The Irish Times view on Mother and Baby homes: the State must allay survivors’ fears
The Government has an opportunity to act quickly to introduce legislation allowing adopted people access to the database
Opposition TDs were angered at a refusal by Government to accept any amendments to legislation guided through the Oireachtas by Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins
The Government should move quickly to introduce promised legislation to allay anxieties of some adopted people generated by last week’s Oireachtas debates over the database prepared by the Mother and Baby Home Commission of Investigation. This is a digitalised copy of data gathered by the Commission from its investigations into 18 Mother and Baby homes and four county homes.
The Act, signed into law by President Higgins on Sunday night, transfers the database to the child and family agency, Tusla, while denying public access to it for 30 years. Opposition TDs were angered at a refusal by Government to accept any amendments to legislation guided through the Oireachtas by Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman. They believed it was a wasted opportunity to prevent access to the Commission records being denied also to people adopted from the homes.
Under the Commissions of Investigations Act 2004, documents generated by such Commissions are sealed for 30 years. The Mother and Baby Home Commission was established in 2015 and is to present its report to the Department of Children and Youth Affairs on Friday. The date was set by the Commission which, though established by the Government, is independent of the State, whose role with the mother and baby homes, and relevant county homes, it has also investigated.
Publication of the report is a matter for Government, but that may take time as it is 4,000 pages long. It must be read, a response prepared, and be presented to Cabinet before a publication date is agreed. The Dublin Archdiocese Commission of Investigation report was received by Government in July 2009. At 720 pages, it was published the following November with two chapters redacted as they dealt with priests before the courts. The entire Dublin report was not published until July 2013.
Similarly, with the Commission of Investigation into the Catholic Diocese of Cloyne. Its 400-page report was presented to Government in December 2010 but was not published until July 2011, with a chapter redacted. The full Cloyne report was published in December 2011. Both Dublin and Cloyne Commissions were chaired by Ms Justice Yvonne Murphy who also chairs the Mother and Baby Home Commission of Investigation.
The Government has an opportunity to act quickly on promises by O’Gorman last week and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar last Sunday to introduce legislation allowing adopted people access to the database, and on concerns expressed by President Higgins when signing the Bill into law on Sunday night. Should that happen before the Mother and Baby Home report is published it would help assuage doubts among survivors.