Mother and Baby Homes: 'Unseal the archive' campaigners could take legal action 

Campaigners are considering legal action against a controversial Mother and Baby Homes Bill which will seal records for 30 years
Mother and Baby Homes: 'Unseal the archive' campaigners could take legal action 

Former TD Ruth Coppinger ties little babies shoes to a sign while at aMother and Baby Home protest event at Áras an Uachtaráin. Picture: Sasko Lazarov/ RollingNews.ie

Campaigners are considering legal action against a controversial Mother and Baby Homes Bill which will seal records for 30 years.

A socially distanced group of around 200 people gathered outside Áras an Uachtaráin to voice opposition to the Bill passing and to the actions of Children's Minister Roderic O'Gorman.

Under the bill, which sparked fury when it passed through the Oireachtas, a database of those who lived in mother and baby homes will be sent to the child and family agency, Tusla. Other records compiled by the Commission will be sealed for three decades.

President Michael D Higgins signed the controversial Bill into law on Sunday night.

In a statement, the president said he had listened carefully to the debate and the issues raised as to the rights of access to information submitted to the Mother and Baby Homes Commission. He added that is open to any citizen to challenge the provisions of the Bill in the future.

Social Democrats TD Holly Cairns, who has been vocal in her criticism of the Bill, said the statement issued by the president provided a "subtle indication" that people can and should challenge the legislation.

She said: "As a champion of human rights, it must have been hard for him to sign such an unjust law, but he has allowed people to challenge it. 

The scale of the 'unseal the archive' petition clearly shows that the public want justice and transparency. The public are seeing right through the Government's spin on this.

Mr O'Gorman has admitted that the Bill had been "rushed" through to ensure it was in place before the Commission is wound up and its final report is published next Friday.

He has sought further advice from the Attorney General to address the serious concerns that have been raised by both campaigners and opposition TDs.

It is understood government TDs are increasingly annoyed about how the issue has been handled.

“Government TDs are nervous, but not panicked,” one government TD said.

“It’s clear there’s political misinformation being pushed here and no one seems to know what’s going on. It’s not going to go away.

Protesters wearing face masks tie little babies shoes to a sign while Mother and Baby Home protest event at Áras an Uachtaráin. Picture: Sasko Lazarov/ RollingNews.ie
Protesters wearing face masks tie little babies shoes to a sign while Mother and Baby Home protest event at Áras an Uachtaráin. Picture: Sasko Lazarov/ RollingNews.ie

One TD pointed out that Eamon Ryan’s current special advisor Donall Geoghan was an advisor to former Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone and “should be all over this, he knew this was coming”.

Meanwhile, Tara Gilsenan, cited the handling of the Bill as a significant factor in her decision to resign as chair of the Young Greens.

She said the way in which the legislation was handled was "abominable".

"I couldn't believe that the Green Party had made such a mess of an important issue," she said It’s understood that numerous Government TDs were “incensed” when the Data Protection Commissioner confirmed to the Irish Examiner that the bill was in breach of GDPR.

“How does that happen? There are serious questions to be answered there from the AG,” the TD said.

Speaking at the protest, campaigner and former Solidarity-PBP TD Ruth Coppinger said: "The Minister, Roderic O'Gorman, the government and the TDs and Senators who pushed this Bill through should be ashamed of re-traumatising and disregarding victims."

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