Donegal TD questions legitimacy of mother and baby home records being sealed

Pringle asks who benefits from the records being closed for 30 years

Pringle calls on Donegal County Council to automatically include voters registered in last eight months

Independent TD Thomas Pringle

A Bill relating to the findings of an investigation into mother and baby homes has passed through the Oireachtas with the full support of the coalition parties.

However the Commission of Investigation (Mother and Baby Homes and certain related Matters) Records, and another Matter, Bill 2020 is being met with anger, upset and disbelief nationwide.

Donegal TD Thomas Pringle is among those voicing outrage at the Bill and questioning the legitimacy of sealing the commission's findings.

And he also raises the question, ‘Who benefits from sealing the records?’  

The Bill would allow 60,000 records compiled by the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes to be transferred to Tusla, the Child and Family Agency.

These records are set to be sealed for 30 years, though that is not addressed directly in the Bill but in the 2004 Act under which the investigation commission operated.

The Commission was set up in 2015 in the wake of the uncovering of a mass unmarked grave at Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, Co Galway. A final report is due to be submitted to Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman by October 30 and the commission is expected to dissolve on February 28 next.

Minister O’Gorman has defended the new legislation by saying it would prevent information in the records from being destroyed after the commission is dissolved. 

The government is quoting the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004 in addressing why it is sealing the records. 

This Act states that a commission’s records be transferred to the National Archives 30 years after the commission’s dissolution.

However, Deputy Pringle says that the new Bill is actually seeking to amend that same Act, albeit on different matters.

In addressing Minister O’Gorman in the Dáil, Deputy Pringle said: “The question that most people and survivors are asking, Minister, is who benefits from the sealing of this Archive?  Many of the documents have already surpassed the 30-year rule and should now already be deposited with the National Archives, so why would they be re-sealed and the 30-year clock re-started?  Why would you and your Government deprive survivors, their families and relatives of answers?  Particularly with regard to survivors, they have a right to access their personal information and relevant data.  They have a right to answers about their ‘entry and exit routes’ as detailed in the Commission’s own database, as well as information about who was involved in forced family separation, illegal adoptions and all other information about their own lives.”

Deputy Pringle believes that GDPR legislation supersedes the secrecy provisions of the 2004 Commission of Investigations Act.

He told the Minister: “Ireland is a very changed country since the 2004 legislation was passed and I do not accept your defence that undoing the provision for sealing the archive for 30 years would undermine the whole work of the Commission of Investigation.”

Reaction from members of the general public  to the move to seal the records is that it is a major step back towards this dark aspect of Irish life. 

Indeed, an online petition calling for these records not to be sealed has already been signed by more than 190,000 people. The petition created by Aitheantas  - Adoptee Identity Rights can be found at https://my.uplift.ie/petitions/repeal-the-seal-open-the-archive

If you have a story or want to send a photo or video to us please contact the Donegal Live editorial team any time. To contact Donegal Democrat and Donegal People's Press, email editorial@donegaldemocrat.ie To contact Donegal Post, email editor@donegalpost.com To contact Inish Times, email editor@inishtimes.com.

More News

Buy the e-paper of the Donegal Democrat, Donegal People's Press, Donegal Post and Inish Times here for instant access to Donegal's premier news titles.

Keep up with the latest news from Donegal with our daily newsletter featuring the most important stories of the day delivered to your inbox every evening at 5pm.