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All survivors of institutional abuse to be allowed request access to personal data, Taoiseach confirms

The Taoiseach told the Dáil that applying GDPR will allow it to “affirm the rights of people to access their own personal data”.

Image: Sasko Lazarov/Rollingnews.ie

SURVIVORS OF INSTITUTIONAL abuse are to be allowed to request data access to their personal information, both for those who survived Mother and Baby Homes and survivors of other forms of institutions in Ireland, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has confirmed.

In the wake of the government’s back and forth on data access for survivors of Mother and Baby Homes, questions have surfaced on the rights of survivors of other institutional abuses, including in schools and Magdalene Laundries.

Speaking in the Dáil today, Social Democrats TD Holly Cairns asked Martin whether survivors of forms of institutional abuse beyond the Mother and Baby Homes, such as those detailed by the Ryan report and the McAleese archives, will be entitled to request access to their personal data.

In response to Cairns, Martin said: “My own view is that GDPR applies in terms of access to personal data and that’s the view of the attorney general as well.”

“I’ve no interest in any records being put into some vault and left there for a long time that no one has access to,” Martin said.

“What we’ve decided to do as a government, both in the context of industrial schools, in the context of Magdalene Laundries and in the context of Mother and Baby Homes is to have a proper national centre where the archives will be held – but not just an archival centre, but that we’d try to be creative and that this is where the story will be told about dark chapters of our past,” he said.

“There will be legal issues, and I think the expansion of GDPR is an interesting area in making sure we affirm the rights of people to access their own personal data, which is a European legal requirement now and one that should be adhered to.”

In 2009, the Ryan Report was published following the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, which investigated abuse of children from 1936, particularly residential industrial schools operated by the Catholic Church.

The McAleese archive contains data and records on the Magdalene laundries.

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The Department of Children last week announced that it will process data access requests for records held on Mother and Baby Homes, with two tests to be applied by the department to each request before it is granted.

However, a legal expert said that one of the tests, which would consider any potential impact of granting a request on future commissions of investigations, is a “legal error”.

The government intends to establish a national archive of records on institutional trauma during the 20th century, which will including archiving records and witness testimony from victims and survivors.

About the author:

Lauren Boland

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