Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney has admitted there's now a need to "reassure" survivors of mother and baby homes, after the Government passed a controversial bill regarding records relating to the homes.
It comes after the Children's Minister Roderic O'Gorman apologised for the "anguish and frustration" caused to survivors recently, saying he lost sight of their experiences in his "haste to fix a legal problem".
The Government says existing legislation means all archives have to be sealed for 30 years when the Commission of Investigation's final report is finalised next week.
Ministers have said the new bill, passed in the Dáil last night and the Seanad today, would mean a database and some records aren't sealed - and could instead be sent to Tusla to help in tracing efforts.
However, many survivors have expressed serious concern they won't be able to access important files, and that archives and testimony will be sealed away for the next three decades.
Almost all opposition TDs voted against the bill, and many have expressed frustration and disappointment over the legislation.
Despite opposition from survivors, from those who’s lives are still impacted by the legacy of Mother & Baby Homes, from Human Rights lawyers, the Bill has passed. I’m so sorry to all those impacted by this travesty. #UnsealTheArchive 💜 pic.twitter.com/Gaee2AOEMS
— Gary Gannon TD (@GaryGannonTD) October 22, 2020
Meanwhile, the Irish Examiner reports that the Data Protection Commission says the Government has 'contravened European and Irish law with regard to the accessibility of personal data' by passing the legislation.
The Department of Children this evening said the DPC concerns "relate to the Commission of Investigations Act 2004", not the new bill.
It adds that the Minister has "committed to a re-examination of the current approach" to look at how access is provided to the archives.
'Government needs to reflect'
Speaking on The Hard Shoulder this evening, Minister Coveney said "many people" have contacted him with concerns about the legislation.
He said: "What Roderic O'Gorman as a minister is trying to do here is to ensure that vital information and databases aren't lost, or sealed away for the next 30 years."
The Foreign Affairs minister said a system needs to be put in place that allows information to be managed in an appropriate way that's also consistent with legislation.
Minister Coveney argued: "[Minister O'Gorman has] effectively apologised for mistakes he's made in terms of the communication around this - in terms of explaining to victims far more clearly. He's going to try to address that now.
"I know a number of people who have been deeply impacted by their own personal stories and connections with mother and baby homes... the Government really needs to reflect on how we can reassure those people now.
"I can tell you there are a lot of discussions happening today amongst ministers in terms of how we do that better."