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Opposition dispute claims they have exploited mother and baby homes controversy

Fianna Fail TDs and Senators have alleged the controversy has been exploited by others for ‘their own political gain’.

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Majella Connolly, front, an adoptee from the St Patrick’s Mother and Baby Home in Dublin, joins protesters outside Aras an Uachtarain, Dublin, after President Michael D Higgins signed the Bill into law (James Ward/PA)

Majella Connolly, front, an adoptee from the St Patrick’s Mother and Baby Home in Dublin, joins protesters outside Aras an Uachtarain, Dublin, after President Michael D Higgins signed the Bill into law (James Ward/PA)

Majella Connolly, front, an adoptee from the St Patrick’s Mother and Baby Home in Dublin, joins protesters outside Aras an Uachtarain, Dublin, after President Michael D Higgins signed the Bill into law (James Ward/PA)

Opposition parties have disputed claims from Government TDs that they have exploited the controversy surrounding the Mother and Baby Homes Bill.

The legislation allows a database created by the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes to be sealed for 30 years.

The Government has insisted the purpose of the Bill has been misinterpreted, and that survivors will still be able to access their records – a claim disputed by opposition TDs, survivors, legal experts and academics.

On Tuesday, Sinn Fein children’s spokesperson Kathleen Funchion TD denied an allegation that her party was “using paid advertising” to influence the issue.

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Sinn Fein’s Kathleen Funchion outside Leinster House in Dublin (Niall Carson/PA)

Sinn Fein’s Kathleen Funchion outside Leinster House in Dublin (Niall Carson/PA)

PA

Sinn Fein’s Kathleen Funchion outside Leinster House in Dublin (Niall Carson/PA)

She was responding to a claim made on social media by Fianna Fail TD Cathal Crowe, who said her party was “putting paid advertising out on this and infiltrating survivor support groups.

“If they had been more responsible with their information we wouldn’t have this huge upset.”

Ms Funchion said: “There’s been no advertising paid for by the party. Anyone engaging in that type of debate in relation to this issue really needs to take a long, hard look at themselves in the mirror.

“It’s absolutely disgusting really to go down that road. In fairness, the Opposition is fairly united in relation to this – Social Democrats, Labour, a number of independents.

“We all felt we needed to give advice to survivors. We got a huge amount of lobbying.

“Everybody, whether you were a Government TD or an Opposition TD, you got those lobbies. People wanted us to speak up for them.

“They wanted us to say they didn’t want their records sealed. They wanted us to say they didn’t want their information going to Tusla.”

It's regrettable for such a sensitive issue that this has been hijacked and politicised the way it has beenNiall Collins, Fianna Fail

Fianna Fail TD Niall Collins, the junior minister for further education, and Fianna Fail Senator Lisa Chambers have also alleged that the campaign has been politically hijacked.

Mr Collins had written in an email to his constituents that the controversy had been used by “trolls and bullies” who were peddling “fake news and lies unchecked”.

Speaking to the PA news agency, he said: “There has been an unprecedented amount of online trolling and bullying. I’ve been threatened.

“People have said they hope I die, they hope I get Covid, scumbag, bastard, all that kind of stuff. Really, really shocking. It’s a whole new low I’ve experienced in my 10 years as a TD.

“Really, when you look into the individuals who are doing this stuff online, you can see that there is a political agenda at play.”

Mr Collins said the comments in his email had been spun to say that he was attacking the campaign groups.

“I wasn’t of course. You can see that yourself. I didn’t name any campaign groups, I didn’t name any individuals. I was pointing out the facts and the facts are that it’s deeply shocking.

“And it’s regrettable for such a sensitive issue that this has been hijacked and politicised the way it has been.”

Asked who he thought was behind the campaign, he replied: “There’s various quarters across the Opposition, various political organisations.”

He added: “Of course people can express their concerns. What I’ve been speaking about is the online campaign and the hijacking of this issue by people for their own political gain.”

Social Democrats TD Holly Cairns addressed some of the claims in Mr Collins’ email on Tuesday.

She wrote on Twitter: “For government TDs to double down on their defense of this unlawful policy is baffling.

“What is clear, is that there is real hurt and anger and government has not listened. The email responses we’re seeing from TD’s, dismissing people’s concerns are so disrespectful.”

Campaigner Claire McGettrick also denied the claim that Sinn Fein had “infiltrated” survivors groups.

She wrote on Twitter that the campaign was conceived of by herself and fellow activists Dr Maeve O’Rourke and Katherine O’Donnell.

Ms McGettrick added: “Sinn Fein had no role in its operation. We are very grateful for the support we have received from the opposition & it is our policy to work with all parties & none.”

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