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Catherine Corless: Government efforts to help mother and baby homes survivors 'half-hearted'

The final report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes was published yesterday.

Catherine Corless (file photo)
Catherine Corless (file photo)
Image: Sam Boal/

HISTORIAN CATHERINE CORLESS has described efforts by the government to provide mother and baby home survivors access to their identities as “half-hearted”. 

Speaking ahead of a State apology by the Taoiseach in the Dáil to those who lived in the homes today, Corless also called on the Catholic Church to formally apologise for their role in managing the institutions. 

The final report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes – which can be read here - was published yesterday.

The commission was set up following claims that up to 800 babies were interred in an unmarked mass grave at a former Bon Secours home in Tuam, Co Galway – following on from extensive research carried out by Corless.

The Commission states that adopted people should have the right to access their birth certificates and associated birth information. If needed, a referendum on this should take place, the report said.

Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman has committed to introducing legislation to resolve issues that would allow individuals to access adoption and tracing information based on GDPR legislation.

But in an interview on RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland programme, the minister would not commit to a specific timeline for the commencement of such legislation.

“I’ll be prioritising that over the course of this year, I would hope to bring it to pre-legislative scrutiny this year, and hopefully bring it into the practice by the end of this year,” he said.

O’Gorman added that his department would begin to address subject access requests by individuals who were seeking information about themselves within the commission’s archive from February.

Later on the programme, Corless hit out at the minister’s response. 

“This [could] be done overnight for the banks, if they want to,” she said. “There’s a very half-hearted effort.”

Commenting specifically on the Taoiseach’s apology today, the historian also said that those who lived in the institutions required an instant response that went beyond words.

“An apology is words written out for the Taoiseach today,” she said.

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“What the survivors need is an immediate follow up to all those promises and all those recommendations that the Commissioner of Investigation have done…

“So there’s an awful lot of preparing to do to ensure that those people are [treated] as good as the rest of us.”

Contains reporting by Órla Ryan.

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