An inquiry into allegations of historical sexual abuse in schools run by religious orders has been announced by the Minister for Education.
Norma Foley brought proposals for a survivor-led scoping inquiry to the Cabinet this morning.
The scoping inquiry will be led by Senior Counsel Mary O'Toole and will comprise a number of strands, a central strand of which will be led by expert in child protection Kieran McGrath who will engage with survivors.
Minister Foley said she wanted survivors to be central to the scoping inquiry and she wanted it to engage with as many as possible.
In engaging with those affected, the inquiry will be supported by the charity One In Four and also a team of experts in trauma informed engagement.
Minister Norma Foley said she was asking and inviting survivors to come forward and that a website connected with the scoping exercise would go live.
She said she wanted to assure survivors that this was a process in which they would be central and that it would be a safe space, adding that their views are integral to the inquiry.
Survivors who wish to register their interest in the process can find details of how to do so at gov.ie/educationscopinginquiry
The scoping inquiry will also involve what the minister called a 'look back' exercise, looking at other inquiries and things that worked well or did not work well.
Mary O'Toole will also be tasked with looking at current safeguarding measures in schools and to look at best practice.
The minister said it was very hard to judge how long the scoping exercise would take but she believed at this stage that the time frame could be in or around eight months.
It will look at all schools run by religious orders and will engage with all the religious orders involved. The minister said the department had already written to the Spiritan order and had had "constructive engagement, but more is required".
She said the cooperation of everyone was required and she said she expected to get that.
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Speaking on RTÉ's News at One, Minister Foley said she had been "intensively engaging with survivors" since the documentary aired.
"The message I received consistently, most especially from survivors, is that they themselves would like to be centrally involved in shaping and contributing to the direction of any future Government actions and responses," she said.
"This is very much at the heart of this scoping inquiry. It will take a holistic approach. There will be various strands of work."
She said that it will not be confined to the Spirtians, but will deal with all of the orders involved in education.
"I would absolutely expect, at a bare minimum, that all of the orders involved will be more than happy and more than willing to cooperate with the scoping inquiry.
"At the centre of it, as I said, are the survivors. They are more than deserving of that respect and I would absolutely expect that it will be forthcoming."
Ms Foley said the target for completion of the work is eight months, but she insisted that it is "very difficult to forecast how many people will come forward".
Last month, the Department of Education said it was important that survivors knew there would be "a serious response".
It said that the Government was considering how this could best be achieved "having regard to the ongoing garda investigation and wishes of survivors".
In November, RTÉ's Doc on One programme broadcast the account of two brothers who spoke of being sexually assaulted on the Blackrock College campus, which is one of a number of schools run by the Spiritan (formerly Holy Ghost) congregation.
Then taoiseach Micheál Martin said there would be a public inquiry, which would be a victim-led process.
By mid-February last, An Garda Síochána had received 131 contacts either through the Sexual Crime Management Unit Office at the Garda National Protective Services Bureau or at local garda stations across the country.
Gardaí said contacts had primarily been from victims but also included contacts from people who had witnessed abuse and from persons on behalf of victims.
Last November, the Spiritan Congregation apologised to victims and set up a restorative justice programme.
Read more: Brothers who suffered abuse welcome scoping inquiry
If you are a survivor and you wish to register your interest in this scoping process you can find details of how to do so at gov.ie/educationscopinginquiry.
You can also email@example.com or phone 00 353 90-6483610
The deadline for registering an interest in the survivor engagement process is 17 April 2023.