Testimony of abuse victims 'will not be destroyed'
THE one million records of the Ryan Commission into child abuse have been saved -- despite fears that they would be immediately destroyed.
The Government had sought advice from the Attorney General about reports that the commission was "leaning towards" the destruction of all documents used in preparing its report on child abuse in religious-run institutions.
But the commission has now given the Government assurances that no action will be taken on these documents for some time.
Its secretary Brenda McVeigh said work was currently ongoing to catalogue the one million paper records accumulated by its investigative committee over a nine-year period, which include witness statements by abuse victims.
"There was never a question of destroying the investigation committee documents," she said.
The documents are now being preserved until the Ryan Commission meets (most likely later this year) to decide what to do with them.
Education Minister Batt O'Keeffe said: "The Government supports the desirability of preserving, in so far as possible, these records for posterity."
A computer database has been set up to assist in the process, and this is proving useful for commission staff who are checking claims from lawyers of abuse victims and abusers for legal costs.
There are also audio tapes of the testimony given by abuse victims to the commission's confidential committee.
These tapes cannot be publicly released to protect the victims but the commission, which is headed by Judge Sean Ryan, will have to decide if they should be preserved for historians.
Ms McVeigh said it was likely there would be a "different decision" made in relation to the tapes of testimony to the confidential committee.
"The submissions to the confidential committee got an extra layer of confidentiality," she said.
By law, the final decision on whether to preserve or destroy any of the written records or audio tapes lies with the Ryan Commission.
Due to the sensitivity of the records and the tapes, all of the staff handling them have had to sign a confidentiality agreement.
And the security measures include coded door locks, fireproof storage cabinets and computer servers with access passwords.