The Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes has retrieved backup tapes of recordings of first hand accounts of the institutions.
Last week, Children's Minister Roderic O’Gorman told a Dail committee he had been informed by the commission the records had been destroyed and were not retrievable.
However, in a statement today from the Department of Children, it was confirmed the tapes containing the audio recordings were recovered from an off-site storage.
The department said an IT expert had checked first to ensure the recordings were retrievable by testing a random sample, which verified they were accessible and audible.
The commission then agreed to deposit the recordings with the department. This was in keeping with other actions it is taking to transfer the rest of the archive to the Minister of Children Roderic O’Gorman, who will become data controller next week.
Commenting on the recovery, the minister said: “The retrieval of audio recordings from the back up tapes and their imminent transfer to my department now provides another avenue for the people who appeared before the committee to access their personal data.”
That said, 80 people have asked for their interview with the Confidential Committee to be redacted, and the commission is now considering how this will be done. The minister said their decision will be “respected”.
“My department will liaise with the commission as current data controller in this regard,” he added.
“If any of the people who appeared before the committee consider that their record is inaccurate or incomplete, they will be able to exercise their GDPR rights with the department once it becomes data controller. This will involve them making a request to exercise their right to rectification after the archive transfers to my department.”
The department said it will continue its preparations to become data controller of the Mother and Baby Homes archive from February 28, and they will continue to engage with the Data Protection Commission in this regard.
It will shortly publish information on how people can access their data, once it becomes the data controller next week.
In the commission’s recent communications with the minister, it restated the actions it took to preserve the accounts and experiences of the 550 people who appeared before the Confidential Committee, for future generations.
Each interview was attended by two commission staff. In addition, the commission said the interviews were audio recorded purely as an “aide memoire” to ensure the documented account of the survivor’s experience - which would later inform a published report on their experiences - reflected accurately the personal accounts they shared with the committee.
While the audio recordings were later deleted, the commission said the process ensured the personal experience of 550 people was “heard, documented in an accurate manner and published by way of a summary report”.