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O'Gorman to seek investigation into leaking of Mother and Baby Home report

The Minister said that it was “always his intention” that survivors should hear the conclusions of the Commission’s report first.

Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman.
Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman.
Image: Sam Boal via RollingNews.ie

Updated Jan 10th 2021, 5:02 PM

MINISTER RODERIC O’GORMAN has written to survivors’ groups to say that he is “deeply angered” that details of the Mother and Baby Home Commission report were leaked to the media before they were shared with survivors and families.

On Twitter, O’Gorman said that he would seek an investigation into how the details became public.

“I’m seeking an investigation of how these sensitive details came into the public domain and will be raising it with Government colleagues,” O’Gorman said. 

The Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth said that he was “very sorry” that survivors had found out details of the report in this way, adding that “it is not acceptable”.

The Sunday Independent reported today that the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation report has found that 9,000 children died in the just 18 institutions investigated.

The newspaper also revealed that Taoiseach Micheál Martin would be apologising on behalf of the State and “wider society” to the Dáil on Wednesday, and quoted a statement from the Taoiseach saying the report was “shocking and difficult to read”.

Survivors said that they were hurt and angry, but “not surprised” by leak to the media; and that it was causing great distress to survivors.

In correspondence seen by TheJournal.ie, O’Gorman said today that it was always his intention that survivors should hear the conclusions of the Commission’s report first.

This was to be done through an online forum hosted by the Taoiseach for Tuesday, following a Cabinet meeting.

“My Department will be engaging colleagues across Government to ensure that no further information becomes public until the official publication on Tuesday.”

Opposition reacts: Leak is ‘shocking’, ‘appalling’

Several opposition TDs have asked for the origin of the leak to be established.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald tweeted that the leaking was “shameful”.

“A very bad start to what will be a number of very difficult days for survivors and their families,” she said.

TD Richard Boyd Barrett said on RTÉ Radio that it was “really shocking” that there was yet another mishandling of the Mother and Baby Home investigation, and said that it speaks to the “desperate mishandling of the bill” and the “retraumatisation” of victims through that controversial bill.

He called for an investigation into how “on earth this information was leaked”.

Sinn Féin spokesperson on children Kathleen Funchion described the leak as “insensitive, inappropriate and appalling”.

“Survivors have been subjected to considerable distress and trauma already and the Government has a duty to treat their concerns with respect and sensitivity in order for them to have confidence and trust in this report.

“I welcome that the Children’s Minister has condemned this leak. He must now ensure his Department establishes who leaked this document and how, so he can ensure appropriate action is taken.

“The Minister must learn from this and redouble his efforts to respect survivors’ needs and concerns,” Funchion said.

The Social Democrats’ spokesperson for children Jennifer Whitmore said that it was ”extremely disappointing” that the report was leaked, and asked for O’Gorman to investigate how the leak occurred.

Whitmore said the leaking of the details contradicts the process outlined to the Dáil on 3 December, when O’Gorman said:

“The plan is that it will go to the Cabinet that week, and following the Cabinet meeting, the Taoiseach and I will host a webinar solely for survivors at which we will discuss and bring out the major conclusions of the report for survivors.
“It will only be after that point that it will be available. We will hold a press conference for the general public, but we will be engaging with survivors first and telling them first.”

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Whitmore said that the minister now needs to set out how he will consult with survivors to ensure that assurances made about how the report will be released will be honoured.

Similarly, Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín said that “to see details of the report, on the front page of a newspaper this morning, is a punch in the gut for survivors”. 

“I would like to call on the Minister to make a public commitment today to furnish every survivor and relevant person with a copy of this report before he gives any interviews to the media,” Tóibín said.

The Commission was established in 2015 to inquire into the treatment of women and children in 14 mother and baby homes and four county homes – a sample of the overall number of homes – between 1922 and 1998.

The Mother and Baby Home Commission’s long-awaited report, which has been delayed a number of times, is due to be published on Tuesday.

With reporting from Órla Ryan, Gráinne Ní Aodha and Lauren Boland

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