An inquiry into how the State handled the Covid pandemic will be up and running next year with the aim to have it concluded within 12 months, the Taoiseach has said.
As the Irish Examiner reports, the draft Terms of Reference of the inquiry have been "seen and cleared" by Coalition leaders with a memo set to go to Cabinet within weeks, Leo Varadkar said.
Mr Varadkar has also said he regrets the decision by the Government to introduce Ireland’s third and final Covid lockdown in December 2021 to battle the Omicron variant.
Speaking to reporters in Seoul, South Korea, Mr Varadkar said the Covid inquiry will not include the likes of text messages between government officials — similar to the UK inquiry.
While that sort of probe “might be very entertaining”, he says he is unsure what it will achieve.
Mr Varadkar said: “It’s (the memo) ready to go. The terms of reference are agreed in principle, as is the format, so the next couple of weeks ... up and running next year I think realistically by the time we’ve identified and agreed people who will do it.
He said the aim is to have a chairperson and a number of people who are experts in different fields, and it may be difficult to “find good people” if the inquiry was to drag on for years “so we want to try and avoid that.”
The inquiry will be possibly chaired by a judge, Mr Varadkar said.
The Government's preference is to have the inquiry done quickly, he said.
“I've seen a lot of inquiries go on for six, seven, eight years. I'm not sure what will be served by that. So [I] would like to see it done in less than a year - a year at most - but that's not something you control once it’s set up. It has to do its business,” the Taoiseach added.
Mr Varadkar said the inquiry panel may not be able to form findings as a certain standard of proof of evidence is required before making a finding.
His particular interest is in getting an assessment “as to what the long-term consequences of short-term decisions are.”
“The terms of reference are going to be more about trying to establish exactly what happened.”
He claimed there was a lot of pressure from the public and media to lock down the country with strict restrictions and to do so quickly.
By Kenneth Fox
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