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Never the intention that mother and baby home legislation would cause 'such anxiety and anger', says minister

Cabinet is expected to discuss the fallout from the controversy over the handling of legislation which was passed last week.

The mother and baby home legislation will be discussed at Cabinet today.
The mother and baby home legislation will be discussed at Cabinet today.
Image: Sam Boal

PUBLIC EXPENDITURE MINISTER Michael McGrath has said it was never the intention for the mother and baby home legislation to cause “such anxiety and anger among many of the people who have been directly affected”.

Cabinet is expected to discuss the fallout over the handling of legislation which was passed last week.

Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman will update ministers on the plans to publish the report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes.

Speaking on his way into Cabinet today, McGrath said putting the records beyond the reach of people was not the effect of the legislation, reiterating that the legislation was “primarily about saving and protecting records”. 

The controversial piece of legislation allows the transfer of a database of 60,000 records compiled by the commission to Tusla, the Child and Family Agency.

The records are set to be sealed for 30 years but this specific aspect is not dealt with in the new legislation, rather the 2004 Act under which the commission operated.

Many survivors and legal experts expressed anger at the handling of the Bill, with Opposition TDs criticising the government for pushing through the legislation without proper scrutiny, and not accepting any of their amendments last week.

Concerns have also been raised by the Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) about the application of a right to personal data within the 2004 Act on the Commission into Mother and Baby Homes.

In a statement released over the weekend, the Department said: “The legal advice received by the Department is that the GDPR right to access personal data (Article 15) is expressly prohibited by section 39 of the Commissions of Investigations Act 2004.”

Minister O’Gorman said that the Attorney General and the DPC have “maintained ongoing communications” about both the 2004 Act, and the Government’s Mother and Baby Homes Bill.

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McGrath told reporters outside Government Buildings that there are “outstanding issues” when it comes to people having the right to access their personal data, as well as provisions for adoptees. He said the government will seek to resolve those issues.

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