Mother and baby homes report: Minister does not accept deleted audio files cannot be retrieved

Roderic O’Gorman is seeking an independent expert to examine commission’s servers

Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman: commission’s approach had not worked. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times

Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman: commission’s approach had not worked. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times

 

Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman has said he does not accept a statement from the mother and baby homes commission that deleted audio file evidence cannot be retrieved.

The Minister is seeking an independent expert to examine the commission’s servers to attempt to find a technical solution.

The erasure of the files, containing personal testimony of 550 of the institutions’ survivors, has sparked controversy, particularly as full transcripts were not taken.

Many of the survivors and their supporters have called for the commission’s tenure to be extended to allow their recovery.

Mr O’Gorman was recently told this was not possible but has refused to accept that position.

“I am continuing to engage with the Commission on Mother & Baby Homes to see if there is any technical solution to retrieving the files,” he told RTÉ Radio’s Today show on Friday.

The commission, an independent entity, told the Minister the files had been deleted because it gave guarantees of confidentiality to the survivors, he added.

Mr O’Gorman acknowledged a commission of investigation was “probably not the suitable mechanism” to examine such a sensitive legacy and that the report’s language had been disappointing, particularly in the executive summary and findings.

“I believe survivors, the Government believes survivors,” he said.

Although designed to comprehensively address a disturbing aspect of modern Ireland, the report has proved controversial. Survivor representative groups have sharply criticised the near 3,000-page document, which they say does not properly reflect their views and stories.

The Minister said the commission’s approach had not worked as it should not have taken away from the “lived experience” of survivors. Mr O’Gorman said he would “have to look closely” at legislation to see if “something more targeted” or “survivor-centric” should be introduced.

When asked about calls to extend the lifetime of the commission, which is due to conclude at the end of the month, the Minister said he was awaiting a response from the Attorney General.

On Thursday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin acknowledged the audio recordings “may be retrieved in some form” and that leaflets given to those who provided oral testimony to the commission investigating the homes made no mention of their destruction.

A number of those whose experiences in the homes were recorded said they were not told the tapes would be deleted. The commission report said the recordings were made on the “clear understanding” they would be used as an aide memoire and destroyed afterwards.