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'Adding insult to injury': Anger over mother and baby home recordings being destroyed

Survivors say they were not informed their testimony would be destroyed.

Tributes at the site of a mass grave for children who died in the Tuam mother and baby home, Galway (file photo).
Tributes at the site of a mass grave for children who died in the Tuam mother and baby home, Galway (file photo).
Image: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Updated Jan 31st 2021, 1:58 PM

THERE HAVE BEEN renewed calls for chairperson of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes to answer questions after it emerged that audio recordings of personal interviews have been destroyed.

Survivors have expressed anger at the latest development, with some saying they were not informed their testimony would be destroyed.

The Commission’s final report, spanning 2,865 pages, details the experiences of women and children who lived in 14 mother and baby homes and four county homes between 1922 and 1998. It was published on 12 January, nearly six years after the commission was first set up.

Many survivors have criticised the report, in particular conclusions which state there was a lack of evidence of forced adoption and abuse, despite testimonies contradicting this.

Solicitor Simon McGarr said survivors “were all provided with an information leaflet in advance of giving evidence”, adding: “It doesn’t say that the records of their testimony will be destroyed.”

The destruction of the audio was reported this weekend by the Irish Examiner, which said the vast majority of the 500-plus audio recordings of survivors’ personal testimonies have been destroyed.

Yesterday, TheJournal.ie reported that babies who died at Cork County Home were buried in the same coffins as adults, or in coffins containing amputated limbs.

‘Adding insult to injury’

Fianna Fáil Senator Erin McGreehan has reiterated calls for the chairperson of the Commission of Investigation, Justice Yvonne Murphy, to appear before the Oireachtas Committee on Children, Disability, Equality and Integration.

Justice Murphy was invited to appear before the committee in recent days.

Senator McGreehan, who is a member of the Committee, said: “The destruction of audio recordings of the personal interviews given by survivors of mother and baby homes is truly phenomenal. This report has not met any standards of decency or justice due to very obvious contradictions in the Executive Summary.

“To add insult to injury the voices and words of women who were interviewed have been destroyed. I personally find it hard to believe that this has happened.

“As far as I believed, the women were to receive copies of their testimonies and now that opportunity is gone. One of the many problems with the report was that the women’s testimonies were not accounted for properly and now we have no way of proving this.

“This is a report that the State has paid for and the authors should be accountable and answer very legitimate questions.”

On Wednesday, Kathleen Funchion, the chairperson of the Oireachtas Committee on Children, noted that Justice Murphy is not compelled to appear before the committee but she hopes the former judge will.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Funchion said there is a lot of hurt and anger among survivors on foot of the report’s publication.

“People were led to believe that the reason it was going to take so long was because everything was going to be gone through with a fine tooth comb, it would be really well put together, really well researched and analysed.

“And it just seems like, at the end of the day, it was just rushed, or that’s how it reads.”

TheJournal.ie has contacted the Department of Children and the Commission for comment.

Redress

Speaking on RTÉ’s This Week programme today, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the government “want to do everything we possibly can to follow up on the recommendations that have been made” in the report.

Martin said this response will include passing tracing and information legisaltion – due to be debated in the Oireachtas in the coming weeks – and redress.

The Taoiseach said a “historical recognition of the wrongs that were done” will include financial compensation for survivors.

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“An interdepartmental committee has been established by Minister O’Goram in relation to that in terms of coming forward with proposals around that within a two-month period,” Martin said.

He added that Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman has written to the religious orders in question “seeking a contribution from them” for the redress fund.

However, he would not be drawn on what percentage of the fund he thought the orders should pay.

“The State also has responsibilities and we do have to fulfill those in respect of recognising the injustice and the harm that was done to many survivors.

“We have to work out the precise nature of the recognition scheme that we’re developing before we can get into precise figures,” Martin stated.

About the author:

Órla Ryan

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