‘Serious questions’ remain on mother and baby homes report, says archivist

Caitríona Crowe says survivors were retraumatised by final report

The Bessborough Centre, Blackrock, Cork City, a former children’s home operated by the Sacred Heart nuns. File photograph: Provision

The Bessborough Centre, Blackrock, Cork City, a former children’s home operated by the Sacred Heart nuns. File photograph: Provision

 

There are “serious questions” which must be answered about the Mother and Baby Homes Commission final report, archivist Caitríona Crowe has said.

Ms Crowe, who is the former head of special projects at the National Archives of Ireland, said survivors have been retraumatised by the final report, and that more care should have been put into the report.

Speaking on The Irish Times Inside Politics podcast, she also raised questions around the methodology used for the report.

Controversy around the report was sparked again last week after one of the members of the commission Professor Mary Daly appeared on an Oxford University webinar. She said testimonies given by survivors to the confidential committee were not integrated into the main report adding that to do so would have taken “hundreds of hours”.

There were two arms to the commission: an investigation committee and a confidential committee which was to collate the experiences of survivors.

“It is still mysterious as to why so few people were invited to speak to the investigation committee. It wasn’t advertised, there was nothing on the website of the commission, whenever anyone attempted to talk to the commission they were automatically diverted to the confidential committee. That is one of the questions that needs to be cleared up by the commissioners or some spokesperson on their behalf if they don’t wish to speak. These are serious questions that need to be answered” Ms Crowe said on Wednesday.

Testimony

She also highlighted the case of survivor Caroline O’Connor who gave evidence to the confidential committee and both recorded her testimony and prepared a detailed written statement. When comparing what she said to the committee and what appeared in the final report there were a number of errors. Ms Crowe said it was an insult to survivors to discover “what they said has been so reduced… and in some cases invented.”

“Why did they not use the tapes as they had them, was it a rush job, we just don’t know. I cannot see why those answers can’t be given, except of course they might be embarrassing answers.

“There was no training for the people interviewing survivors in dealing with traumatised individuals.

“Survivors I have spoken to said this has been incredibly hard. It was hard in the first place to go into this commission in good faith to tell a difficult story. Then to find that what they did with it was to reduce it, and mangle it, and misrepresent it is doubly traumatising. A lot more care should have been taken in this.”

She also said it was a mistake for the commission not to outline what methodology it used.

The Oireachtas Committee on Children last week to wrote the commission asking members to appear and answer questions. Previous invites have been turned down. It is understood there has still been no response to last week’s invite.