Mother and Baby Homes: ‘All aspects of Confidential Committee confidential’

The Mother and Baby Homes Commission has refused to answer questions on how its Confidential Committee — set up to gather testimony from survivors — will work.

The Irish Examiner posed a series of questions to the commission relating to the operation of the committee, which was set up to listen to the experiences of those who spent time in mother and baby homes.

The information pack sent by the commission to people wishing to give evidence states that their testimony will be heard by a committee member, with “an experienced person” taking notes in what is described as an informal process.

An audio recording will be taken with permission. It also states people will not require legal advice or assistance, although they may choose to have a solicitor accompany them.

If the person wishes to give evidence to the commission’s investigation then, with permission, “the recording may be used by the commission’s legal team” in relation to the person’s appearance before the Confidential Committee.

On foot of this, the Irish Examiner asked:

  • Will all interviews with the Confidential Committee be recorded, unless a witness does not consent to this?
  • Will a transcript and audio copy of the recording be provided to the witness?
  • What is the area of expertise of the experienced person taking notes when a witness is being interviewed?
  • Will a copy of those notes be sent to the witness?
  • Will the witness have an opportunity to clarify anything s/he believes does not reflect her/his testimony?
  • Will witnesses be given a copy of the general report of the Confidential Committee?

However, a statement issued by barrister with the Mother and Baby Home Commission, Ita Mangan, said:

“All aspects of the Confidential Committee are confidential including its procedures. People who wish to be heard by the committee are given detailed information in advance about how the meeting will be conducted.”

It pointed out the report of the committee must be completed by August of next year and must be published.

Claire McGettrick of Justice for Magdalenes Research said she was “disappointed and concerned” that the commission declined to answer any of the queries.

“While we concur with the need for confidentiality of witnesses, the committee’s procedures should be totally transparent in order for the Irish public to have any confidence in the process. More importantly, witnesses should be made completely aware of the committee’s procedures so that they can participate in an informed manner,” she said.

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