Failure to publish survivors report criticised

Failure to publish survivors report criticised
Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone

The Department of Children and Youth Affairs has again defended its decision not to publish the report of the Collaborative Forum on Mother and Baby Homes.

The forum — which is comprised of former residents of the institutions and advocates and is separate from the Mother and Baby Homes Commission — began its work in July 2018 and presented a report of almost 90 pages to Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone in December.

In April, Ms Zappone published the forum’s recommendations, stating that the full report could not be published due to legal advice from the Attorney General.

The decision has caused huge anger among forum members — some of whom have accused the minister of using the forum “for a PR stunt”.

Ms Zappone also rejected any suggestion that the decision not to publish the report was due to its scathing criticism of the Government’s adoption-tracing legislation and said that the possibility of publishing it in full will be revisited once the Mother and Homes Commission publishes its final report in February.

In a statement, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs said the charter for the forum “specifically requires the forum to conduct its activities in a manner which does not impact upon or pre-empt the outcome” of the Mother and Baby Home Commission.

“The forum members were made aware of this fundamental boundary at the outset of the process and reminded of this and related requirements in the course of its meetings,” it added.

However, forum member and co-founder of the Adoption Rights Alliance Susan Lohan said the forum was established independently of the commission and that it acted entirely within its remit laid down in the charter cited by the department.

“The forum — as per its Cabinet-approved charter — was established to facilitate dialogue and action on issues of concern to former residents of the institutions, which historically focused on unmarried mothers and their children,” she said.

“The charter also stated that the forum would ‘enable former residents to identify, discuss and prioritise the issues of concern to them’, which is precisely what we did in the body of the report, as it was vital that any recommendations would be viewed against the backdrop of survivor testimonies, views, and ongoing experiences.”

Ms Lohan also accused Ms Zappone of exploiting the unpaid time and energy of people who suffered at the hands of the State to produce a report that the Government has refused to publish.

It is a particular cause of hurt and anger that Minister Zappone, as a self-styled champion of human rights, chose to exploit the valuable unpaid time and considerable emotional energy of people, who have previously suffered and continue to suffer unspeakable human rights abuses at the hands of the Irish State, to produce a report, which she and the Cabinet deem too reputationally damaging to publish.

“Given that the forum’s establishment, charter and broad content of its report were approved by Cabinet, at which the Attorney General sits, it appears incredible that it should very belatedly, in January 2019, suddenly arrive at the conclusion that the forum’s report both impacted and pre-empted the outcome of the Commission of Investigation, which of course, in the opinion of the forum’s members, it does not.”

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