Mother and Baby Home Commission finds back-up ‘disaster recovery’ tapes

Minister for Children hopes recordings will contain audio files of survivor testimony

The Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes has said back up “disaster recovery” tapes have been located which may contain the recordings of the personal testimonies given by survivors, the Minister for Children has said.

Roderic O’Gorman stressed that it was just a possibility that the tapes contained the audio files the 549 survivors gave to the commission’s confidential committee but he hoped they did.

The Minister said he could understand the “very real anger” of the 550 survivors who attended before the committee when they learned that the tapes had been deleted and he had been working to find a solution and to make sure their voices were heard.

Mr O’Gorman told the Seanad that on Thursday “the commission informed me that they had become aware of backup tapes held off site, which may - I have to stress the word may - contain the audio files of the personal accounts given to the confidential committee.


“And again this follows my earlier request to them to exhaust all possibilities to retrieve data from the interviews if that data still existed.”

He said he immediately responded to the commission “to arrange urgently for these tapes, and their content to be made available to my department as part of the transfer of the archive which is beginning to occur.

“I am expecting a response from the commission on that request later today. And I just want to stress, I don’t want to raise expectations about these tapes.”

He said: “I very much hope they will contain the audio recordings of the 549 people who consented to be recorded.

“But it is not until the tapes are retrieved that they’re reconnected to the parent IT system, and that they’re transferred to my department that my department would be able to ascertain this for a fact.

“I think we’re all aware that sometimes technology can let us down. These backup tapes are disaster recovery tapes and that’s their function.”

Speaking as he concluded a Seanad debate on the report of the commission into 18 mother and baby homes and county homes, the Minister said he would have to decide on the advice of the Attorney General “to what extent the sensitive material on those tapes can become can be made lawfully available”.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times