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Call for TDs to get free vote on extension of Mother and Baby Homes Commission

Social Democrats TD Jennifer Whitmore said the issue “goes beyond party politics”.

Social Democrats TD Jennifer Whitmore pictured outside Leinster House last week
Social Democrats TD Jennifer Whitmore pictured outside Leinster House last week
Image: Sasko Lazarov/RollingNews.ie

THE SOCIAL DEMOCRATS have called for a free vote to take place on the party’s private members’ motion which seeks an extension of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes.

The motion is set to be debated in the Dáil on Wednesday before a vote on Thursday.

Several opposition TDs and Senators have called for the commission’s term to be extended beyond the end of this month.

Jennifer Whitmore, the SocDem’s spokesperson for children, said the issue “goes beyond party politics”.

Speaking today, Whitmore said: “It is very clear we need a one-year extension of the Commission to resolve issues for the survivors who had their recorded testimonies deleted without consent.

“This extra time is also needed to allow for a full investigation to take place by the Office of the Data Protection Commission and other relevant authorities.”

Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman last week said there may be a way to retrieve the audio recordings of almost 550 witness testimonies given to the commission.

Speaking in the Seanad on Friday, O’Gorman said the commission informed him last Thursday that it has become aware of “backup tapes” which “may – I have to stress the word may – contain the audio files of the personal accounts given to the confidential committee”.

The minister said he did not want to “unduly raise expectations about these tapes”, but added: “I very much hope they will contain the audio recordings of the 549 people who consented to be recorded.”

He said the tapes in question will need to be retrieved and transferred to the Department of Children so that his department can ascertain whether or note the tapes contain the recordings.

The minister had earlier said he didn’t accept that the audio recordings could not be retrieved, as was previously stated by the commission.

O’Gorman has to date refused to commit to extending the term of the commission, saying he is waiting for information from the Attorney General on whether or not that is feasible.

He said his focus is on facilitating access and rectification requests from survivors once the commission’s database is transferred to his department.

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“Looking at the range of considerations that need to be legally put in place in terms of making that call and particularly, my biggest concern is what can I do for survivors,” he told the Children’s Committee last week.

O’Gorman said the commission maintains that it deleted the recordings for confidentiality reasons.

A spokesperson for the Data Protection Commissioner today told TheJournal.ie: “We have received a response from the Commission and continue to engage with them.”

About the author:

Órla Ryan

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