Jack Quann
Jack Quann

09.04 29 Oct 2020


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The Children's Minister Roderic O'Gorman has denied the Government has made a u-turn over the Mother and Baby Homes Commission report.

It has outlined a plan for survivors to be given access to their personal records, in a manner consistent with GDPR rules.

It means when the archive of the Commission of Investigation is transferred to the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth people will be able to make access requests for information.

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These will be considered on a case-by-case basis by the department.

There will be two tests for any such request: whether the request infringes on the rights and freedoms of others, and whether the request impacts on the operation of commissions of investigation.

There was widespread backlash over a bill passed in the Dáil, which campaigners said would seal the records from survivors for the next 30 years.

But Minister O'Gorman told Newstalk Breakfast it was not a u-turn by the Government.

"The Data Protection Commissioner brought forward a very specific query on Monday of last week regarding the original 2004 Act, as it had subsequently been amended.

"So the query wasn't on the legislation I was bringing forward in through the Oireachtas, it was just a specific query on older legislation."

"The Attorney-General issued this advice yesterday, and I do think it was significant.

"It is clear that survivors can make data access requests for personal data to my department regarding what's contained in the archive".

On his role, Minister O'Gorman said he should have "done a much better job in engaging with survivour groups initially".

"I'd seen it very much as a technical piece of legislation, but I think it's incumbent on me, incumbent on everyone in Government to remember the huge hurt that has been done to so many people in Ireland who were victims of institutional abuse in various settings.

"I've acknowledged that, I've apologised for not reaching out sufficiently to survivours groups and I'm in the process now of arranging meetings in the near future with a wide-range of survivor groups".

'Build back trust with survivours'

He said a number of measures were announced by the Government on Wednesday.

"The Government had a very detailed discussion on the issue of the report of the Mother and Baby Homes Commission and wider issues to do with the State's response to legacy issues at the Cabinet yesterday.

"We made a number of announcements on steps that we're seeking to take to build back trust with survivours.

"We know in the context of the debate over the last two weeks trust with survivours has been damaged.

"So we set out a range of measures, a commitment to publish the report of the Mother and Baby Home as quickly as possible, and to provide extra resources to the Attorney-General's office to do that, a commitment to bring forward information and tracing legislation to help adopted people trace their birth mother next year, and a commitment to look at the creation of a national archive, where the records of intuitional abuse - the various investigations that have taken place - can be appropriately stored".

But Minister O'Gorman added: "I think it is important to be clear that the advice from the Attorney-General doesn't resolve all issues for survivours as regards access to personal information.

"But two of the other decisions made by Government yesterday I think are important in that context.

"One is the commitment to proper information and tracing legislation that will set out a clear path and clear legal basis for adopted people to get information about their birth parents - and secondly then, the wider issue about an archive where material from the various investigations that have taken place... can be stored, can be properly curated and can be properly accessed by historians".

Main image: Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration Roderic O’Gorman at a press conference in Dublin Castle. Picture by: Julien Behal Photography

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Access Requests Attorney General Data Protection Data Protection Commissioner Mother And Baby Homes Mother And Baby Homes Commission Report Newstalk Breakfast Roderic O'Gorman

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