Mother and Baby homes survivors call for state apology


Adoptee identity rights group, Aitheantas, is calling for a 'national apology' from government on the handling of the Mother and Baby Homes commission.


Aitheantas wants Taoiseach Mcheal Martin and Children's Minister Roderic O'Gorman to commit to a state apology for the "decades-long practice of concealing and obstructing access to records pertaining to Mother and Baby Homes".


The organisation wants it to form a component of a broader apology for the practices of "forced and coercive adoption" that occurred at such facilities.


The Commission of Investigation on the Mother and Baby Homes is due to hand its report to government this week, with its publication delayed until late November or December.


This led to calls from Aitheantas on Wednesday for state sponsored mental health supports for survivors due to the "huge distress" the public discourse was causing survivors.


 




Citing Irish legislation from 2004, the government voted last week to seal all the personal documents accrued by the commission for a period of 30 years.


This brought widespread criticism from survivors and indeed the general public, with Aitheantas' Repeal the Seal petition garnering almost 195,000 signatures at the time of writing.


Though, the Irish legislation paves the way for the documents to be sealed, it is in breach of the European Union's legislation pertaining to GDPR, enacted in 2018.


In cases such as this, EU law is supposed to take precedence.


After mounting pressure, Minister O'Gorman moved to clarify that survivors would be able to access their data, as long as two stipulations are met.


 




Survivors and adoptees will only be allowed access to their information if it doesn't impact on the rights of others or if it doesn't threaten the commission process.


Aitheantas founder, Maree Ryan-O'Brien, today welcomed Minister O'Gorman's clarification, though the groups was less than pleased about the "inconsistent approach", leading to their call for swift action to allow access to records in a straightforward manner.


"We appreciate that the Taoiseach and wider Government now understand the upset and distressed caused by the mixed messaging they put out with regard to legislation on the Commission.


"Their statements last night are a response to the huge public anger about the policy of sealing records.


However, there is still an inconsistent approach to this matter by the Government, which is at odds with common sense and the law.


The Government previously maintained that GDPR did not applypursuantto the advice of the Attorney General under the 2004 Act.


"Now, it appears they are conceding that GDPR does apply, but they want to take an la carte approach. This is not acceptable."


Ms. Ryan-O'Brien also raised concerns on the hurdles presented to survivors by the level of bureaucracy involved in accessing the data.


From what we can see, there will be a worrying level of formality involved in releasing information to adoptees and survivors.


"We have been here many times before, with the so-called balancing of rights used as an excuse to limit adoptees and survivors rights to their own information."