Rejecting mother and baby homes report would have 'huge consequences': O'Gorman

Campaigners and survivors have been calling on the Government to reject the final report of the commission as it does not reflect their true experiences
Rejecting mother and baby homes report would have 'huge consequences': O'Gorman

Minister of Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Roderic O'Gorman said rejecting the independent commission could have 'unforseen' consequences. Picture: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

Repudiating the Mother and Baby Home Commission report would have "huge consequences", the Children's Minister has warned.

Campaigners and survivors have been calling on the Government to reject the final report of the commission since its publication, claiming it does not reflect the lived experiences of many. Speaking at the Oireachtas Children's Committee, Children's Minister Roderic O'Gorman said:

 A decision by a Government to repudiate an independent commission of investigation report has huge consequences and consequences that I think are really unforeseen.

"What happens in a situation when a commission of investigation report is undertaken, it criticizes a future government and that government decides to repudiate that report?"

However, Social Democrats TD Holly Cairns suggested that taking a decision not to repudiate a report also has consequences, and urged the Government to reflect on this.

Mr O'Gorman told the committee that the promised international expert review of the testimony provided by more than 500 survivors was dropped because of "significant legal complexities".

Re-examining testimony

In June 2021, Roderic O’Gorman announced plans to bring proposals to the Cabinet to appoint an international human rights expert to re-examine the written testimony given to the Mother and Baby Homes Commission, and report back this year.

In outlining his decision not to progress with this review, Mr O'Gorman will say that the "continuing influence of the legal framework provided by the Oireachtas to facilitate and direct the independent commission’s work," must be recognised.

"Significant legal complexities would arise in seeking to facilitate an external review of accounts provided privately and in confidence within the robust legal framework of a commission of investigation.

Government cannot, via a non-statutory process, retrospectively alter or interrogate the independent commission’s findings or methodology. We must be upfront in relation to such complexities.

Under questioning from Ms Cairns, Mr O'Gorman denied that a draft memo had been prepared in June of last year before the plan was abandoned.

However, FOI documents show that on June 14, 2021, an email thread was started between “Advisor, Sec Gen and PO re draft outline of proposed memo for Government”. 

This thread is described as “an early draft of a document created for the purpose of enabling the Minister to bring proposals to Government for consideration”.

Mr O'Gorman also ruled out adding any clarifications to the report, after Committee chair Kathleen Funchion pointed to a High Court case taken by a number of survivors last year which resulted in the State acknowledging flaws with the findings.

She asked why more change or additions could not have been made to the report in a similar manner.

"That statement was appended according to court scrutiny, a judge of the High Court oversaw that process. It wasn't the Government independently doing something," said Mr O'Gorman.

"The Commission's report hasn't been amended, it is a statement that sits alongside the Commission report outlining the dissatisfaction by the plaintiffs with the findings of certain paragraphs."

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