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Government to set up archive of records related to institutional trauma in 20th century

The government released a statement about the Mother and Baby Homes this evening.

The Cabinet said decisions would also be taken on the Tuam mother and baby home site.
The Cabinet said decisions would also be taken on the Tuam mother and baby home site.
Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

Updated Oct 28th 2020, 8:11 PM

THE GOVERNMENT HAS said it will set up a national archive of records related to institutional trauma during the 20th century, in a statement released this evening regarding Mother and Baby Homes. 

In the statement, the government said it met today and had a “detailed reflection” on issues of public concern raised in the past few days. 

“The Government acknowledges and regrets the genuine hurt felt by many people across Irish society,” the statement said. 

“It is determined to take the necessary actions to ensure that these concerns are dealt with in a manner that is timely, appropriate and that is focused on the needs of victims and survivors.”

The government said it agreed a number of next steps, including working to set up a national archive of records related to institutional trauma during the 20th century. 

This will include archiving records and witness testimony from victims and survivors. 

The government said it will be set up “at a suitable site” and designed in cooperation with professional archivists, historians and survivors. 

The Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman is due to receive the report of the Commission into Mother and Baby Homes this Friday with the government saying that it will be published “as soon as possible” thereafter.

The much-awaited report is understood to be some 4,000 pages long but will not be published when received by Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman this week. 

No timeline has been placed on when the report can be published, however, with the department noting that “a number of procedural matters” are required to be fulfilled before this can take place.  

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The Department of Children along with Túsla will continue engaging with the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner to ensure peoples’ right to access their own personal information will be respected, the government said. 

It added that the HSE will expedite providing health and wellbeing support to survivors. 

The government also plans to proceed with legislation to provide for “sensitive and appropriate actions” at the site of the former Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, Co Galway where the bodies of 796 babies and young children were discovered in a sewage container in 2017. 

The final report from the Commission will be referred to the Attorney General for legal advice as to whether it may prejudice any criminal proceedings. 

“The 2004 Act requires the minister to consider whether the publication of the report might publish any criminal proceedings that are pending or in progress, if so the minister is obliged to apply to the court for directions concerning the publication of the report,” the department says.

The minster is aware from representations he has received that a number of parties have made complaints of a potentially criminal nature to garda authorities. Consideration of these matters will necessitate engagement with the Attorney General, Garda Commissioner and the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The government also said it will develop a “comprehensive State response” to the findings and recommendations of the report for urgent consideration. 

Coalition TDs have said that the government was taken aback by the backlash to last week’s Mother and Baby Homes Bill. Minister Michael McGrath said earlier today that it was never the intention for the bill to cause “such anxiety and anger”. 

 Today’s discussions at Cabinet were described as “very detailed discussions” but that decisions on the issue were taken collectively not by O’Gorman. 

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Speaking on RTÉ’s Drivetime this evening, O’Gorman’s party leader Eamon Ryan said that that his minister dealt with the issue appropriately. 

“I think Roderic has said himself that he wished that maybe there’d been further consultation, or more consultation done. Our sole focused on this is actually addressing the fears and concerns and legitimate worries that those survivors have, and our single focus is on how can we actually help them,” he said. 

With reporting by Orla Dwyer 

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Rónán Duffy

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