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Report on Mother and Baby Homes scandal will be published as 'quickly' as possible, Taoiseach says

Micheal Martin (Julien Behal/PA)

Senan Molony

The report on the Mother and Baby Homes scandal will be published as soon as possible, the Taoiseach has said.

Micheál Martin insisted that the Government has acted to preserve records, not put them beyond use.

He said his policy was one of “openness, transparency and honesty” on the issue.

Last week’s legislation transferring 60,000 records and a database to Tusla was introduced because it was “very clear” the records would otherwise have been destroyed, he said, otherwise rendered useless.

The legislation had been introduced to make sure they could instead be preserved and protected.

“That was the motivation,” he said.

The Government would also move to reintroduce a Bill from the last administration for greater information and tracing, he said.

“Our objective is to bring that legislation back,” he said. In any conflict of privacy versus access, the attitude would be towards favouring access, while not ignoring any particular privacy argument.

Mr Martin said last week’s Bill, now enacted, “wasn't an attempt to do anything, or shut anything down.

That was not the motivation behind the legislation".

“Yet, there was a whole social media campaign, and with some political parties engaged in that, alleging that (sealing of records). That just was not factually correct.”

The Taoiseach said his objective was to get the final report, which is due for delivery today, “published as quickly as we possibly can".

“My understanding is it could go to 4,000 pages and then obviously the Attorney General will have a look at it. But there's a determination in Government that we get this published as quick as we can — the sooner the better as far as I'm concerned.”

The other critical issue was information and tracing legislation. The last Children’s Minister, Katherine Zappone, had taken back legislation “because of controversy, challenges and disputes around the limited degree of access to records”, he said.

There were different perspectives on that, and the current minister had constitutional limitations on what she could do. But Mr Martin pledged: “Our objective is to bring that legislation.”

But while unfettered access was asked for, there may have been issues around records in terms of what a mother may have wanted.

“My view is that we want to do everything we possibly can to facilitate access, and the minister is working on that.” There would be full consultation with all those who represent survivors, he added, before legislation is passed.

Nonetheless the GDPR restrictions would continue to apply to existing records and the database, and ongoing work was required to ensure “as much access as possible” for those seeking access to their records.

“Our first concern there is the survivors,” he said.

“No government wants to bury anything in the modern era. Why would we?”

The Taoiseach noted that he himself had set up the first inquiry into institutional sex abuse, the Ryan commission, as well as the inquiry into child sexual abuse in the Ferns diocese.

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