Written Answers - Health Service Investigations

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 717 No. 3

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  183.  Deputy Mary O’Rourke  Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke   asked the Minister for Health and Children  Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney   the position regarding vaccine trials carried out on young children. [35196/10]

Minister for Health and Children (Deputy Mary Harney): Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  Following media and public interest over the period 1991-1997, the then Chief Medical Officer of the Department of Health and Children, Dr. Jim Kiely, was asked by then Minister Cowen to investigate a number of vaccine trials which had been undertaken both on children in institutional settings and children in home settings in Ireland in the 1960s and 1970s. Dr. Kiely’s report, “Report on three Clinical Trials involving babies and children in institutional settings 1960/61, 1970 and 1973”, was laid before both Houses on 9 November 2000. The total no. of children involved was 211.

It was decided that the matter should be investigated further and it was therefore referred to the Commission to Investigate Child Abuse. A Statutory Instrument entitled “Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse Act, 2000 (Additional Functions) Order, 2001” included within the remit of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse the scope to investigate the vaccine trials. An extra Commissioner was appointed to the Commission, documentation was collected and a number of public hearings were held. However, in June 2004 the Order was deemed ultra vires the Act (i.e. invalid) by the High Court. Justice Ó Caoimh adjudged that the essential issue of the matter was not one suggestive of abuse as defined in the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse Act 2000.

Following consideration of the issues raised in the Court proceedings, it was decided not to investigate the matter any further. The Minister’s decision was made based on the fact that the difficulties which were encountered would undoubtedly arise again if this matter were to be investigated by another forum. These difficulties include the availability of persons with a necessary knowledge of events and the scarcity of documentary records of the trials.

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