Mother-and-baby homes: O’Gorman apologises for communication failure

Concern about legal challenges when report published, says Minister for Children

Roderic O’Gorman: ‘I deeply regret my failure to communicate which caused anxiety’. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Roderic O’Gorman: ‘I deeply regret my failure to communicate which caused anxiety’. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

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.

The Dáil approved controversial legislation that would transfer a database of 60,000 records created by a five-year State investigation into mother-and-baby homes to the child and family agency, Tusla.

The Commission of Investigation (Mother and Baby Homes and certain related Matters) Records, and another Matter, Bill was passed in the Dáil by 78 votes to 67 after a heated and emotional debate.

The database included in the Mother and Baby Homes Commission report “can help children establish their identity.” Under the existing law all the information has to be archived and sealed for 30 years.

When his department saw the value of the information included in the database, he wanted to ensure it was taken out of the archive, given to Tusla to help with their existing tracing processes. “The database will be incredibly helpful in searches.”

Legal challenges

Mr O’Gorman explained that the commission of investigation into Mother and Baby Homes had worked on the basis of the 2004 Act. There was concern that when the commission’s report was published there could be legal challenges.

The measure for the 30-year sealing of the archive was “very problematic”, he said.

The Minister said he was committed to seeing what avenues there were to address the 30-year law.

Under existing legislation, once the commission publishes its report (October 30th) then the archive has to be sealed, he explained. The final report had been due two years ago and he did not want to ask survivors to wait any longer.

The decision to seal the archive was made in 2015, he said. There is now a greater understanding of GDPR and people’s information. “We need to take a step back and consider how to treat this information and archive this material.”

GDPR legislation with regard to the right to personal information had been introduced in 2018, but there was explicit provision not to include the Commission report, he said. Mr O’Gorman said he was committed to speaking with the Attorney General about the application of GDPR to the archive.

Ireland had not put in place good information search legislation, he said. “My intent is to bring in proper information search legislation so people can secure their full identity.”

The Minister said there was clear support for bringing in changes with regard to access to personal information. “I believe this Bill is necessary to secure this database. It is important that this database is taken out of the archive.”