Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman has said an extension to the Mother and Baby Homes Commission would serve “no practical purpose” now that audio recordings of survivors’ testimony have been recovered.
The Social Democrats tabled a motion to extend the commission by a year to give survivors more time to ask questions about their testimonies before it is dissolved at the end of this month.
In the commission report it is claimed that witnesses were told that audio recordings of their testimony would be destroyed to protect individuals’ identities. However, this is disputed by some survivors.
Recordings the commission stated had been deleted last July were recovered last week amid a huge public outcry.
During a debate on the motion on Wednesday, Mr O’Gorman said the Government would not put down a counter motion.
I hope that the retrieval of the recordings now offers reassurance to those survivors
He said his department will be “ready to start providing personal data to those who request it under GDPR when my department becomes data controller on the dissolution of the commission at the end of this month”.
He added: “The commission has repeatedly stated that this process and the associated actions are carried out with the knowledge of survivors and I know that it documented this in its final report.
“It is clear that some survivors do not share this view. I hope that the retrieval of the recordings now offers reassurance to those survivors.”
Mr O’Gorman said that given these developments “it is not clear what practical purpose can be achieved by extending the term of the commission”.
However, the Social Democrats continued to push for an extension to the commission so survivors can seek answers to their outstanding questions.
— Jen Whitmore #SocDem TD (@WhitmoreJen) February 24, 2021
TD Jennifer Whitmore, the party’s spokesperson on children, told the Dáil the commission’s report reached conclusions that were “not only contested by many survivors, but which displayed an insensitive narrative of women, calling into question the validity of women’s and survivors’ experiences”.
She welcomed the fact that the audio recordings had been recovered but said an extension was “absolutely” still needed.
She added: “Considering that only last week the minister stated that the commission believe they were acting in good faith when they destroyed the testimonies.
“And considering that only two days ago the commission reported in the media, saying that we are struggling with the view that the recording shouldn’t be retrieved for legal and moral reasons.
“Are we now, and are survivors now, to take that leap of faith that every single last testimony is available, but they are all intact?
“That there is no possibility that any survivor, when they go to get access to their own story, will be turned away empty-handed?”
— Holly Cairns TD (@HollyCairnsTD) February 24, 2021
Cork South-West TD Holly Cairns said the “miraculous” recovery of the recordings had raised “more questions than answers”.
She said: “If the commission is dissolved at the end of this week, who will be left to answer these questions?
“Will the minister and his department, or will you pass the buck on to the non-existent commission?”
She added: “Judicial reviews are a basic entitlement. Survivors and adopted people are entitled to challenge the findings and recommendations of this report.
“If they choose to do this, how can they bring a judicial review application against a commission that no longer exists?”