretary General to the government, specifically complained about:
a two-year delay in dealing with the issue of compensation for victims of abuse;
a two-year delay in dealing with the issue of legal costs of persons involved in the investigation committee;
delays by the government in dealing with requests for adequate resources for the Investigation Committee when the volume of allegations became known;
the government's rst review of the commission's mandate, which was to have been completed by mid-February but which has not been published;
the "meaningless" commitment by the government last December to provide additional resources which was contingent on the outcome of the review which has not been published.
Laffoy said that the cumulative effect "has effectively negatived" the commission's independence and prevented it from performing its statutory functions "as envisaged by the Oireachtas with reasonable expedition".
The judge said that the clear inference from recent communication from the Department of Education to the inquiry was that the government had decided that the commission will not implement its current statutory mandate.
Laffoy said that the government had effectively rendered the mandate of the commission inoperable and left the inquiry powerless in a practical sense.
"The consequence of the most recent decision of the government is that an independent statutory commission has been put in the position that it has had to decide, following legal advice, that it cannot continue to engage in the work which it considers it should be engaged in to advance its mandate and further of having to publish that decision, " she said.