Mother and baby homes: Audio recordings of personal interviews have been destroyed 

Mother and baby homes: Audio recordings of personal interviews have been destroyed 

The infants' graveyard at Sean Ross Abbey in Roscrea, Tipperary

The destruction of audio recordings of the personal interviews given by survivors of mother and baby homes has been described as "thwarting of natural justice".

Survivors believe their stories, which they say are not reflected in the recently published report, will never be properly told as recordings of the accounts they gave to the Mother and Baby Home Commission of Investigation have been destroyed.

Raising serious questions as to why the audio was so quickly wiped, co-founder of the Adoption Rights Alliance Susan Lohan said: 

It adds fuel to a widely held view that this report was at best a whitewash and at worse a cover-up.I would see this as a corruption of a really important witness testimony."

The report, which was published this month and runs to almost 3,000 pages, states the recordings were only used as an “aide-memoire” and were then disposed of, however, some women say they were never told this would happen and their accounts are not accurately depicted in the final document.

Solicitor Simon McGarr, who has been contacted by two people who gave evidence to the commission, said: "I was supplied with the paperwork by one of the witnesses who discovered that their recording had been destroyed and the paperwork does not say that it will be destroyed.

The graveyard at Bessborough, Blackrock, Cork, formerly Bessborough House mother and baby home. Picture: Laura Hutton/RollingNews.ie
The graveyard at Bessborough, Blackrock, Cork, formerly Bessborough House mother and baby home. Picture: Laura Hutton/RollingNews.ie

"She's emphatic. She turned up and on the day she met the two people who were taking evidence and they said 'do you mind if we're recording, we record all the things?' She said 'I've no problem with that, but I want a copy of the recording for my own record'. They said 'we can't do that. We will not give you that'.

"She is adamant that they didn't then say that it would be destroyed because she says if they had said that, she would have got up and left."

Mr McGarr asked: 

Was this destruction undertaken after it became clear that these records weren't going to be sealed for 30 years and that people could ask for them?"

A spokesperson for the commission said those who gave evidence were orally asked for permission to record and told that the recordings would be destroyed.

Ms Lohan said the commission had "acted prematurely" in erasing the audio of hundreds of interviews.

"Given the public disquiet around how this evidence has been treated, they shouldn't have rushed to destroy that evidence."

She said many people who gave testimony "don't recognise their evidence as reported by the commission".

The commission said stenographers took verbatim accounts of all the 19 hearings that took place before the full commission.

"There were no stenographers at the confidential committee hearings. As is described in the report, notes were taken which were then checked against the recordings. 

"Under the terms of reference, the confidential committee was required to hear witnesses 'as informally as possible' and then to compile a 'report of a general nature'," the spokesperson said.

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