Statement issued Government say they regret "hurt" caused by the Mother and Baby Home controversy
The Government has said it “regrets the genuine hurt felt” by many people over the Mother and Baby Homes controversy as it published a plan to deal with fallout from the debacle.
In a statement, the Government said there had been “detailed reflection” among Cabinet on the public anger sparked by the enactment of legislation in the Dáil last week.
“It is determined to take the necessary actions to ensure that these concerns are dealt with in a manner that is timely, appropriate and that is focused on the needs of victims and survivors,” it added.
Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman outlined a detailed list of measures he intends to take and insisted survivors and their families will be briefed on all steps.
The Government promised to “expedite” the publication of the final report of the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation, which is due for completion on Friday. However it will first be examined by the Attorney General’s office where it has been promised it will be “speedily” reviewed.
Meanwhile, the Department of Children and Tusla will “engage closely” with the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner to ensure all citizens have access to personal information about themselves.
The HSE will fast-track supports for survivors which were delayed due to the pandemic while information and tracing legislation for adoptees will be published next year.
The Government is also “urgently” proceeding with legislation relating to the burial site at the former Mother and Baby Home at Tuam, Co Galway, and at any other sites.
A national archive on institutional trauma during the 20th century will also be established.
The Government also “reaffirmed” that the legislation enacted last week was to “preserve and protect valuable records that would otherwise have been destroyed or rendered useless”.
Meanwhile, the Cabinet considered holding a referendum on adoption rights as part of sweet of measure aimed at limiting the damage caused by the Mother and Baby Homes controversy.
Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman briefed cabinet colleagues on a range of solutions which would ensure survivors of State-run institutions would have as much access as possible to records relating to their birth.
However, ministers were told there are limitations to the amount of information people are entitled to due to a previous Supreme Court ruling which said women who put children up for adoption are constitutionally entitled to privacy and anonymity.
It was noted there are mixed views on holding a referendum on birth rights.
New legislation providing for an opt in clause on adoption records was also put forward as an idea. It was also suggested the issue should be debated by Citizen’s Assembly.
However, it was agreed that for now information and tracing legislation will be published next year to help people seeking adoption records.
Meanwhile, the Attorney General Paul Gallagher is working with Mr O’Gorman to ensure Mother and Baby Home files which will be kept in the minister’s office will be accessible to those they are relevant to.
People will be able to access personal records from State run institutions as long as they are not linked to an on going Garda investigation or court case.
A Government source said the burden of proof will fall on the Department of Children to prove that a restriction on access is necessary to either protect the rights of others or protect the effective operations of Commissions of Investigation. “The burden of proof to not fall on the person seeking access,” the source added.