Statement

    Following the recent vote on Commission of Investigation (Mother and Baby Homes and certain related matters) Records, and another Matter, Bill 2020, I understand the hurt, anger and frustration many have expressed over the past few days. However, I want to be absolutely clear about what this bill does and does not do.  

    This bill does not seal the archive of the Mother and Baby Home Commission for thirty years. Instead the bill allows for a valuable database that the Mother and Baby Homes Commission created during its work to be kept out of the archive and be used. This data base contains the details of women and children who passed through the Mother and Baby Homes and keeping that database intact is vital. It will help many people to understand their past and establish important parts of their own identity.

    You might ask why did we need this bill. Under current law, the Mother and Baby Home Commission feels it is obliged to delete the data – that is why we have to change the law so the data can be saved. This legislation had to be brought forward urgently so that there was a legal basis for the database to be stored legally and safely beyond the end of the month.

    In the process of the discussion on this Bill, with contributions from TDs, Senators and survivors, Minister Roderic O’Gorman agreed to make two amendments. One will ensure that a complete copy of all records of the Commission will be in the archive. Along with this, there will be a detailed Index provided when the Commission makes its Final Report. These measures will assist in understanding the wider implications of the Commission’s final report.

    This is not the end. The Minister is working on legal ways to improve access to records, and will be requesting the Joint Oireachtas committee on Children to examine the best legislative reforms to deal with these issues.

    For the past 20 years, policy-makers and the State have been trying to rectify the terrible damage that was done to women, children and babies who were placed in, or born in, institutions that operated on this island in the 20th century. In 2000, we introduced and enacted the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse Act which resulted in the subsequent production of the Ryan report. That was followed by the enactment of the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004 which enabled inquiries to take place, such as in the dioceses of Dublin and Cloyne. Since then, we have started the process of having an inquiry into mother and baby homes on this island. Legislation on adoption information and tracing has also been discussed in the Dáil.

    But this is not enough. We have more to do and I am committed to ensuring the voices of survivors and their advocates are part of this process, and I am happy to work with individuals and groups on this. Please don’t hesitate to reach out.

    This bill does not seal the archive of the Mother and Baby Home Commission for thirty years. Instead the bill allows for a valuable database that the Mother and Baby Homes Commission created during its work to be kept out of the archive and be used. This data base contains the details of women and children who passed through the Mother and Baby Homes and keeping that database intact is vital. It will help many people to understand their past and establish important parts of their own identity.

    You might ask why did we need this bill. Under current law, the Mother and Baby Home Commission feels it is obliged to delete the data – that is why we have to change the law so the data can be saved. This legislation had to be brought forward urgently so that there was a legal basis for the database to be stored legally and safely beyond the end of the month.

    In the process of the discussion on this Bill, with contributions from TDs, Senators and survivors, Minister Roderic O’Gorman agreed to make two amendments. One will ensure that a complete copy of all records of the Commission will be in the archive. Along with this, there will be a detailed Index provided when the Commission makes its Final Report. These measures will assist in understanding the wider implications of the Commission’s final report.

    This is not the end. The Minister is working on legal ways to improve access to records, and will be requesting the Joint Oireachtas committee on Children to examine the best legislative reforms to deal with these issues.

    For the past 20 years, policy-makers and the State have been trying to rectify the terrible damage that was done to women, children and babies who were placed in, or born in, institutions that operated on this island in the 20th century. In 2000, we introduced and enacted the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse Act which resulted in the subsequent production of the Ryan report. That was followed by the enactment of the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004 which enabled inquiries to take place, such as in the dioceses of Dublin and Cloyne. Since then, we have started the process of having an inquiry into mother and baby homes on this island. Legislation on adoption information and tracing has also been discussed in the Dáil.

    But this is not enough. We have more to do and I am committed to ensuring the voices of survivors and their advocates are part of this process, and I am happy to work with individuals and groups on this. Please don’t hesitate to reach out.