Senators are revolting against a 30-year secrecy move on Mother and Baby Homes testimony and documentation, joined by the National Women’s Council.
The NWC said it has serious concerns about how a Bill about the records involved is being “rushed through the Oireachtas,” calling for the rights of survivors to information and access to be respected.
Meanwhile a cross-party group of Senators called on the Government to withdraw the legislation, which seeks to seal the testimonies of survivors for three decades.
Ivana Bacik of the Labour Party commented: “We are opposed to the way in which this legislation is being rushed and the lack of access it will provide to survivors and their families to these vital records.”
Senator Lynn Boylan (SF) said: “We’re calling on Minister (Roderic) O’Gorman to do the right thing by the survivors. Every survivor who has given testimony has aright to this information — this is their lived experienced. But equally we need to have a national archive where were can understand and ensure that this will never happen to women and children again.”
Independent Senator Lynn Ruane said: “Women have submitted their evidence and gone back into their own trauma and the pain they have endured for many years in order to contribute to the commission.
“To now be faced with the idea that the records would be sealed without they themselves being able to access their own data and identities is extremely disrespectful. To be honest, it feels quite undemocratic to push through legislation in this way when it has public outcry that it should stop.
“Sealing the records is not protecting the survivors, and the question arises as to exactly who we are protecting by doing this.”
The National Women’s Council called on Senators and TDs to support amendments to the Bill to ensure that the Minister keeps an entire copy of the archive and creates an index to the records within a month
It said the Bill should not proceed in its current form. “We wish to see the Minister facilitating requests by survivors for personal information held in the archive and establishing a consultation process to find it a suitable home,” said Director Orla O’Connor.
There should also be a process on facilitating public access to files, suitably redacted (with personal information blacked out), she said.
“We are very concerned. This State has failed so many women and children in this country who suffered immeasurable institutional abuse and trauma,” Ms O’Connor said.
“It is our responsibility now – as a minimum – to address the serious concerns the survivors and the families of survivors are raising and ensure that their rights to information and access to their identity are respected.”
Ms O’Connor added: “We know from our past that if we do not listen to women and take their experiences seriously, then women are harmed.”
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said unless there is a “fundamental change in approach” from the European Union then the UK will go for the “Australia solution” – Downing Street language for no-deal – in the post-Brexit trade talks.