'Enormous obstacles' blocking survivors accessing birth certs need to be removed

'Enormous obstacles' blocking survivors accessing birth certs need to be removed

Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD said steps need to be taken 'really really quickly' to help people access their records. File Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Pressure is mounting on the Government to remove the "enormous obstacles" preventing the survivors of mother and baby homes from accessing their birth certificates.

Calling for immediate changes to allow survivors to obtain their personal files, Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald said she has a "jaundiced view" of parts of the Mother and Baby Home Commission's final report published this week.

"For me, the assertion that there was no such thing as forced adoptions is just not true. It doesn't tally with so many of the stories that I've heard, not just from women or survivors, but from adopted people themselves, that that doesn't add up.

"The assertion that there was no abuse, I think, stands in stark contradiction to much of the testimony from the women," she said.

Ms McDonald said there now needs to be "a very deep and wide consultation" with survivors and their advocates and the Government must prioritise the opening up of records for those who were in mother and baby homes.

People face just the most enormous obstacles in accessing their own personal files, their early childhood records, their birth certs, and that needs to stop.

"There's different views legislatively as to what needs to happen to give effect to that. And many people argued that it is just about the proper application of the current law of the GDPR law, but whatever remedy is judged to be necessary it needs to happen really really quickly," she told Newstalk Breakfast.

Former Tánaiste Joan Burton, who was herself adopted, also said people have a right to have their files.

"I think identity is a primary need in a person.

"If you're looking after small children, you'll know how parents show them the photographs and tell them the story of 'how we met and how he had you', that's a universal child experience. 

"People who have been in the mother and baby homes don't have that experience, unless they've been able to access their papers."

She said people in Northern Ireland had been given this right in 1975 with Canada, Australia, New Zealand and most other EU countries also allowing access to personal files.

Ms Burton hit out at the fact that survivors had not been given a copy of the report this week.

"I think, for me like a lot of other people, a lot of tears have been shed since the report was published.

"I think that the government need to think rather sensitively about treating people affected because this is their history, to actually treat them with some sensitivity and to make sure that if people want a hard copy at least of the summary that they will get that, because it gives them an opportunity to read really about the history of themselves."

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