The Government has passed legislation which critics say will ensure that records of controversial mother and baby homes will remain sealed for 30 years. The Bill was passed by 78 votes to 67, despite strong opposition in the Dáil.
Minister for Children, Roderic O’Gorman, refused to take amendments to the bill. The Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes recommended that a database of mothers and children who were resident in the mother-and-baby homes be sent to Tusla, raising concerns among survivors that they would be unable to access the information.
The Clann Project, a joint initiative by Justice for Magdalenes (JFMR) and the Adoption Rights Alliance, opposed the records being sealed.
Opposing the bill, Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín said: “The contents of this Bill are very concerning. If enacted it will mean that records unearthed by the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation will be returned to Tusla and held under lock and key for thirty years. This is unacceptable:we in Aontú have spoken to former residents in recent days and they’ve expressed concern that they will not be able to access even the transcripts of their own testimonies to the commission, or their own medical records or documents”.
Deputy Tóibín continued: “It is a sad reality that in thirty years’ time many of the former residents/ survivors may be dead. We’ve all heard the stories of people who have spent years trying to find their birth mother. People currently involved in the tracing or searching process are acutely aware that as the clock ticks their chances of reunion are fading. Minister O’Gorman’s Bill will throw more red tape and hurdles in the faces of people who are desperate in their search, having been failed by this State for so long”.
Mattie McGrath, Independent TD for Tipperary, said “the government bill is proposing to ‘protect records’ for another 30 years which essentially means that people affected will not be able to access their records until after this time. I believe that they have waited long enough and suffered enough throughout this time and that the government should not proceed in doing this.
“I also raised my concerns on the Whip system and how such sensitive debates like this one aren’t really taken into consideration by the government because they have their decision made before the debate begins and put a whip on their TDs to ensure they vote in their favour,” he said.
Cork North West TD Michael Collins said the vote was “a truly sad night for so many mothers and parents across the country where we see Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Greens seal vital information from them for 30 years. A shameful act which I am totally opposed to.”