Mother and Baby Commission: Transparency is the best policy

As is often the case in matters as sensitive as those facing the Mother and Baby Homes Commission conflicts of interest arise. These can seem insurmountable but, more often than not, if there is a will to resolve the impasse a solution can be found.

The suggestion that the commission is legally obliged to share burial details with bereaved families seems one instance. Special rapporteur on child protection Geoffrey Shannon has referred to decisions by the European Court of Human Rights which found that “family members of a deceased have a right to information regarding the fate of their loved one — whether this means being informed of the burial time, autopsy results of the location of his or her last resting place”.

Mr Shannon’s view has been supported by other experts so this is a contested issue. When asked by the Irish Examiner to explain its view of legislation on what can and cannot be released under specific exceptions allowing the release of information the commission, unsurprisingly, kicked to touch: “The answers to all of your questions will have to await the publication of our final report,” it replied.

The commssion is an official, taxpayer-funded inquiry into a historical scandal, for that reason alone all its finding should be published but there is an even stronger argument — the scandal under investigation was built on a culture of silence and secrecy and it is time that mask was lifted.

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