O'Gorman apologises for Mother and Baby Home report communication failure

ireland
Minister for Children Roderic O'Gorman introduced the legislation in the Dáil.
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Muireann Duffy

Additional reporting from Vivienne Clarke.

Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman has apologised for his failure “to properly communicate” what the Government is going to do with the report into Mother and Baby Homes which is due to be published next week.

“I deeply regret my failure to communicate which caused anxiety,” he told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland.

Members of the Dáil approved a controversial Bill last night that will send a database created by the Mother and Baby Homes Commission to Tusla, raising concerns about accessibility.

The Government has been criticised for not opening the records to survivors, with the 60,000 records created during a five year State investigation to be handed over to the child and family agency instead.

The Minister said that when his department saw the value of the information included in the database, he wanted to ensure it was taken out of the archive and given to Tusla to help with their existing tracing processes, saying the aim was to preserve the work of the Commission to aid in the tracing of relatives.

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Mr O’Gorman explained that the Commission of investigation into Mother and Baby Homes had worked on the basis of the 2004 Act, meaning records will be sealed for the next 30 year, which he described as "very problematic".

Mr O'Gorman said he was committed to seeing what avenues there were to address the 30 year law, adding that there are concern that legal challenges will arise once the Commission’s report 4,000 page report into the matter.

They feel discriminated against

The Bill was passed last night after a vote resulted in 78 in favour and 67 against.

However, Dr Maeve O'Rourke, lecturer in human rights at Maynooth University, says many survivors of the homes just don't have faith in Tusla to do that.

"(They) are saying that they feel discriminated against, patronised and infantilised by the practices that Tusla operates in relation to adoption information.

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"They have publicly stated that they consider that they need the consent of a third-party to disclose an adopted person's first name and date of birth, they consider that is third-party information."

The Bill will now go back to the Seanad for consideration after the Government refused to accept any Opposition amendments.

Social Democrat's spokesperson for children, Jennifer Whitmore has urged Mr O'Gorman to insert an amendment into the Bill, allowing EU data protection laws to apply, which will give people impacted by the Mother and Baby Homes the ability to access their own information.

"The Minister still has an opportunity to change this, the Bill is going to the Seanad today so he can still change this, he just needs to insert the primacy of the GDP law within that document, he just needs to say not withstanding everything else in this Bill and in the 2004 Act that EU GDP data protection law reigns supreme here," Ms Whitmore told RTÉ radio's Morning Ireland.

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