Minister ‘deeply regrets’ anxiety over mother and baby home legislation
Roderic O’Gorman has insisted the proposed Bill does not seal the records for 30 years.
The Children’s Minister has said he “deeply regrets” the anxiety caused to survivors of decades of abuse in mother and baby homes over his failure to communicate the purpose of controversial new legislation.
Roderic O’Gorman has insisted the proposed legislation, which allows a database created by the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes to be transferred to Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, does not seal the records for 30 years.
However, this claim has been disputed by TDs, survivors and legal experts and academics.
The Dail passed the Bill by 78 votes to 67 on Thursday night.
There has been widespread criticism of the legislation by opposition TDs, who say it has been rushed through without property scrutiny.
Opposition parties including Sinn Fein, Labour, the Social Democrats, and Solidarity – People Before Profit, as well as the Rural Independents and the Independent Group voted against the Bill.
The Dail debated amendments to the Commission of Investigation; however, Mr O’Gorman’s rejection of the amendments was met with anger and criticism.
The Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration, and Youth told the Dail that the legislation will return to the Seanad for further consideration.
On Friday, he defended the controversial Bill, saying it will ensure the database is kept out of the archive.
Mr O’Gorman told RTE Morning Ireland: “I acknowledge, as minister, I needed to do a better job at communicating what the Government was doing and engaging with survivor groups.
“I know a lot of anxiety has been caused and I deeply regret the fact that my failures to communicate properly caused that anxiety.
“To focus on what this piece of legislation does – the Commission of Investigation has been working on the last five years, and it has established, a database of all the women and children who passed through the main mother and baby homes.
“They have identified the names, dates of which they were in those homes, and that database can help the children connected to those homes.
“Under the existing law, in which the mother and baby homes was originally established, all the archives from Commission of Investigation has to be sealed for 30 years, but when we saw the value this particular database could have for helping children establish their identity, we decided to act to ensure the database and records that support it, don’t go in to that archive.
“We’ve passed that law to ensure the database and supporting records are taken out of the archive for the time being and given to Tusla.”