Minister commits to 're-examine' controversial mother and baby homes legislation

Minister commits to 're-examine' controversial mother and baby homes legislation

It's understood some TDs in the party have voiced reservations over the legislation after they received "thousands and thousands" of emails from constituents and survivors. Picture: Denis Scannell

The Minister for Children has committed to a "re-examination" of the controversial mother and baby homes legislation.

Roderic O'Gorman said it is "impossible to ignore" the thousands of letters he has received, and that there is an "obligation to look beyond the legal process". He said he will engage with the Attorney General and legal academics to review the process.

The Dáil debated amendments to the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes which would see survivors' testimony sealed for 30 years by October 30, a move that has been widely criticised by human rights organisations and survivors themselves.

Both government and opposition TDs said the legislation has been "rushed" and a number of representatives were reduced to tears while discussing stories from survivors.

Social Democrat Holly Cairns said: "The Commission was set up after over 700 babies were found in a septic tank in Tuam. I couldn't think of anything worse, yet here we are; Instead of talking about justice we can give to survivors, we're denying them access to their own information.

"The state treats this as a scandal to be contained. The bare minimum the state can do is to consider what impact legislation will have on survivors. We know it compounds trauma for so many. That they deserve more is an understatement."

"At this point if the legislation is pushed through, whose interest are you protecting? Because it isn't survivors."

The government maintains that the bill needed to be passed to enable the preservation of the records.

Meanwhile, a Fianna Fáil senator has told colleagues there is a "campaign of vested interests trying to make a "commodity" from the Mother and Baby Home Commission.

Fianna Fáil is facing an internal battle over the controversial legislation, with one TD saying concerns lay in "the outcome of the process and whether survivors or families may not be able to access their information" when the records are sealed.

Senator Erin McGreehan, Fianna Fáil
Senator Erin McGreehan, Fianna Fáil

A mass-email to the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party, sent by Senator Erin McGreehan, seen by the Irish Examiner, said the debate on the issue "proved difficult mainly because the campaign by vested interests trying to make a commodity of the survivor's stories".

Ms McGreehan said the reason TDs are wary was because of "a misrepresentation" of the legislation.

"The reason people are hesitant was because of the email campaign saying that people's records would be lost forever and not able to find their families, it was all a misrepresentation," she said.

"I feel there have been some vested interests, not in the interests of all. For instance, the Sean MacDiarmada archive; the biggest home in the country was in Cork, the women and children still alive are not rich, do not go to Dublin ever. Why should they have their stories in Dublin, when their story is alive and well and living in Cork? That's an example of a vested interest, it needs to be more inclusive."

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