Mother and Baby Home records: plans for survivors to access files

Mother And Baby Home Records: Plans For Survivors To Access Files Mother And Baby Home Records: Plans For Survivors To Access Files
The site of a mass grave for children who died in the Tuam mother and baby home, Co Galway. Photo: Niall Carson/PA
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Sarah Mooney

The Government has outlined a plan for survivors of Mother and Baby Homes to be given access to their personal records in a manner consistent with GDPR rules this evening.

It comes amid widespread backlash over a bill passed in the Dáil which campaigners said would seal the records from survivors for the next 30 years.

In a statement issued by its press office this evening, the Government said it had “a detailed reflection on all of the issues of public concern that were raised” at a meeting today.

“The Government acknowledges and regrets the genuine hurt felt by many people across Irish society,” the statement said.

“It is determined to take the necessary actions to ensure that these concerns are dealt with in a manner that is timely, appropriate and that is focused on the needs of victims and survivors."


The Government outlined a number of steps to be taken following its meeting, including a commitment to engaging with the Data Protection Commissioner to ensure the rights of citizens to access personal information about themselves under data protection legislation and the GDPR are “fully respected and implemented”.

Children's minister Roderic O’Gorman said the Attorney General (AG) has clarified that access to individual records is possible, but all cases will be assessed on their individual merits, according to the Irish Examiner.

The Government also said it would work to establish a national archive of records related to institutional trauma during the 20th century in cooperation with professional archivists and historians, as well as with victims, survivors and their advocates.


The Government said it had "reaffirmed" the reasons for bringing forward the recent legislation which had sparked controversy "to preserve and protect valuable records that would otherwise have been destroyed or rendered useless."

It said that it was a response to the "clearly expressed" views of the Commission of Investigation which had compiled a database of all the mothers and children who were resident in the main mother and baby home.

It said that under existing legislation, this database which "would be of considerable assistance to those involved in providing information and tracing services" would be "effectively destroyed".


"As the information compiled in the database is all sensitive personal information, the Commission would be obliged under existing legislation to redact the names and other identifying information about the residents of these homes before submitted to the Minister; the Commission stated this would have the effect of rendering the database useless," the Government statement said.

The Commission was of the view that the database should be preserved and made available to whatever body is charged with information and tracing services in a move that would require legislation, according to the Government.

"The legislation had to be passed before the deadline of October 30th in order to protect and preserve these vital records of a dark chapter in our history," it said.

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It comes as the bill in question sparked fury among opposition TDs and former Mother and Baby Home residents.

The Data Protection Commission previously said the Government had contravened European and Irish law with regard to the accessibility of personal data by voting to seal the records of Mother and Baby Homes for thirty years.

The decision not to accept opposition amendments to the controversial bill drew particular scorn from the opposition, with Holly Cairns, the Cork South West Social Democrats TD describing the action as "sickening".

Opposition TDs had hoped to allow survivors of the system decide via those amendments whether their names and testimony should be disclosed.

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