Education Minister, Noel Dempsey, said on Monday that new laws would be drafted to streamline the inquiry's work and reduce costs.

Prime Minister, Bertie Ahern, set up the inquiry in 1999. At the time, he delivered an unprecedented apology to abuse victims for the country's "collective failure to intervene, to detect their pain, to come to their rescue".

It had been estimated that the inquiry would take between eight and 11 years to complete its work since its opening in 2000.

"Justice delayed is justice denied and this is all the more important where you are dealing with people's lives which have been blighted by past failures of the state," Dempsey said.

Ageing victims

One group representing abuse victims has said that 11 of its members have died since the beginning of this year.

The inquiry is probing allegations dating back to the 1930s.
 
About 3200 victims who had been resident in reform schools, homes for the handicapped, orphanages, children's homes and hospitals have applied to appear before the inquiry.

Most of the institutions being investigated were run by Roman Catholic church bodies.

The majority of alleged victims come from Ireland and Northern Ireland. But more than a third are Irish people now living in Britain, other European countries, the United States, Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.