Anger grows over sealing of mother and baby home records for 30 years 

Government proposes two amendments to controversial bill in bid to quell disquiet.
Anger grows over sealing of mother and baby home records for 30 years 

Cork South West TD Holly Cairns said the sealing of archives of the Mother and Baby Homes Commission will add further trauma to survivors. Picture: Gareth Chaney/Collins

The Government has moved to try and quell mounting anger at proposed moves to seal mother and baby home records for 30 years.

Children's minister Roderic O'Gorman has proposed two amendments to the controversial mother and baby home legislation due to be debated in the Dáil tomorrow night. Mr O'Gorman has drafted the amendments in order to address some of the ongoing controversy around the bill, which would seal survivor testimonies, along with the other records, for three decades.

The amendments, seen by the Irish Examiner, seek to address some of the major issues.

The first amendment will provide for the commission to remain in existence beyond the submission of its final report to engage with the survivors, to confirm which of them want their story to be made public and those who request anonymity, in order for all those involved to be accommodated and without it delaying the submission of its final report on October 30.

The second would see a copy of the database and related records deposited with the minister as part of the archive so that the records of the commission would be held as a singular, complete archive.

This will maintain a single sealed archive, while still ensuring that the database and related records can transfer to Tusla and remain available for use in accordance with existing and future statute.

One TD, who has seen the amendments, said: "I have never gotten so many phone calls in my time as a TD as I have about this, and the public think you can open the whole thing and they won’t be able to do that. I don't know that this will satisfy people. They do deal with some of the major issues, but I'm not sure they'll quell discontent.”

The Opposition has been deeply critical of the Government’s intentions to seal the records, saying it will only further the agony of survivors and their loved ones.

Cork South West TD Holly Cairns said the sealing of archives of the Mother and Baby Homes Commission will add further trauma to survivors.

Speaking at Leinster House, the Social Democrats TD said Taoiseach Micheál Martin now has a chance not to repeat mistakes made in the past.

Ms Cairns said: “If this legislation is passed in its current form, we will see the archives from the commission of the mother and baby homes sealed for 30 years. That commission was brought about in light of 600 babies being found in a disused septic tank,  and these people haven’t found justice. 

“This is being rushed through the Dáil without pre-legislative scrutiny. In this situation we’re talking about the most horrendous abuse,” she said.

But Ms Cairns made clear that survivors do not want this to happen. 

She said: “People should have the right to access their own data — human rights lawyers are saying it, and the survivors themselves are saying it, and they are the people we need to be listening to. 

“And if we’re not listening to survivors, we have to ask the question: ‘whose interests are we listening to in this situation?' ” 

In the Seanad, independent senator Michael McDowell called for extra time to be given to debate the legislation, and said the House should debate committee stage on Friday, leaving the report and remaining stages for a later date. But Mr McDowell said it was “bogus to say there is a hurry in passing this legislation”.

The former Attorney General introduced an amendment to take report stage at a later date.

He said the commission “needs, wants, and should be given extra time” to deal with the additional significant administration involved in finalising its work and he introduced an amendment to order the business, but it was defeated by the Government.

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