Data Protection Commission seeks answers on destruction of mother and baby homes recordings

Data Protection Commission seeks answers on destruction of mother and baby homes recordings

A total of 550 people provided personal accounts to the confidential committee as part of a five-year investigation into mother and baby homes. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

The Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) has written to the Mother and Baby Homes Commission over the destruction of recordings of witness testimony.

It is understood the DPC has raised concerns with the commission and has asked it to provide the justification and legal basis for the deletion of the records.

A total of 550 people provided personal accounts to the confidential committee as part of a five-year investigation into mother and baby homes, however, these recordings have been destroyed and no verbatim transcripts were made of the testimony.

Survivors have strongly criticised the final report of the commission, which they say does not reflect their experiences. They say the wiping of these recordings has created a "verbatim void" and means they have again been forced to argue the truth of their own life experiences.

The commission said those who came forward were "orally asked for permission to record and told the recordings would be destroyed".

However, many survivors say they were not informed that the audio of their statements would be deleted.

"Survivors who gave evidence to the commission in good faith have stated that the record of their testimony was presented incorrectly, the recordings would have served as a means of verifying and allowing them to correct their written record to reflect the testimony they gave," said Maree Ryan-O'Brien of adoption rights group Aitheantas.

"Destroying the recorded statements effectively creates a 'verbatim void' – again leaving survivors having to argue the truth of their own life experiences," she said.

It is understood that the DPC yesterday wrote to the Mother and Baby Home Commission, which will be wound up at the end of this month, to raise questions about the manner in which consent was obtained for the deletion of records. Such destruction is regarded as a form of data processing.

Guidelines published by the DPC say consent must also be "freely given" and should not be relied upon as a legal basis where there is a "clear imbalance between the individual and the controller".

The DPC adds that this could occur in particular where the controller is a public authority, or employer, or otherwise in a position of power, and it is therefore unlikely that consent was freely given in the context of that relationship.

A DPC spokesperson confirmed they had contacted the commission, however, they declined to comment further.

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