Mother and baby homes: Options for retrieving recordings to be examined

Some survivors who provided testimony say they were not told tapes would be deleted

The commission told Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman that it had engaged with its IT experts to see if retrieval was possible, but that it is not possible to get the recordings back at this stage. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

The Department of Children plans to engage again with the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes to explore further whether it will be possible to salvage any recordings that survivors gave to a confidential committee.

The deletion of the tapes has caused controversy, with some survivors and campaigners claiming it may be a breach of data protection laws and some who provided testimony saying they were not told the recordings would be deleted.

Sources have said the department wants to examine whether there are any other options for retrieving the data.

The commission told Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman in a letter on Tuesday that it had engaged with its IT experts to see if retrieval was possible, but had been told that it is not possible to get the recordings back at this stage.


Mr O’Gorman told the Oireachtas Committee on Children on Tuesday that he had written to the commission to ascertain if the tapes of almost 550 witness statements to its confidential committee could be recovered, perhaps from back-up copies, but that it had responded to say that its view is “those tapes are not retrievable”.

Separately, letters released under the Freedom of Information Act show Mr O’Gorman asked 11 religious organisations and figures to consider an apology, financial contributions and the transfer of records following last month’s publication of the commission’s report.


Mr O’Gorman wrote that the report “holds up a mirror to aspects of our past which are painful and difficult, and we have to confront some very hard truths about how we collectively and individually fell short in our care of those who needed us most”.

He said he believes all relevant parties, including the State and those involved in the management of the homes, “have a shared moral and ethical obligation to support appropriate action” in response to the report.

Mr O’Gorman said that, by doing this now, “we can collectively demonstrate our compassion and commitment to work towards justice, truth and healing.”

He called for the religious organisations to “make a significant and practical contribution to this process”.

Mr O’Gorman asked that they consider “making an apology to those who were in your care” and contributing to the financial costs of a planned Restorative Recognition Scheme (RRS) of compensation for survivors.

Private archives

He also asked that they consider transferring relevant records they may hold in private archives to the proposed central repository of records in a National Memorial and Records Centre.

Mr O’Gorman sought an early opportunity to meet to discuss these matters. Asked if any offers of financial contribution had yet been made, a department spokesman said Mr O’Gorman has not yet met the religious congregations and he did not wish to comment further ahead of the meetings.

The spokesman said the estimated cost of the RRS cannot be determined until it is fully developed and the criteria for qualification decided upon.

Last month, Catholic Primate Archbishop Eamon Martin apologised for the church’s role in the mother and baby homes and said it should make reparations “if it’s proportionate and it’s in account of the findings of the commission”.

There has also been an apology from the Church of Ireland archbishops for the involvement of some of its members in the Bethany home in Dublin.

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times