Complaint to gardaí over Bessborough file alterations

A participant in the Bessborough Mother and Baby Home vaccine trial has made a formal Garda complaint after it emerged files relating to the trial were altered in 2002.

In November, the Irish Examiner revealed the files of mothers and children used in the 1960/61 4-in-1 vaccine trial were altered in 2002 — just weeks after the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse sought discovery of records from the religious order running the home.

Mari Steed was born in Bessborough in 1960 and subsequently adopted in the US.

Her natural mother’s file is one of those listed as having been changed.

Earlier this month, Ms Steed made a formal complaint to the gardaí and Data Protection Commissioner concerning the matter.

In the Garda complaint, which has been seen by the Irish Examiner, she states she has also informed the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes of the complaint as it has requested her to provide documentation to it relating to her participation in the vaccine trial.

“I have notified the commission that I wish to file formal charges against the order and will then submit testimony as directed and aided by my legal counsel, and where it does not impact my own legal rights to pursue this matter further,” states the complaint.

A document obtained by the Irish Examiner last year under Freedom of Information revealed that alterations were made to the records of mothers and children used in the 1960/61 4-in-1 vaccine trials.

The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (CICA) had sought discovery of these records from the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary on July 22, 2002. An affidavit was sworn on October 3, 2002, and on a number of later dates in 2002 and 2003.

The changes made to files include:

  • The alteration of discharge dates of mothers (by a period of one year and two years);
  • The changing of discharge dates of children;
  • The changing of admission dates of mothers;
  • The alteration of the age of a mother (by two years);
  • The alteration of dates of adoption;
  • The changing of baptism dates and location of baptism;
  • The insertion of certain named locations and information into admission books.

In November, the Irish Examiner put a series of questions to the the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary in relation to the document. In a series of statements, the order said it wished to “categorically state that no documents were altered”.

“In your recent correspondence, you are suggesting that something illegal or inappropriate had occurred in regard to the documents to which you refer. This is entirely untrue; and we will continue to deal directly with the official commission on all such matters,” said a statement.

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