Over 100,000 sign #RepealTheSeal petition on Mother & Baby Home testimony 

Aitheantas, the adoptees’ rights group, only put up the petition on Friday on the Uplift.ie site but it quickly surpassed its initial target.
Over 100,000 sign #RepealTheSeal petition on Mother & Baby Home testimony 

Childrens teddy's and toys along with flowers sit at the 'Little Angels' memorial plot in the grounds of Bessborough House in Blackrock, Cork. Picture: Laura Hutton/RollingNews.ie

More than 100,00 people have now signed a petition calling for the seal to be lifted on archives testimony from survivors of Mother and Baby Homes.

Aitheantas, the adoptees’ rights group, only put up the petition on Friday on the Uplift.ie site but it quickly surpassed its initial target.

It follows the outcry stemming from the Thursday night vote by coalition TDs to seal the records for thirty years.

This was despite calls by other TDs and survivors for amendments to the Mother and Baby Homes Bill, which was passed by 78 votes to 67 with all but two non-Government TDs opposed.

Apart from a database that is being sent to the child and family agency, Tusla, the records will be sealed for the next 30 years.

Survivors' pleas

Opposition TDs had hoped to allow survivors of the system to decide whether their names and testimony should be disclosed but their amendments were refused.

Holly Cairns, the Cork South West Social Democrats TD, said it was disgraceful that after pleas from survivors that the Government refused to even consider one of the over 60 amendments from the opposition.

Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman said his advice from the Attorney General was that access to the records had been explicitly restricted by the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004.

But, as the Irish Examiner reported earlier today, the office of the Data Protection Commission told the government before Thursday's vote that the 2018 Data Protection Act explicitly amended the 2004 Commissions of Investigation Act.

This was, it said, so any restriction on the right to access personal data processed by the Commission can only be implemented to the extent necessary and proportionate to safeguard the effective operation of commissions and the future cooperation of witnesses.

Maree Ryan-O’Brien, founder of Aitheantas, said “ Access to information for survivors and adoptees has been denied for decades.

At the heart of the decision to deny the right to access the most basic information about my life is a denial of our truth.

"It takes power away from survivors and perpetuates state abuse and narrow-minded views of the past. We need to move past this and let survivors and adoptees heal.” 

The petition is simply put as being to "repeal the seal to allow Adoptees and Survivors to Open the Archive".

And it explains why this is important: "For the first time the Irish people can see for themselves the callousness with which the Irish State has treated Women and Children & survivors who came through Mother and Baby Homes, Baby Homes, industrial schools who are denied access to their own testimony, files and records - this needs to stop."

Online artists join campaign to stop sealing of records

A group of online have also joined the campaign to halt the sealing of the records of Mother and Baby Home survivors. 

The group of artists, a cross-disciplinary group working throughout the country say they hoped to make "collective action" in response to the bill.

In a statement, the group said: "We wanted to respond with urgency and anger following the government’s refusal to take amendments and their dismissal of survivors wishes, the advice of the data protection commissioner and human rights experts.

The artists central to the Mary Magdalene Series at Rua Red - Alice Maher, Jesse Jones, Rachel Fallon, Grace Dyas and Amanda Coogan - have lent their support to the campaign to halt the sealing of the Mother and Baby Home records.
The artists central to the Mary Magdalene Series at Rua Red - Alice Maher, Jesse Jones, Rachel Fallon, Grace Dyas and Amanda Coogan - have lent their support to the campaign to halt the sealing of the Mother and Baby Home records.

"We believe in the power of artistic actions and the power of art as a force for social change.

"We cannot make physical collective protest at this time so we wanted to take action online in solidarity with survivors and those affected which could be replicated by others who felt the same. 

"We met together on zoom and decided on a simple hand gesture; You raise your hand when you wish to be heard.

"The eye symbolises the ever-watchful citizen who sees injustice and wants it addressed.

The group said they wanted "to add our voices to the activists who have been working tirelessly to amplify this issue."

"We wanted to speak directly to survivors to let them know they were seen and heard and remind the Government that we would not forget," the group's statement added.

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