Fianna Fáil TD for Laois and Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee Sean Fleming says the failure by the Government to take into account data protection concerns when establishing Commissions of Investigation and Tribunals of Inquiry is resulting in delays and additional costs to the State.

Deputy Fleming made the comments arising from the publication of the Second Interim Report of the Cooke Commission of Investigation (National Asset Management Agency).

This report was issued on the 17th May and in Paragraph 5.1 Judge Cooke highlights that those who were co-operating voluntarily with the Commission had not been able to provide information as a result of data protection issues. This resulted in the Commission having to issue statutory directions to overcome this matter.

Deputy Fleming said, “Commissions of Investigation and Tribunals of Inquiry play an important role in examining matters of urgent public concern. It is in the interests of everyone to ensure that they are facilitated in completing their work in a speedy manner so that people get the answers they deserve.

“These predictable issues in relation to data protection have slowed down the work of the Commission. Judge Cooke has highlighted that the Commission needs to be extended as a result of this. These delays will obviously lead to a significant increase in costs to the State as a result of poor planning and inadequate Terms of Reference.

“The Scoping Inquiry into the Cervical Check Screening Programme is also facing similar issues as consent is required before the reviewers can examine the slides of individual patients. This fact wasn’t reflected in the Terms of Reference when the scoping inquiry was established.

“The Department of Taoiseach was responsible for setting the Terms of Reference for the Cooke Commission of Investigation. The delays that have arisen could have been avoided if the Terms of Reference had taken data protection concerns into account before the work commenced. This will no doubt have implications for every Commission of Investigation and Tribunal of Inquiry.

“I acknowledge this significant issue highlighted by Justice Cooke, which I believe will have implications for all other Commissions of Investigation and Tribunals of Inquiry,” concluded Deputy Fleming.