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Minister ‘determined’ State does right by mother and baby home survivors

The Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes submitted its final report last Friday after five years of work.

THE MINISTER FOR Children has said he is “determined” the State will do right by the survivors of mother and baby homes.

Following recent controversies over the Government’s handling of the report of the Mother and Baby Homes Commission, Roderic O’Gorman said that Cabinet had agreed to a series of measures to address the concerns.

The Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes submitted its final report to O’Gorman last Friday after five years of work.

The report, which stretches to 4,000 pages, will be published after it is reviewed by the Attorney General.

O’Gorman told the Children’s Oireachtas Committee that the report will be published “as soon as possible”.

There was a huge backlash from survivors, campaigners and opposition parties after the Government passed controversial legislation that would allow a database created by the Mother and Baby Homes Commission to be sealed for 30 years.

There has been a lot of confusion over the legislation and whether survivors will get proper access to their records.

“My hope is that these measures begin to rebuild the trust damaged over the past two weeks,” O’Gorman told the committee today. 

He added there is a need for more “openness, transparency and for understanding” of survivors.

mother-and-baby-homes-protest Majella Connolly (front), an adoptee from the St Patrick's Mother and Baby Home in Dublin, joins protesters outside Aras an Uachtarain, Dublin, after President Michael D Higgins signed the Bill into law. 26 October Source: PA

Outlining some of his department’s key priorities, the minister added: “I am committed to introducing legislation to resolve the issues with the current architecture of Adoption Information and Tracing, which were again highlighted by the debate around the Mother and Baby Homes Database Bill.”

He said the legislative measures will require “detailed scrutiny”.

The minister also said he is meeting with a number of survivors and groups this week.

Labour’s Sean Sherlock asked when the Information and Tracing Bill will be published.

“When will the commission report be published, because I would not wish to deal with these issues until we see the report and its outcome?” he added.

O’Gorman said he has put extra resources in place to have the report published “as quickly as possible”.

“I think every legislative step will be influenced by that,” the minister added.

I think the first piece of legislation will be the Tuam legislation in relation to the burials, I would hope to be in a position to bring a memo to Cabinet in November to gets a Heads of Bill agreed by Government.

“I am determined to ensure the issue of providing early birth information for adopted people and wider survivors of institutional abuse will be a key priority for my department next year.”

Senator Mary Seery-Kearney said that survivors and families have had a “long time of hurt”.

“I am deeply disappointed and deeply uncomfortable with the entirety of how the matter was handled, both in terms of the lack of consultation with survivors and the rush of the legislation through the House,” she added.

“The experience of knowing information about you is locked away in a box that you can’t get access to must be excruciating.

“I appreciate there are competing rights but we need transparency in that regard.”

O’Gorman said: “My department will engage with the Data Protection Commissioner to flesh out the implications of that for my department and how we will treat each individual data access request.”

It comes as the minister announced the appointment of Orlaith Traynor as the chairwoman of the Board of the Adoption Authority of Ireland.

Traynor has previously served as deputy chair of the Adoption Authority of Ireland.

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The Collaborative Forum on Mother And Baby Homes released a statement earlier today saying that ”trust has completely broken down” with DCYA officials and Minister O’Gorman “who rather than consult with us … has to date only instructed his officials to point us to his Twitter account”.

The representative group of Mother and Baby Home, County Home, Bethany Home survivors has called for the forum – set up my then minister Katherine Zappone – to reconvene. 

Social Democrats TD for Wicklow, Jennifer Whitmore echoed the call or the re-establishment of the Collaborative Forum which has not met since December 2019. 

“Today, survivors have written to members of the Dáil to outline their distrust in the Government since legislation was passed. They have asked that the Forum be re-established so that key questions since the Government’s U-turn on the issue of rights to access personal data can be addressed,” Whitmore said in the Dáil today. 

We need urgent clarification on what data and personal information survivors and adopted people will have immediately, as recently stated by the Minister; full disclosure of Tusla’s, the HSE’s and DCYA’s policies on providing access to survivors’ and adopted people’s personal data; and assurances that the Forum will be given sufficient time to digest the Commission of Investigation’s final report into Mother and Baby Homes ahead of its public release.

- With reporting from Adam Daly

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