THE DEPARTMENT OF Health has removed a dozen files from the National Archives since revelations about the deaths of almost 800 children at a mother and baby home in Tuam hit the headlines.
The department confirmed to TheJournal.ie that since 25 May – when the Irish Mail on Sunday led with the story – 12 state files have been withdrawn from the archives.
A spokesperson from the department said that “a small number of files” have been taken since that date.
“Only about a dozen… as they are part of a process of investigation,” they said.
The spokesperson said that the files will be returned because they are still the property of the National Archive.
However, no copies of the 12 files which were taken are currently available to readers in the archive.
Furthermore, over 40 state files relating to unmarried mothers, such as health inspection reports on unmarried mother’s homes and other aspects of their administration, were “recalled” by the Department of Health in May 1992 and on 8 February 2006.
This is permitted under the National Archives Act 1986.
These reports are “pretty standard”, according to the National Archive which said that no personal details relating to anyone would be available within the documents.
Despite the eight years that have now passed since they were removed, these files have yet to be returned to the archives.
The National Archives said a lot of files were removed as part of the child abuse investigation, which resulted in the Ryan Report.
It said that as the inquiry is winding up – with the fourth and final report on implementation of recommendations being laid before the Oireachtas by Minister for Children Charlie Flanagan next month – these files can now be returned.
“Under the regulations they are still records of the National Archives,” they said.
The files remain subject to the provisions of the National Archives Act 1986 and are open to public inspection.
Typically, lending of documents is permitted, but generally only for a period of up to six months. Some of these documents have been withdrawn for nearly 10 years.
It is believed that it is the responsibility of the department to take due care as they select documents for release to the archive. Once they are transferred, all rights and responsibilities for the documents transfer to the archives.
The National Archives Act 1986 states that “nothing in this Act shall prevent a Department of State from retaining a copy of any record transferred under this Act to the National Archives”.
It also states:
The removal of any Departmental records or other records or archives under this Act to the custody of National Archives or elsewhere shall not affect the authenticity of such records or archives, but any such records or archives so removed shall be taken to be in their proper place of deposit and shall be of the same force and effect in any court or proceedings in the same manner as if they had not been so removed.
This article was first published at 6am