An independent group has been set up to examine reviews of deaths of children in care since 2000.

Minister for Children Barry Andrews made the announcement tonight and appointed Norah Gibbons and Geoffrey Shannon to the group.

The Minister will appoint a third independent person of 'international standing' following consultation with the two appointees.

The group is being asked to:

  • Examine existing information on deaths of children in care so as to validate the categorisation of those children who died from natural causes.
  • In relation to children other than those who died from natural causes, examine existing reviews/reports completed by the HSE (or by others on behalf of the HSE) and, based upon this information, provide an overall report for publication which:
  • Provides on an anonymised basis key summary information regarding each child and the circumstances leading up to their death;
  • Focuses, in particular, on the relevant involvement of State services with the child and his/her family;
  • Examines the strengths and weaknesses of such involvement;
  • In so far as learning was or can be identified from these reports/reviews, including common issues presenting, make recommendations as to how child protection responses can be strengthened; and
  • If considered useful, comment on the nature of the reports/reviews available for its consideration.

It will begin its work as soon as the work of the Roscommon Inquiry is completed.

The group's report will be presented to the Minister who will present it to the Oireachtas and publish it.

The group will be asked at an early stage to indicate a schedule for completing the work and provide regular updates as to progress against this timeframe.

Minister meets HSE officials

Minister Andrews today met the Chairman of the HSE, together with HSE officials, and discussed additional measures to be undertaken by the HSE.

The Board of the HSE is to provide the minister with a schedule of clear timelines for completing all reviews of child deaths that are currently in progress but not yet complete.

This schedule will include dates for completion of the review, finalisation of the report and publication of an executive summary.

This report will also be given to the Minister and published.

Minister Andrews has agreed with the HSE that the board will review the schedule on a monthly basis and take whatever action is required to ensure adherence to the dates, and report to him each month.

The Minister is also requesting the HSE to provide a validated list of all relevant cases at the earliest possible date.

Minister Andrews said reform of the entire system is underway.

Fine Gael’s Spokesperson for Children Alan Shatter said: 'Tonight's announcement by the Minister is a clear acknowledgement of the total failure of the Government to date to address seriously the scandalous failings within our child care and protection services.'