Commission of Investigation (Mother and Baby Homes and certain related Matters) Records, and another Matter, Bill 2020: Committee and Remaining Stages

SECTION 1

Amendments Nos. 1 to 3, inclusive, 5, 7 to 15, inclusive, 25 to 27, inclusive, 32, 62 and 63 are related. Amendments Nos. 8 to 12, inclusive, are physical alternatives to amendment No. 7. Amendment No. 15 is a logical alternative to amendment No. 14. Amendments Nos. 5 and 25 are consequential on amendment No. 3. I reiterate that amendments Nos. 1 to 3, inclusive, 5, 7 to 15, inclusive, 25 to 27, inclusive, 32, 62 and 63 are related and will be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 3, to delete line 20.

It is difficult to know where to start on this matter. I had 15 minutes to speak last night, which is an extraordinarily long time for somebody in a small group, and I did my best to capture the lead-in to this urgent legislation, as it has been described, that left the Government little choice other than to rush it through the Dáil by 30 October. I said this during the debate last night, and while I do not like repetition, it is important to note that my staff and I have done our best to get my head around this and understand the urgency of this legislation. I have utterly failed to do that.

I am not given to personalising issues and I do not wish to do so. I want to stick with the issue. It is difficult to understand how the Government could be in a situation where they are telling us that this is urgent legislation when the commission was established in February 2015 and there have been seven interim reports. I went through those reports as best I could last night. I did not do it perfectly but as well as I could. My purpose was to show that there were seven interim reports from this commission of inquiry, all seeking extensions of time, which is understandable. Some of those reports are more extensive than others and all of them were published except interim report No. 6. I asked the Minister last night to deal with that matter and he did not do so in his closing speech. Even though his closing speech ran to five pages, he failed to deal with the sixth interim report. I have to rely on a press release from the former Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone. I thank her for all her work. I was critical, I hope in a constructive fashion, of her role in this but I believe, in retrospect, that she did her best with a system that has clearly closed ranks to protect itself. I made that point during the debate last night.

I listened clearly to that debate, and all of the language that was used was also used for the duration that the institutions in question were in existence - "This is for your own good, we know best and we know best now". I find that utterly nauseating for many reasons, both professional and personal.

We have seven reports, all asking for extensions of time and most of them pointing out different issues. Time is limited in the overall context of this matter for no good reason and because it is, it is important to repeat the following: one of the reports pointed out that there was no logic to the exclusion of unaccompanied children from the redress scheme. The report suggested that the exclusion could not be stood over. That was pointed out to the Government and it failed to take any action. The exclusion of certain homes was also pointed out and the Government took some limited action on that. It was pointed out many times that the volume of documentation was extensive. One can see from the reports that the commission had to use orders for discovery. The commission sympathised, to a point, with the HSE because it had changed formation often, through its previous guises to the HSE. In one of the reports, the commission stated that it found it difficult to understand how documents that had arisen in the more recent past were still not available, and so on.

Many Deputies wish to speak today so I will not go on for too long but I will point out the following: as a new Minister, there was a duty for him to be briefed on the background of this matter. There was a duty on the Department to brief him and explain how it could arise that we need urgent legislation now when seven interim reports have pointed out various matters and put the Government on notice of them. I have re-read the press release of the then Minister, Katherine Zappone, which stated:

The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone, has today [14 February 2020] confirmed that she has received a Sixth Interim Report from the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes. Although it is a short report it nonetheless raises complex issues related to the completion of the Commission’s programme of work. Most significantly, because the Commission is required to transfer its records to the Minister and deal with third party legal costs prior to submitting its final report, the Commission has requested an extension of time to enable it to effectively manage these issues.

The extension was agreed and the then Minister hoped to make the report public, which did not happen. That was in February 2020. The Covid-19 pandemic can be used as an excuse for many things but it cannot explain the failure to publish this sixth interim report. It seems to me, though perhaps I am wrong, that the sixth interim report raised the very issues that we are now trying to tease out in a rushed manner in a forum that is not effective, leading to many misunderstandings and a complete sense of despair that once again the system is protecting itself and failing to protect those who need it most. I do not mean protection in a charitable manner but in a manner that empowers by giving maximum information and documentation. That is the lesson to be learned, if there is one.

I ask the Minister again where the sixth interim report is. Following that report, what interchange was there between the Government and the independent commission? We were told many times, and rightly so, that it is an independent commission and we cannot interfere with it. It seemed last night that there has been an interaction between the Minister or his Department and the commission about records. At the very least, we should know about that interaction, have copies of it and a copy of the sixth interim report. Where is it? Can we please have it?

The commission asked for an extension of time until 30 October in the seventh report. The Minister said that he cannot give an extension of time because the commission has to request it. Can he please clarify that for me? I am not 100% sure about that and I ask him to clarify that.

Can he also clarify how a commission can be partly dissolved and partly not dissolved? It will be dissolved on 30 October but not dissolved for the purpose of allowing the commission to interact with the survivors and people who came forward to give evidence before it. How can the Minister explain that part dissolution and part non-dissolution? That is difficult to understand.

I have no idea why this legislation was necessary, which is why I am submitting this amendment relating to Tusla. The legislation has been brought before the Dáil ostensibly to give the database and related records to Tusla. I will come back to Tusla and its reputation. I cast no aspersions on the staff of the agency but I have great reservations about the system. More importantly, those affected by mother and baby homes have serious concerns about Tusla. The main purpose of the legislation that the Minister has brought before us, prior to his amendment, was to allow for an archive of documents. Finally, some attempt has been made to bring together documentation from various sources, including the religious orders, local authorities, Departments of Health and Education and Skills, to name but a few. The Minister brought this draft Bill before us to divide that archive up for no apparent purpose and without clarity for the need to give some documents to Tusla and to keep some to himself. He has now come forward to say that he will keep a complete record of the documents, in his role as Minister.

I will deal with Tusla. My opinion of the agency does not matter but the opinions of those from HIQA who did a report on the agency do matter. Have they been brought to the attention of the Minister in the context of the issues arising from what I would call the Maurice McCabe scandal? Has the Minister's attention been drawn to the Charleton tribunal and Mr. Justice Charleton's comments on Tusla? That is not to mention the many other concerns that we all have about the agency. Has the Minister spoken to survivors about their experiences of Tusla before he gives reports to it? For what purpose are those reports going to Tusla?

I asked the Minister at a briefing what assessment had been done of Tusla's capability to hold onto an archive of this size and significance.

I do not want to misconstrue what he said - he might correct me if I am wrong - but I think he indicated that a regulatory impact assessment, or words to that effect, would be carried out in the future. He brought legislation before the Houses, in an urgent manner and without proper explanation, to provide that some percentage of the documents would be given to an agency in which the survivors have little confidence without any impact assessment having been carried out of the organisation's capacity to receive that volume of documents. That is totally unacceptable, so I have tabled the best amendment we could formulate in such a short period. We were asked to table amendments before the debate on the Bill in the Seanad had been completed. It was still ongoing at the time of the first deadline we were given for tabling amendments, which was 2 o'clock or so on Friday last. The Seanad debate was still in progress. With the Ceann Comhairle's good graces, as I understand it, that time was extended. We had submitted our amendments because we were complying with the rules, but then we had to reconsider our amendments.

The Minister stated that the Business Committee had waived pre-legislative scrutiny on his recommendation, which is not, as I understand it, totally accurate. The Government majority on the committee, not the committee as a whole, agreed with him. If any item of legislation requires pre-legislative scrutiny and scrutiny by committee, this is the one because we should be arguing about the legacy with which we are trying to deal. Unfortunately, it is not just a legacy but also ongoing abuse. There are so many aspects I could mention, some of which I mentioned last night, but I add to that Caranua, which, from day one, was not fit for purpose.

This issue has been under debate since before the Minister's time, although it was all reported in the newspapers. We have been here every step of the way, watching everything being dragged out of each Government in the most minimalist way possible, in a way that did not empower but demeaned and reinforced the abuse that had happened. It is in that context that I tabled the amendment. It is wrong to give documents to Tusla without any analysis, as it is to propose a different organisation, such as the Adoption Authority of Ireland. All of that should be teased out at committee level, with proper expert advice on the importance of the archive and the documents that will be put there for the first time, and on the accessibility to that archive.

The Minister, in his follow-up contribution last night, confused matters even more. It is deeply troubling. He has not answered the question as to why there is no sixth interim report nor clarified the nature of the interaction between him and the commission further to the publication of the six report, or of the seventh or any other report, but I will focus on the sixth because that was the one, according to the press release, that raised complex issues. In his follow-up contribution last night, which runs to more than five pages, the Minister stated: "Also, the database will be transferred to Tusla so it does not go into the commission's archive once the commission has brought forward its final report." That is difficult for me to understand, even though I have the privilege of having a background that helps me in that regard and I have copies of the documentation; imagine how difficult it is for people who were listening to and watching the debate. The Minister further stated: "This Bill allows the database and the related records to be transferred to Tusla and it prevents that information from being effectively destroyed." The use of the word "destroyed" was strange. The Minister went on to explain that the word does not really mean what it says but instead means "redacted". "Destroyed", however, is a very powerful word. Nowhere in the 2004 legislation, the grounding legislation for the commission, nor in the National Archives Act, which was published before that and provides for how archives are stored and protected, is there a reference to documents being destroyed. One section states that all documents will be handed over to the Minister. I am not sure, therefore, why the legislation before us is necessary.

According to the 2004 Act, on the handing over of the report the commission will be dissolved and all documents will be handed over to the Minister. Did he or the Department consider that? What was the defect therein that meant the Minister needed to bring legislation before the House to provide that the documents would be given to Tusla rather than to him, whereby he would take a little bit, Tusla would take a little bit and they would look after it all because that is the right thing to do for the survivors and they were again acting for the survivors' own good? Why did the Minister do that, as opposed to recognising the importance of the archive, which empowers us, the people and those who have been in institutions to look at records for the first time?

The 30-year rule under the National Archives Act, I understand, was due to be changed to 20 years. Perhaps the Minister could have outlined for the reasons for that too, or his and the Department's views on the European GDPR regulation. We have clearly articulated - other speakers have done it better than I - how, under that legislation and directive, a person is allowed access to his or her files. There cannot be an absolute ban on files and documents if they are of relevance to the person in question. There has been no attempt to analyse that.

It is very difficult to work with a Government that perpetuates the system that utterly failed people in institutions. The Government is perpetuating it by saying that it knows best, that it will hold on to the documentation, that it will tell the survivors what they need to know and no more, and that we should take its word on the matter. After this legislation is passed, I will revert to the committee and ask it to work out the complexities of the mess we have made, all because each Government - I think there have been three - has failed to consider seven interim reports, and failed to publish the sixth one, or to deal with the questions that would be raised in respect of documents Those Governments failed to come before us with proper legislation to amend the 2004 Act, if that was necessary, although I cannot see why it would have been.

To add insult to injury, the Government sought advice from the then Attorney General and reverted to say that the State would have to write to those who had come forward in order to protect their confidentiality, even though the terms of reference clearly allowed and mandated the commission to protect confidentiality in terms of identifying criteria such as their names. Now, rather than taking that as a presumption, if the time is to be extended, it should be extended to allow the people involved to opt to waive their confidentiality. It should be done the other way around, which would be in keeping with the terms of reference. The Government should partly extend the commission's remit on this aspect, which was not necessary in my opinion, although I will go along with it. It has not even explained how the commission can be partly dissolved.

I have no confidence in the system or in the Bill before us. I say that reluctantly and wish I could say something different. I ask the Minister to accept the amendment and remove the Tusla element. Down the road, it might be the correct organisation or that might be the Adoption Authority of Ireland. I do not have a view on that. I have listened to those affected, and it seems the Government is protecting the system, either unwittingly or in full agreement with it. The Bill is not about protecting the survivors but rather the system and the documents. I have used every opportunity to refer to briefing notes from 2012, when the intelligence unit in the Department of Health - I pay tribute to the unit and the Minister might clarify whether it still exists - produced a briefing note on the Bessborough and Tuam mother and baby homes, highlighting its concerns about the practices at both. No shortage of information has been available. Notwithstanding that, the information over the past five years in which the commission has existed has had to be dragged out of the various organisations. In that spirit and because of that background, I will press the amendment.

Are these amendments grouped or are we on amendment No. 1 only?

It was pointed out before the Deputy arrived that quite a number of amendments are grouped.

There is probably very little I can add that has not already been articulated extremely well by Deputy Connolly, other than to say that people are still stunned as to why the Minister is bringing forward this Bill, especially in view of the fact that the necessary consultation with the residents and survivors of the mother and baby homes has not taken place. It feels like the Minister is captured by the Department and that he is doing the Department's bidding on this rather than driving it himself. I do not wish to cast aspersions on the work done by people in Tusla, but if we are to leave any imprint at all on the Bill from the people who have spent time in these institutions, it has to be that we take out that line from the Bill. One of the main issues raised in representation after representation and email after email has been that these survivors do not want Tusla in the position into which it will be placed by the Bill. I will therefore make to the Minister the same plea I made last night. We often come into this Chamber and have these debates after political parties have already embedded themselves into their positions. I ask the Minister to allow his position to be directed or at least influenced by the articulation of the survivors' experience in our contributions. I ask the Minister to accept this amendment.

I wish to speak in support of the amendment. Before I do so I wish, with the Ceann Comhairle's latitude, to mention an amendment I submitted and which, due to a mix-up between him and the Bills Office, has not been accepted. It would have been in order, and this signifies and shows how the Bill has been rushed through. These processes are there as a way to allow people to have an input into the legislative process. The processes have been short-circuited. My amendment was to the Minister's amendment. There is an additional timeline to allow for such amendments to amendments to be processed. In the normal course of events, that would have happened. I say this because the Minister held a briefing with Opposition spokespersons on 9 September to signal that this Bill was coming forward, but at that meeting I do not think he signalled it would come forward two days before the Dáil's rising and the thing itself happening. Between 9 September and today is six or seven weeks, so this Bill could have come through in time for discussion and debate taking place on it, and that is vitally important. The process has been hampered by the way in which this has been handled. That needs to be put on record, and I wish to do so because I believe, probably naively, that the amendment I had tabled would have provided a way out for the Government in this situation. That amendment is not on the record now anyway so it will not be taken.

As for amendment No. 1 and Tusla and its involvement in the retention of the records in this situation, it is shocking to hear the antipathy of people who have gone through the system for Tusla and its ability to deal with the information. The fact is that they do not feel they would get a fair hearing from Tusla. It is a sad reflection on the State that it should continue this hurt that has been done to these people over many years and that this will be continued in how this Bill operates. They say:

TUSLA operates legally troubling and discriminatory practices, including defining adopted people's birth names as 'third party data' and undertaking 'risk assessments' of all adopted people who request their records.

The Bill ignores the views of the Collaborative Forum of Former Residents of Mother and Baby Homes, which was established specifically to advise the Government and repeatedly stated that TUSLA should have no further role in adoption information and tracing.

Their organisations have said this should not have happened, yet this Bill comes through and proposes to do just that and the Minister will blindly go ahead and push this through today. I cannot add to what Deputy Connolly said because she has outlined perfectly the concerns about this, but it is important we put on record our feelings as Members about this as well. It is very wrong, and the Minister should be rowing back on this, stopping it and telling his Department to take a running jump.

It would be appropriate for me, in the context of what Deputy Pringle has said, to apologise to him for the issues that have arisen in respect of his amendment, which should, all things being equal, have made it onto the amendment paper. I regret that that did not happen.

Could the Minister please clarify from the outset if he intends to accept any of the amendments offered by me and my colleagues today?

The Minister will clarify his position when we call on him. We will do that when we have this round of contributions completed.

The Minister could just nod.

A few weeks ago I sat through a three-hour debate on the forestry legislation and the Government did not accept even one of the over 100 amendments we submitted. It was only towards the end of the debate that I asked if the Government had any plans to accept any of them and it transpired that it did not. Therefore, I am just curious to know what the case will be here. The Minister seems to be indicating that he will not be accepting amendments.

Does Deputy Cairns not wish to contribute, then?

I might later. I just wanted to clarify that at the outset.

That is fine. We will come back to the Deputy.

Following on from the Minister's indication that he will not accept any amendments, it is really important to recognise, as has been registered by many Deputies in the Dáil over the past day or two, what we are dealing with here. The Minister is ignoring the wishes of the people who have survived these institutions and their families and relatives. We are dealing with one of the major historical crimes of the 20th century that happened in this country. The journalist Fintan O'Toole has estimated that if industrial schools are included, one in every 100 people in this country was a victim of systematic mass incarceration, a system which involved forced labour, abduction of children and adults, forced separation of families, disappearances, medical experimentation without consent, abuse and torture. Yet the Minister is not willing to consider amendments tabled by an Opposition that is no better or worse than he or his Government but has a serious contribution to make to this debate. This was a systematic reign of terror against women, children and the poor. The Minister is a Green Party member. He is supposed to be socially conscious. This reign of terror was comparable, to my mind, to the terror in the Gulags in Stalin's Soviet Union. The terror these institutions in Ireland have inflicted on this society over the past 100 years has been keenly felt throughout that time. The system involved various Departments of State, civil servants, local authorities, members of the Garda, members of the medical profession, and institutions of both the Catholic Church and the Church of Ireland. Who is the Minister trying to protect?

The manner in which the survivors, adopted children, family members - all those affected by this crime - have been treated constitutes a continuation of cruel and inhumane treatment and a further denial of their basic human rights. The commission of inquiry rejected all appeals, by both individuals and organisations representing those affected, for them to have access to their personal data. They should have been able to receive copies of all their deceased relatives' personal data and their transcripts of evidence. They should have been able to comment on the evidence from the State and others involved in their maltreatment, and it is not acceptable now to compound this human rights denial by locking any archives for 30 years.

I welcome the Minister's amendment in this grouping to keep a full copy of the archives under his protection, or that of any Minister. Serious concerns, however, have been expressed by victims, relatives and advocacy groups regarding Tusla in respect of requests for information and personal data and adoption tracing. It is important now that EU law on GDPR is observed by the Minister. Our amendments Nos. 14 and 27 also deal with this issue. Despite the Minister and the Government not accepting amendments, I urge members to support the amendments in favour of the creation of an index to the Minister's archive. It is important for those people who wish to access information from the archive to know what is in it and where it is located.

What system are we protecting? Perhaps the Minister can answer that. It is not the survivors and their families. It is important in an historical context that we learn from this experience and about who the perpetrators were, just for our nation but also for nations across the world where there has been the same type of abuse, such as in Australia, and in respect of native Indians and others. That is important for historical reasons, but also for the survivors dealing with and trying to work through what happened to them and their lives. I am disgusted to hear that the Minister will not accept any amendments.

All of us in the Opposition, and probably many sitting in government, believe that we should not be here debating this issue at all. The entire country is stunned at what is going on. I think that the Minister, Deputy O'Gorman, does not believe that this is the correct thing to do, but he is the prisoner of senior civil servants and a system that insists on continuing what it started out doing when the State was founded. I refer to burying its systemic failures in respect of the citizens of this country, and to women and children in particular, and to burying the systemic failures of all the institutions that were built around a State that wanted to ditch the poor and oppress women to such a degree that we have the legacy mentioned. I refer to one in 100 people having had some experience of the brutal institutionalisation that took place.

I am interested in the references made to the process by Deputies Connolly and Pringle. When it was originally agreed that the commission would be established and that it would look into the social and historical legacy of the mother and baby homes, the then Minister, Katherine Zappone, convened a gathering of survivors in a hotel. There were many of them, and a representative group met, gathering in workshops and think tanks for several days to figure out what was the best way to proceed with the investigation. A friend of mine was one of those people. She gave birth in Bessborough in 1981, and she will give testimony that there was widespread, if not unanimous, agreement on several aspects.

One was that they did not want any secrecy. Most of the people present wanted their names attached to the records. Another area of agreement was that they did not want any dealings with Tusla, because it was not trusted for all the reasons that have been given. It has failed, and it has created a system of denial and secrecy regarding this matter for many of the people concerned. The people at that gathering also agreed that they should be able to access the historical files. That was an interesting process, and it was an inclusive and engaging one. I am sure the State spent a few bob on it, and it gave great hope to the survivors who gathered at that meeting. They thought that it was wonderful and that something had changed.

Now, however, we are here today. How did a process that was marked by inclusivity, openness, discussion and dialogue go from that to this? This Bill is an utter disgrace, and perpetuates all the crimes of the State against that cohort of people and it is now going to bury the record. The Minister has told us that he is not really sure what is going to be buried for 30 years. He knows what most of it is, but he does not know what all of it is. This is absolutely outrageous.

We have put forward an amendment dealing with the issue of Tusla, but it is slightly different from other amendments on the same topic. Our amendment states that the records should go to the Adoption Authority of Ireland, and we did that because it would ensure that the records would be available if this Bill is passed tonight. I have no doubt, however, that by tonight this House will have voted to enact all the aspects of this Bill. This will be a very dark day in the history of this State. Who will be voting for this Bill? All the Deputies from the Green Party, Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and probably those ten Deputies from the gene pool who usually stick with them.

Despite the whip being imposed on them, I appeal to those Deputies to do the right thing for history and for the legacy of this State and to not accept the measures in this Bill. I ask them to not accept that we can pass a Bill that will bury the records for 30 years and that will allow Tusla to be the only agency with access to these files. I also urge the Minister to read, if he has not already done so, an article published on thejournal.ie today by Dr. Maeve O'Rourke. It is comprehensive and deals in detail with all the legal issues raised by Deputy Connolly.

I reiterate that I do not believe that the Minister, as an individual, has an issue with anything I have said, but that he is doing the bidding of the Department and the apparatus that surround him. I hope I am right in saying that. If I am wrong, he can correct me, and if I am right, he will probably not say anything. What is happening, however, is absolutely shameful and it is extremely hurtful to thousands of people in this country who are victims of that abuse.

I again express my sincere horror that the Government and the Minister have set their faces against dealing with this issue in any shape, make or form. They have tried to convince themselves, because they need to convince themselves, that they are doing something for the good of the survivors. That would take some convincing, and if they can convince themselves of that, they can convince themselves of anything. We have all received thousands of impassioned pleas from victims and survivors all over the country, and beyond. I am sure the Minister has also received such pleas, as well as all the Teachtaí in Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, the Green Party and the Regional Independent Group, or the vast majority of Deputies, who are backing the Government through thick and thin, no matter what the subject.

It is a sad day in our country. We have talked about many issues from the past. We have had the children's referendum, the marriage equality referendum and the referendum on repeal of the eighth amendment. We are now supposed to be a place of openness, transparency and honesty, and a new Ireland. It is some new Ireland all right when we look at this Parliament today and see the legislation we are debating. It is draconian, tyrannical and shocking. Then we see this legacy issue of horror and hurt and disdainful treatment of our citizens. We have probably moved on from all that now and we are supposed to be a modern, pluralist country, but this is shocking. I refer to the outright rejection of all these amendments. The Government has set its face against accepting them. Deputy Cairns asked for a comment regarding the amendments, but could not get one. We are taking the silence of the Minister to indicate that he is not accepting any amendments. All of this means that we are going to remove these documents and lock them away for 30 years.

We had a great time during the millennium celebrations of 20 years ago when many schools and communities put time capsules into the ground. We were all delighted and wondered who would dig them up in 100 years and what those people would think of us. This capsule, however, is being buried somewhere, and it is a murky and dirty one. It is most definitely not a joyous one and will not be. History will not be kind to this Government and to the Minister. I could call it a cabal, but I will not because the Government has a majority, it is elected and it has cobbled together a Government, with the aid of Independents.

I cannot believe what is happening and the people looking in cannot believe it. All right-thinking people, young and old, from the age of reason, think that what is going on is an abhorrence in this day and age of 2020 in the middle of a pandemic.

I am in disbelief. The former Minister, Katherine Zappone, convened a forum for survivors. I understand a good few of them came to it and she engaged with them in a listening process. They made it quite clear, as many have to me personally and to other Deputies as well, that they do not want anonymity. They want their names to be out there. They want to be recognised as human beings, as people who have suffered and whose lives have almost been destroyed, who have fought back and come back from that and who want to move on with their lives. They want to have their records.

The Government claims we are protecting the records but this is emergency legislation, or rushed legislation, which is always bad legislation. There has been no pre-legislative scrutiny. This Government has only been in being for a short time but I think it will pass out the 2011-16 Government for lack of scrutiny of legislation and the use of guillotines by another name. The latest trick in the book is to blame the Business Committee for everything. The Ceann Comhairle chairs the Business Committee and does a fine job of it. It happened again today when the Minister for Health, Deputy Stephen Donnelly, blamed the Business Committee for the way we are dealing with the Bill. The fact is that the Government just uses the name of the Business Committee. We object but are steamrolled because it has a majority.

This is sad. Doing this to a cohort of people who have suffered enough for a long time will be a blight on this House. We are again trying to suppress what went on in our murky past. All these people want is openness, honesty and transparency and to be allowed to go on with their lives but this legislation will not let them. The outright refusal of the Government to accept any amendments reminds me of countries in eastern Europe in the past that would set their face against any reform, common decency or dealing with the opposition and trying to embrace it. We are supposed to be all in this together and I am always saying ní neart go cur le chéile but in this case the Government knows best and knows everything. When Deputies become Ministers, they try to break out of the straitjackets they are in but senior civil servants do not allow them to do so. I do not want to demonise any senior civil servant but it seems the system has to be protected above all else. The sacred system cannot be questioned or gone against. They must toe the party line. This is going to end with the Department in tatters. It is going to end in more prolonged grief for the survivors - I hate to call them victims but they were in many cases - as well as for their families, children, grandchildren and generations to come. It is an appalling vista.

I am a little concerned about the response I gave Deputy Cairns earlier when she asked about amendments being accepted. The norm is that when a particular amendment is moved and debated, the Minister will indicate at the end whether he will accept it. We live, thank God, in a parliamentary democracy. The purpose of our being here is to attempt to persuade, and that persuasion takes place on both the Government and Opposition sides. If we are to be incapable of persuasion, then the whole system is a bit of a sham.

That was my point.

(Interruptions).

Let us hope that we have the capacity to hear, and to persuade, on both sides of the House.

I thank the Ceann Comhairle for his words of wisdom. Since the foundation of this State, successive Governments have maintained a code of silence regarding the abuse of children and other minors in their care and control and for whom they had a duty and responsibility. This Bill elects to copper-fasten that abusive silence for a period of 30 years, contrary to the principles of basic human rights, particularly in relation to children and other young persons. The records and deliberations of Tusla leave much to be desired, yet this Bill envisages the transfer of further specified records and databases to that organisation, without according any enhanced or new right to access, thereby forcing impecunious inquiries through courts and judicial reviews on foot of Tusla refusing access. It is sprawling and lazy legislation, which contains a hidden threat of the explicit amendment of section 43 of the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004.

I advocate, without reservation, that all future judicial inquiries be conducted by a retired judge because a sitting judge is constrained by an inability to make a political statement. When one particular judge applied to a Department seeking inspector reports for industrial schools, it was found upon further inquiry that the reports had been destroyed, which I venture to suggest was the real reason for that judge's resignation.

This Bill continues the code of silence and the horrid denial of proper access. It maintains the status quo without any meaningful change, climactic or otherwise, to which I am totally opposed. Therefore, I fully support this amendment.

I will be brief. As regards the comments the Ceann Comhairle made, it is very clearly the Government that is not listening or hearing. It would not have to have particularly good hearing to listen to the anger, upset and appeals to change course from survivors. The approach of the Government has been horrendous and heartless and is unfortunately reimposing an abuse upon people. I pay tribute to the incredible survivors for the campaigning that has been going on, which has made this a major political issue and put the Government under significant pressure to make the very small amendments it is making. It is incredibly impressive. These people were subjected to such abuse by the State and a church which were willing to let them be treated in such a way and be the subject of such abuse because they were women or were from poorer backgrounds. That church then colluded in a cover-up by the State to prevent its role in that abuse being exposed. The fact that people are still fighting and speaking out in the way they do is inspiring.

There is something quite Orwellian about a number of aspects of this debate, particularly the double-speak that goes on. Let us take the term "mother and baby home", for example. A home is meant to be a place of safety and warmth. What we are talking about here is something very far from a home. In reality, these homes were much closer to prisons as they were places of extreme abuse in some cases. Another example is the language used by the Government in the briefing notes and so on, which refers to protecting the records. The survivors simply do not accept or agree with that. They are not convinced by that argument because they know this is not about protecting the records. They are not protesting because the records are being protected. This is about sealing the records for 30 years and putting them out of the reach of survivors, who showed great bravery in testifying about the abuse they faced. Many spoke up explicitly asking that their stories be heard, recorded and shared, and now they are being told that they will be swept under the carpet

I support the amendments coming from us and others. In dealing with the particular issue of Tusla, the basic point was made yesterday and should be made again and again today that Tusla is not an appropriate controller for the records. There is no reason the Adoption Authority of Ireland, for example, could not be the controller instead. I am sure the Minister is aware of the issues around legally troubling and discriminatory practices in the access of adopted people to their information.

The Bill ignores the views of the collaborative forum of former residents of mother and baby homes. It is a forum that was specifically established to advise the Government and it has repeatedly stated that Tusla should have no further role in adoption information and tracing, yet the Government has doubled down on that approach and has committed to it despite all the uproar. In the spirit of what the Ceann Comhairle said, I appeal to the Minister to listen, not to us but to the survivors. They are asking to be heard and for changes to be made. I appeal to the Minister to listen to them and make the necessary changes.

I thank the Deputy. My exhortation to listen and hear applies with equal measure to all Members of the House.

I do not know whether to be horrified by the Minister's admission that he will not accept any of our amendments today or to be thankful for his honesty as we all now know where we stand and that this debate is purely an academic exercise. What we say, no matter how powerful, critical or constructive it is, will not be incorporated in the Bill or considered. That reflects to a large extent the process that has applied to this legislation. The Bill has been rushed, without the pre-legislative scrutiny that it and the women deserved. There was no consultation with the survivors, which is a problem, and it reflects the discussion we are having and the problems many of us have with the Bill.

This is an emotive and sensitive issue and it is clear from the discussions today and yesterday in the Dáil, and the debate in the Seanad, that this issue goes deep for Members of both Houses. It is sensitive and important. I have spoken to Deputies across the Chamber. Some are quite uneasy about the Bill and what will happen once it is passed, including what impact it will have on survivors and their stories and the fact that they will not be able to access their own information. In light of how sensitive and personal an issue this is, we need to reflect on what it may mean for individual Members of this House and the Seanad. There may be people with personal stories that they may not be in a position to discuss or want to discuss. Recognising that the Minister is not accepting amendments, I ask him to allow a free vote on this issue. Will he allow Deputies from Government parties to have a vote of conscience on this because many Members across the House would appreciate that? This is an important issue that runs deep with people and I ask that he consider that.

The Ceann Comhairle speaks to the matter of reason and the importance of people listening and hearing, and seeks to have that principle applied to both sides. The tone of the debate here, unlike debates on other matters, has been measured from an Opposition point of view, which is the point of view I can speak from. We are being asked to legislate with one hand tied behind our backs because we feel we are speaking to reason in seeking more time for more deliberation on issues. One issue that is pertinent to this Bill is information and tracing. We do not have an information and tracing Bill. That renders this Bill and its effects useless for the countless people who will want access to information on the contents of the database. I am not convinced that the Minister's amendments will ameliorate that. We have been told that there are 60,000 records. My colleague, Senator Ivana Bacik, said in the Seanad: "If one is one of the survivors or a family member about whom there is data held, how frustrating it is to know that the data is going to be held by the Minister but sealed for 30 years, and by Tusla for some undefined period yet a survivor or one's family member will have no access to it and no right to see it or even know what it is."

This is important and it is not centrally about the testimony given by survivors to a confidential committee but about the 60,000 records which, as the data protection assessment says, relate to a wide array of information, paper, records obtained under discovery and records held by the institutions, State, religious orders and so on. We are saying that people should have access to a large amount of information where it identifies them or a relative, or where it is their information. How frustrating it must be and paternalistic of us to continue to hold that and say we will allow people access at some future point but that we do not yet know how we will do that. There is a philosophical point about how, while nobody is striving with perfection, the Parliament deals with an issue as sensitive as this. We spoke last night and the Minister heard excellent, balanced testimony from Members about the genuine concern of people to find a way of negotiating this legislation in a way that has an outcome that speaks to the need to create the archive in an appropriate way and also with regard to the seeking of information. It was not partisan or overly political.

Aside from the flaws in the legislation, what is missing is the information and tracing Bill. We do not know when we will have that legislation. It is absolutely germane to this very issue. That is why we are hamstrung as a legislature. That Bill should at least be published in parallel with this Bill and should pass these Houses.

We are seeking to appeal to reason. The Minister has said that he will not accept amendments. As Deputy Whitmore said, that is a forthright view, and it renders the next few hours an utter sham. It makes a mockery of the legislative process. It shows that this is a Government that is not willing to listen to the voices of those on the Opposition benches who, to our mind, are putting forward reasonable amendments. We now have to go through the choreography and pageantry of the next hours, knowing that whatever we say is for nowt, thus disappointing and traumatising people who feel rightfully aggrieved because of the method by which this legislation is being passed.

I was not planning to speak right now. I was going to wait until later but I could not let pass the Minister's statement that he will not accept any amendments. I do not know what that says for the democratic process that we are supposed to have here, but it certainly does not say much.

Yesterday and last night, we had a five-hour debate in which Members on all sides of the House spoke from the heart. It is the first time I have witnessed anything like it. They spoke with passion and emotion on behalf of survivors. In addition, everybody has an individual experience of this, whether it is through family or friends. One thing the Minister can do is stop this right now and give it more time. That is within his power and remit, and it is not an unreasonable request. The clear message from everybody is that Tusla is not the appropriate organisation. Whatever people's opinions on it, that is what survivors are saying. They do not trust the organisation. They have had extremely negative experiences with the organisation and they do not want it involved. The other issue is that people clearly do not wish to have their records sealed.

It has been said on a number of occasions that this legislation has been rushed. We are in serious danger. I and my colleagues who have spoken on this will be on the right side of history. We will do our best, regardless of whether we will convince the Minister to accept the amendments. He has made his position clear. I hope he will reconsider, but we will vote the correct way. He is in danger of being on the wrong side of history, and of these women and children. I do not see why the commission cannot be asked to delay by three months while the correct legislation is brought forward to deal with sealing the records, Tusla and an appropriate organisation. It is not a big request. The commission asked for a number of extensions, so why is it not appropriate for us to ask for one extension so the right thing can be done?

I spoke last night on this issue. We have had a very reasonable discussion about it. I am disappointed with the Minister's statement that he will not accept any of the amendments. Democracy was shown by the Members who spoke last night and again today. Passion has been shown. I doubt that anybody wishes to do anything other than the right thing. I appeal to the Minister to consider in the next few hours what we have been saying. We must do this right and we must do it for the right reasons. I accept that he wants to do it right and for the right reasons, but there are flaws. There are major concerns among the survivors and the people who were involved in these atrocities. They want to have it right. They want a little more time for us, as legislators, to ensure that whatever laws we pass are right. We must do the right thing.

This is not in any way party political, but about doing the right thing. It is the first time in my five years in the Dáil that I have heard Members from every political party and none, including from Fianna Fáil and others in the Government, expressing their concerns that this might not be the right thing to do right now. There is an opportunity to extend the deadline so we can have reasoned debate, look at amendments and bring forward the legislation that would be required in an all-party fashion. Lest anybody give out to us for seeking that, this issue is the one issue on which we must man up as politicians and decide to do this together for the right reasons. We need a little time. I urge the Minister to consider extending the time of the commission so we can do that.

I will not repeat the issues I raised last night. I know the Minister was listening because he told me so today. For the sake of everybody involved in this, he needs to consider taking the time to ensure we do it right.

Earlier I supported activating the sunset clause in respect of the emergency powers we were discussing in the context of Covid. Many of us, with some hesitation, accept the extension of this draconian legislation, but somehow we are told that we cannot find a mechanism to extend the timeframe before we vote on this Bill. We are told it is simply not possible, yet we could find a way of extending some of the most draconian legislation this House has ever passed. We had to, but we have to on this legislation as well.

The debate last night was the most sensitive debate in which I have ever been involved. We are saying to survivors that we should take the risk of going ahead with a flawed process, and that we will put it right with other legislation later. I believe the Minister intends to do his best, but every survivor of the mother and baby homes has already been let down by the State after suffering the inhumane and cruel treatment in those homes. They were let down again and again when they tried to reassert their rights and to get information about who they were and where they came from. I hate to say it, but the truth is, as the Minister and I know, that the same people feel let down in the same way by this legislation. If we want to support survivors, we have an opportunity to do so today. The Minister can either accept some amendments or delay the process. Many good amendments have been tabled by the Opposition, and he need not accept all of them.

The Ceann Comhairle said earlier that the purpose of this debate is to try to persuade and convince and to actively listen and respond. If that is not the case, what are we doing here? What is this crazy choreography in which we dance around one another but never find any common ground? In the previous parliament in which I sat, and I understand it has a different system, all amendments were compromise amendments. I do not expect that here, but is there a rule that we can never have compromise amendments? Can we never have any meeting of minds? What we are involved in now has no purpose from the point of view of improving legislation. There is democratic accountability and debate, but we are supposed to be debating amendments. However, there is no point because the Minister has said he will not accept amendments. As other colleagues said, it is a waste of time from the perspective of improving legislation and trying to respond to the genuine concerns of so many victims. As I said last night, this is perhaps the most sensitive legislative measure we will deal with in the House.

Finally, the amendments before us relate to Tusla being a repository of the database of this sensitive and personal information. I have read many emails and spoken to many people. They are determined that Tusla should not be involved. It is not about the individuals who work there, but the bureaucratic culture and the culture of always saving the system.

People just cannot fight any more. We do not want to see these records sealed. My final comment to the Minister is only a repetition of what others have said: he should extend the debate or at least, as one of my colleagues said earlier, he should allow a free vote.

I initially put my hand up to speak on this topic out of anger because I spent a large part of this morning going over the amendments and preparing what I was going to say. Then, 20 minutes into the debate we were told the Minister would not be accepting any amendments. That is an extraordinary admission to make that resulted from an insightful question from my colleague, Deputy Cairns.

The Ceann Comhairle mentioned that we live in a parliamentary democracy. I am very new to this Chamber but I believed we were coming in here today to debate, argue, present reasons and to try to convince each other to go in a particular direction, yet that was shut down 20 minutes into the debate. It gives rise to serious questions about our parliamentary process and in many ways undermines it. I constantly hear about an angry, shouty left. I ask the Ceann Comhairle, and anybody who is listening in, whether they can blame us when what we are met with here is obfuscation and people closing their minds to any sort of reason. The level of structural ignorance is appalling.

The Bill has been designed in a manner that is completely counter to the very concept of parliamentary democracy. Where did it come from? Who was calling for it to be brought forward at this particular point? It cannot be emphasised enough that it was brought through without any pre-legislative scrutiny, apparently at the request of the Minister, who told us that it was approved by the Business Committee. That is a play on words because it was not approved by the Business Committee, it was approved by the Government majority on the Business Committee. It was rushed through the Seanad last week and then, within seven days, it came to the Dáil last night, where there was nothing but respectful and engaging communications and everybody across the Chamber, having tabled their amendments, went away convinced that we would fight for them, but that was taken off the table really quickly.

It did not have to be that way. We will tear strips off each other in this Chamber when it comes to issues concerning taxation and expenditure, rightly so, because that is the very nature of parliamentary democracy. However, on an issue such as this, one that is so emotive and that has such meaning for people who have already suffered such trauma and hardship by this State, this could have been a matter on which we could have found some form of unification, but that was not permitted. In whose interest was that done?

I am sorry as I do not wish to personalise this matter, because above all other Ministers, this was a Minister I really had hopes for and was rooting for in terms of the role he has to play and the expectation that he would act in a reforming manner. When one finds oneself in opposition to survivors of extraordinary State cruelty and incarceration and on the wrong end of human rights lawyers and people who have dedicated their lives to bringing light to the injustices of the State, and in opposition to people who mean no hardship to him, one must ask in whose interest the legislation is being introduced. What would be so detrimental about admitting that perhaps we are rushing this a little bit too fast and that perhaps we need to take a little bit more time to go through the Bill, scrutinise it and find togetherness. That is all we are asking for.

Nobody thinks anyone is being malicious in terms of the legislation that has been introduced, but we do think the means by which it is being brought through the Dáil is insulting. All we are asking for is a little bit of time so we can find common direction. This issue is too important for oppositional politics. Even at this late stage, I appeal to the Minister to enable us to find common direction and to demonstrate collective leadership to the people who have been wronged by this State. That is what we are asking for. Those who have been wronged are the most important voices that we can listen to, and at the moment they are feeling that they are being re-traumatised through this process. The absolute antithesis of restorative justice is the re-traumatisation of victims, and that is what we are doing here.

It is rare that I am completely dumbfounded by the Government or the State but I really am dumbfounded. I am very curious to hear what the Minister has to say for himself in response to the points that have been made and to the request for a free vote, which I echo on behalf of survivors. I was talking to a survivor last night and she asked why on earth the Government would impose a whip on this issue. It is perhaps understandable on economic issues or certain political issues in the general sense of the word but why would one want to impose a whip in respect of an issue like this? The fact that the Government does, makes me think that Deputy Gannon is being too kind, although I understand the motivation for what he says. I think this stinks, because if it did not stink, why would the Government impose the whip? Why would it not just say that we could have a free vote on it? It is a matter of conscience. The survivors are some of the people most abused by the institutions of church and State in this country. They are concerned about what the Government is doing and do not want it to do what it is doing, and it is going to impose a whip and ram through a Bill, despite those appeals and protestations. Why would the Government do that?

Why would the Minister not accept any amendments? It stinks. There is more to it than the Minister is saying. His explanations for his actions do not add up. I do not understand the claim that seems to have underpinned what the Minister is doing, that somehow he is doing this to protect the records because otherwise they would be destroyed. What is the basis for the Minister saying that? I do not see it. I do not believe it is true, but yet the Minister says it. Maeve O'Rourke's article sets out clearly why that is not the case, so why does the Minister say it? This stinks, particularly as the Minister is saying things that nobody believes to be true. Unless he provides a better explanation than he has given to date, I conclude that it stinks, that the worst possibilities are what is actually underpinning all of this, which is a continuation of the cover-up by the State of its appalling crimes against mothers and children. The State does not want to tell the truth about the dark crimes, the sins it committed and the manner in which the church and State colluded in the abuse of mothers and children. It is difficult not to conclude that that is clearly what is going on here.

If the Minister can convince us otherwise, I am listening. The Ceann Comhairle said we should listen to each other. I am open to hearing an argument, but I have not heard an argument from the Government to date. There is much at stake for people here. There is the identities of the people who have already been traumatised. It is their history, and their identities. What right has the State to seal those up, to decide what is done with them, and where they should go rather than the people whose histories and identities they are? It is absolutely shocking. In the spirit of what the Ceann Comhairle said about listening, I am hopeful that the Minister is listening to the appeals, questions and concerns and is going to convince us, to use the Ceann Comhairle's terms, that there is a good reason for what the Government is doing and that there is no reason to be suspicious about the imposition of a whip in respect of a matter like this. I suspect, however, that we are not going to be convinced. I hope I am wrong, but I suspect I am not.

I thank Deputy Boyd Barrett. He makes many very valuable contributions here. I am sure it was not his intention to attribute any mal-intent to the Minister in what he is involved in here today.

I wish to make a point. Anyone who was around in the previous Dáil – I was not – will remember that time was fairly regularly given over to statements on the mother and baby homes. If it was not regular, it was often.

That gave a sense to some survivors that at least the Dáil had not forgotten about them. While it was not legislation but statements, the issue was discussed and it gave a sense that Members on all sides of the House did not forget the survivors. They felt that as the process was going on, there was a sense of continuity to this entire issue. All that momentum or modicum of goodwill has been absolutely blown out of the water in the past week with the way this Bill has gone through.

I will not repeat what I said last night on Second Stage or what has been said already. However, I am sure other Members of the groups represented here today asked the same question that Deputy Sherlock and I did when going through the list of amendments, namely whether we will reach our amendment. We were already operating under the yoke of this guillotine. Then we hear that even if we do reach amendment X or Y, that it will not be heard. This is a relatively thick amendment sheet. In the Chamber, there are former Ministers and Deputies, mainly from the left but from other sides of the political spectrum. Much thought and reasoned work has gone into these amendments. The article by Dr. Maeve O'Rourke has been referred to by Deputies Bríd Smith and Boyd Barrett. These are sound legally based amendments. It is absolutely shameful that none of them is going to be taken today.

I am aware of the real rawness of the issues that we are discussing for the survivors of mother and baby homes. I am also aware that this debate, particularly over the past two weeks, has exacerbated that rawness. That does not sit easily with me.

I am bringing forward a Bill today whose purpose is to protect a database created by the commission on mother and baby homes. The commission and I believe this database will be of significant benefit to the many mothers and children who were separated by the process of the mother and baby homes. We had a lengthy eight-hour debate in the Seanad last week in which Senators raised many of the points we heard last night and other points. In response to that debate, I am bringing forward two amendments addressing the significant issues raised by Senators from parties represented here and Independent groupings.

In response to what was said in the Dáil, as well as through engagement with Deputies, Senators and academics over the past two weeks, I propose two political processes to address some of the issues set out in the amendments. I was upfront when I said I could not accept them as amendments but I would seek to resolve issues through initiating a process. That is a commitment that I will speak to again in the course of the debate today.

I have been criticised for not listening and for what I said about amendments. I am bringing forward two amendments solely on the basis of what I have heard in the context of this debate. I am also bringing forward a number of political solutions to other issues in this debate. I must make the point, however, that this Bill does not seal the archive of the mother and baby homes. That claim has been repeated countless times in this House. It is incorrect. This Bill seeks to protect a database and ensure it is not sealed in that archive.

The law on the archive being sealed comes from the original Commissions of Investigation Act 2004. When the commission on mother and baby homes was established in 2015 by the Oireachtas, it used the 2004 law as its basis and the consequence of that was the application of the 30-year archive rule. Accordingly, when the commission on mother and baby homes brings forth its final report and stands dissolved in law, its archive will be transferred to my Department and will be sealed for 30 years under the legislation.

In the House yesterday, I acknowledged the real problems created by that 30-year seal, in particular the real issue as regards access to personal and incredibly pertinent information. I brought forward this legislation because it will take the database out of the archive and give it to Tusla. That database is immediately available for use in the future, which will be incredibly beneficial. That is the sole purpose of what I am trying to achieve with this legislation.

My amendments Nos. 3, 5, 25, 26 and 63 will ensure that a copy of the database of the mother and baby homes and the related records will remain in the archive, as well as being transferred to Tusla. Under the original Bill, the database and the records supporting it were to be taken out of the archive and transferred to Tusla. Many Senators, Deputies and others have flagged that as a problem. They wanted to ensure that an entire copy of the archive was always kept together. Responding to that, we are bringing forward amendment No. 26 which will ensure the entire archive is kept together. A copy of the database will be made and left in the archive. The original of the database will transfer to Tusla and be used. I have listened carefully to the arguments for this from Deputies and Senators. I am acting to achieve that particular goal.

Several Deputies have suggested Tusla is not the right repository for the database if it is taken out of the archive. When the commission on mother and baby homes was established, it copied the records of a wide range of bodies relevant to its investigations. Tusla at that stage held the records for 15 of the 18 mother and baby homes being investigated. There were no records for three of them or they could not be found. Tusla had the original records for 15 of them. The commission took scanned copies of all of those records. The originals remain with Tusla. The commission took records from some other bodies too, such as PACT, the Protestant Adoption Society, and the Regina Coeli Hostel. These were other bodies that had records relating to certain mother and baby homes and county homes. The copies of those records were used by the commission to create this database. It was able to trace the names and dates upon which women entered the various mother and baby homes and use that to link to children exiting those mother and baby homes, primarily through the various adoption processes, some of which we know were extremely questionable.

For all those records that were copied by the commission to further its investigation over five years, we now have a database linking mothers and their children. That is an electronic database that exists.

Under the current Commissions of Investigation Act, when the commission reports, it stands dissolved and its entire work archive is sealed for 30 years. The commission in the sixth interim report, of which I will speak later, informed the Government about how it recognised the value of the database and it expressed concern that under the legislation, the database would have to go into its archive, becoming inaccessible. It is the taking of this database out of the archive to ensure it can be used that we are bringing forward with this legislation.

My Department made the decision that the database would rest with Tusla in the interim. We believe the database and the supporting records should rest with Tusla primarily because under the current legislation, the Adoption Act 2010, Tusla has the responsibility for tracing in Ireland. It is an inadequate system and there has been much criticism of Tusla for how it has engaged with survivors seeking information. I cannot speak to every case but in many cases Tusla was simply unable to give survivors what they needed because the legislation in Ireland is so inadequate.

Deputy Sherlock spoke earlier about information and tracing legislation and the fact we do not have information and tracing legislation in tandem with this Bill. I would love to have it but Deputies know how long it took for information and tracing legislation to get to Report Stage in the previous Seanad; the then-Minister, former Deputy Zappone, withdrew the legislation at that point.

Last week I committed in the Seanad to seeking to bring information and tracing legislation forward next year. It is important that I am as realistic as possible with timelines as too often expectations are raised and dashed. A significant amount of work has been done on information and tracing to get us where we got to in the previous Oireachtas and the work has continued in my Department since to bring forward meaningful information and tracing legislation. I do not need to tell Deputies that the process will be difficult and hard calls will need to be made on the legislation. The debate here has demonstrated to all of us the absolute importance of giving information to the survivors of these homes.

I have digressed a little. We have existing tracing legislation in the country with the Adoption Act 2010 and Tusla has been given the role of tracing adopted children under the Act. Tusla has very extensive files of mother and baby homes, as I alluded to. The commission took copies of the files and the originals remain with Tusla. As it currently stands and without the database, when somebody comes to Tusla to seek tracing services, Tusla must assign a social worker and go through the original files.

If we give this database and the supporting records to Tusla, it will be able to use that database to assist existing tracing services for anybody seeking information about one of the mother and baby homes from which Tusla holds the original records. It would be able to use the database to fulfil its existing tracing functions. Having the database will make the process much easier. That is the prime reason we believe Tusla is the right place for this; there would be an immediate benefit to Tusla holding this database with respect to its existing tracing services, limited as they are.

The database comprises records primarily originating in Tusla but there are also records from other institutions and bodies. Tusla will have a GDPR responsibility over the entire database and all the records, which is important. All the database and related records for that database which have been transferred to Tusla will be covered by GDPR, which is significant.

I spoke to the issue of capacity yesterday. Tusla has approximately 60 staff dedicated solely to tracing. I have heard what Deputies have said about inadequacy in this work and the individual circumstances where the service has not been right. As the line Minister with responsibility for Tusla I ask that where Deputies come across individual cases like this, they should bring them to my attention and I will seek to address them. The Adoption Authority of Ireland, which is a fantastic body, has 29 employees in total. Tusla has 60 dedicated to tracing and the adoption authority has 29 in total. Again, we believe Tusla is the best place to achieve value from the database in the interim.

All that being said, we are speaking about an interim resting place for the database. In the context of the information and tracing legislation I will bring forward next year, a discussion and decision must come about on what body will in the long term engage and undertake information and tracing in this country. I hear the very real concerns about Tusla doing this and I do not have the answer on who will undertake information and tracing in the long term but it will be answered in future information and tracing legislation. For the reasons I have outlined to Deputies, the interim solution is for the database and related records to go to Tusla, which would be able to fulfil its existing statutory functions on tracing with the records originally in its custody and where Tusla has the GDPR responsibility for all the records transferred. That even applies to the copies of the records that did not originate with Tusla.

There is also the question of the sixth interim report, which was submitted by the commission to the then-Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, former Deputy Zappone, on 14 February this year. In the interim report, the commission sought another extension of its work. As with all requests for extensions of its work done through interim reports, this was brought to the Government. In the request, significant legal and practical issues were raised relevant to the completion of the commission's programme of work at the time. It is those issues around the database that this Bill seeks to address.

Subsequent to the report there was extensive engagement between the commission and the Office of the Attorney General on the matters raised. The report did not include any findings by the commission on the substantive matters it examined over the previous four and a half years. I will publish the sixth interim report when I publish the final report of the commission of investigation. At that stage it will be available for all Deputies to see.

I have outlined the reasons I cannot accept the amendments from Deputies relating to Tusla or the Adoption Authority of Ireland.

I suppose as we know the Minister will not accept any amendments today, I will speak for the record, as it is the only thing we can do.

Regarding the amendments to which the Minister just referred, I note that there have been many references to Dr. Maeve O'Rourke's article on thejournal.ie today. I would like to put some of it on the record. Dr. O'Rourke writes that the first amendment is intended "to ensure that the Minister receives a full copy of the commission of investigation's entire archive, including a copy of the part of the archive that is sent to Tusla". That amendment is very welcome and I thank the Minister for including it. Dr. O'Rourke describes the intention of the second amendment as:

To allow the Commission to continue to operate until February 2021 (although it will still deliver its final report by the end of October 2020), so that it can contact all those who gave evidence to the Confidential Committee to ask whether they would like the Commission to redact their personal data from its archive prior to the Commission depositing the archive with the Minister.

Regarding this latter amendment, Dr. O'Rourke goes on to argue:

... the Commission or Government should give those affected by the abuses under investigation a choice as to whether they wish to be identified in their transcript of evidence in the Commission’s archive.

However, this amendment is not the way to achieve this.

The Commission and the Government should be applying the framework of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which gives individuals many rights in respect of their personal data, including the right to be informed, the right of access, the right to rectification, the right to erasure, and the right to object to data processing.

It makes no sense to single out one of these rights and to leave out the rest including the immediate right of subject access to personal data held by the Commission.

People are sick of hearing many of the arguments being made by the Minister and his Department. Dr. O'Rourke did an amazing job of debunking those arguments. I would briefly like to go through a few of them. One argument holds that the legislation needs to pass by 30 October or the database will be destroyed or will somehow disappear. Nobody knows exactly why the commission feels it will have to destroy the database. It appears to believe that it cannot deliver personal data to the Minister despite section 43 of the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004 explicitly stating that every commission of investigation has to give every document or piece of evidence gathered or created by it to the relevant Minister on concluding its work. The general data protection regulation, GDPR, which came into force in 2018, contains no barrier to the transfer of this data to the Minister.

Another argument which we keep hearing holds that this legislation is not about sealing the archives. The commission was established under the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004, which requires that evidence be private and sealed for 30 years. The public disquiet is about sealing. Concerns have been raised on foot of the repeated briefings on the Bill given by the Minister and his Department, as well as statements by the Minister in the Seanad. The Minister keeps stating that everything he receives from the commission will be sealed in the archives for 30 years. For this reason, the public is campaigning for the Minister to amend the Bill to make clear that these records will not be sealed. If the Minister does not intend to seal the archives, why not include this guarantee? Neither the commission nor the Government is permitted under the GDPR to place a blanket seal over the entire archive in any case.

Another argument worth dispelling holds that people gave evidence under assurances that the archive would be sealed. Nobody has asked for the testimony of vulnerable people to be revealed to the public. We have asked for individuals to be given access to transcripts of their own evidence and to their personal and family records.

I will address one more argument and then encourage anyone who is listening to read Dr. Maeve O'Rourke's article. It is claimed that adoption information and tracing will be addressed by much broader legislation which the Minister will bring forward in the near future. The commission of investigation and the Minister still cannot avoid EU law, which requires them to uphold GDPR rights in relation to the archives they hold. It is also important to note that the commission of investigation has gathered personal data that goes beyond adoption files.

We know that the Minister will not accept any amendments but I find it difficult to believe that he is not finding it hard to push this legislation through, especially when we could simply postpone it, as other Deputies have noted. Will he at least consider doing that? The least that survivors deserve is for the Bill to go through proper pre-legislative scrutiny. We all know the Minister can do that. There is no reason for him not to do so.

I thank the Minister. Things are becoming a little clearer but I am no closer to accepting his arguments. The one welcome thing I have heard is that Tusla's role in this is an interim measure.

I wish to address the commission of investigation's sixth interim report. The Minister has confirmed that it raises significant issues around the disposal of records. He intends to publish that along with the commission's report after we pass the legislation. This is in spite of the fact that this legislation is based on the issues raised in the sixth interim report. The Minister will not say why he will not give it to us. I do not know if I am making a big deal out of nothing. There are seven reports, all of which I have read. The Minister refuses to give us the sixth even though this legislation is based on the issues it raises. More worryingly, we do not have sight of exchanges with the commission, which was set up to function independently, and with the Attorney General. We know nothing about these communications. I am asking the Minister to publish every single piece of documentation which passed between the Department, the Government and the commission since the sixth interim report, however that information is held. I ask him to give us the sixth interim report before the day is out so that we can inform ourselves on the need for this legislation.

People have spoken of the Minister's bona fides, which I accept. In recognition of that bona fides and the trust that Members have in him, I ask the Minister to tell us in plain and simple English why the sixth interim report cannot be published so that we can read it, understand it and see why it is necessary to pass this legislation in this manner.

Either the Minister is being absolutely disingenuous on the subject of the 30-year rule or his Department is. He says that this legislation has nothing to do with it, which is correct. However, it is disingenuous of the Minister to keep repeating it when he knows that the commission was set up on the basis of the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004. That Act refers to the National Archives Act 1986, which in turn provides for the 30-year rule. The onus is on the Minister to explain this. Surely, seven years after the very welcome apology from the then Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, the Minister should tell the House how he is going to get around the 30-year requirement.

Let me take a step back. The 2004 Act states in black and white that the commission must hand all of the documents, information and testimony over the Minister. The Minister tells us that he will be bound by the 30-year rule. Let us accept that for the sake of argument. The Minister and his Department then have a duty to tell us how they will change that because of the importance of this archive of information, which has been highlighted in every single report, including the interdepartmental record that led to the commission of investigation as well as the interim reports of the commission itself. I will return to the importance of the archive in a minute.

After five and a half years and seven interim reports, and in light of the issues raised in the sixth interim report, the Department has a duty to tell the House what legislation is necessary to circumvent the 30-year rule. If we have learned anything, it is the importance of learning from documentation. I am looking forward to seeing what the commission of investigation publishes. Perhaps that is not the right phrase. I am certainly not comfortable with it. That will outline the commission's view of the evidence it has heard and the documents it has read.

In addition to the report itself, we need to be able to see the documentation on which the commission bases its view. If it is not possible for me and other Deputies to read that documentation, it must be possible for researchers and academics to do so. It has to be accessible to survivors in the future. We need that. It is called "empowerment". It would mean giving power back to the people from whom we took it. Not only did we take their power from them, we blamed them. We called them all sorts of names. Now is our chance to do what is right. The Minister has come to the House with legislation which has now been amended.

I welcome the amendment tabled by the Minister which will mean that the whole block of information will be kept together under his remit. However, his original intention was to give some of the information to Tusla. He has explained today that he did that because he wished to enable Tusla to use the information for tracing and tracking. If he can get around the 30-year rule for that purpose, then there is an onus on him to explain how he is getting around it and taking some information out of the 30-year rule but not other information. I do not understand the logic there. To be clear, if there is no way around the 30-year rule and the Minister is obliged to comply with it, there was a duty on him to come into the House and set out how the legislation can be amended to allow for this. During a briefing on this issue, I attempted to ask that question, however inarticulately, and the Minister replied that so doing would undermine the whole basis on which the commission functioned. In other words, he claimed that people went forward to the commission on the basis that anything they stated to it would be sealed for 30 years. I do not believe that one single person who was in a mother and baby home or came forward on behalf of a family member who was in a mother and baby home went to the commission on the understanding that anything they said would be sealed for 30 years. I do not think that was the case. That begs the question as to whom the Minister is protecting - not him personally - when he speaks about having to seal the information except for the segment that has gone to Tusla. Whom is he protecting in that regard? Which witness or body is he protecting in insisting that?

Another aspect of the matter is whether the 30-year rule applies from the establishment of the commission onwards and to the documents used in the commission even though those documents go back 50, 60 or 70 years. Where does the 30-year rule apply? The mother and baby home in Galway closed in 1961. We are way beyond the 30-year rule. What index has been made of the documents for various years, not to mention the source and contents of the documents? What index has been made of the documents that are beyond the 30-year rule? No information whatever has been provided in that regard.

The Minister referred to Tusla having a capacity of 20. Tusla does not have enough social workers. There are children on a waiting list. Some therapists working for Tusla who have been sidelined to tracing and tracking in the context of Covid. I feel for the staff in Tusla. It has an appalling and mixed-up name that, as I have previously stated in the House, really reflects what the State did when it created Tusla under the 2013 Act which came into operation in 2014. I think the name is based on tús lá. I do not even know how to pronounce it. The Irish word "tús" means beginning and the word "lá" means day. I presume the name "Tusla" refers to the beginning of a new day, but the síneadh fada is gone and the meaning is gone. Maybe that indicates what was done to Tusla when it was set up. The Minister referred to the 2010 Act putting the obligation on Tusla, but it was not in existence in 2010. It only came into existence in 2014.

I do not mean to nitpick. I am not an expert on any of this. My strength comes from my personal involvement, the privileged life I have led and the privilege of having a voice. I would prefer to be having a cup of tea outside rather than having to go through all of this. It is emotionally and intellectually draining. Most of all, it is unacceptable. I stated yesterday and earlier today that the language used is patriarchal. Those who have been affected are being told that the State is using the information for their own good. It is taking this chunk of information and giving it to Tusla because so doing will help them to trace their parents or children. That is the approach that is being taken, rather than having an overall vision and learning.

I have no words to describe what the State did to mothers and children. It then heaped abuse on abuse after that. Now it is coming forward, 21 years after an apology was given, with legislation that is not fit for purpose. If I am to be honest, I do not think the amendments are great either, but they were tabled to try to amend a bad Bill, and it is a very bad Bill. I ask the Minister to take it away and then come back to the House and tell us what is the way out of the 30 October deadline when the data will turn into pumpkins, rot, disappear or self-destruct. The Minister has not addressed any of that.

He has extended the commission to February in order to allow for the implementation of a solution that was given by the Attorney General, which I do not agree with because people went forward in confidence regarding identifying marks, their names and so on. That is what is now being presumed. They are being given the option of stating that they do not wish to be anonymous but, rather, wish to have their names put to it. It should be the other way around. If the Minister can extend the life of the commission for that purpose, why can he not extend its life in order to avoid the self-destruct button on 30 October? Once again, it is as though the sword of Damocles is hanging over Deputies: if this is not done, a terrible thing will happen. Can the Minister imagine what that sounds like to people who have been through this system? They are told that if they do not do what the State tells them to do, this is what will happen. The State is going to give them a little carrot by taking a chunk of the information and giving it to Tusla, the very organisation these people do not trust, and ask it to assist with tracing.

Many Deputies, including me, begin long contributions by stating that they will be brief. I am doing my best to be as brief as I can. If the Minister can take out a chunk of the information and avoid the 30-year rule for it, that raises the question of why he cannot take out more of the information. If necessary, it can be given to Tusla - I do not wish for that to be done - in trust until we sort out the mess. Alternatively, another body could take it in trust and avoid the 30-year rule in the manner the Minister has done for the database and collected information.

I again call for the publication of the sixth interim report and an explanation as to why it alone of the seven reports has not been published. I ask the Minister to explain why he did not come into the House, after seven interim reports and five and a half years, to tell Deputies that there is a problem, the House needs to pass legislation and the matter needs to be discussed at the joint committee with the benefit of expert advice such that we could all work together.

It is important to mention Catherine Corliss and other people whom I will not name on the ground in Tuam. She worked meticulously off her own bat in Tuam from 2011 until 2013. She got the names of 796 babies and children buried somewhere on the site. We now know from one of the interim reports that some of those babies, infants and children are buried in what appear to be chambers used for sewage. She paid €4 for each death certificate and so on. I wish to mention her name and the background to where we are today. That is only one segment. I could go back further, but I will not do so.

I will quote the words of Terry Prone. Deputies are asked not to mention names in the House, but this is in context. She was speaking on behalf of the Sisters of Bon Secours when rumours started about burial chambers in sewage chambers. She stated on behalf of the Bon Secours sisters to a documentary maker: "If you come here you’ll find no mass grave, no evidence that children were ever so buried and a local police force casting their eyes to heaven and saying, ‘Yeah a few bones were found – but this was an area where famine victims were buried. So?’." I am not singling out the Bon Secours sisters. If we have learned anything here, it is that this involved local authorities, District Court judges, solicitors, health boards and the Department of Education. There was State control and State involvement. The county council owned the mother and baby home. I cannot think of a more inappropriate name for the home. It was owned by the county council and operated by the Bon Secours sisters.

I will mention one final person, Peter Mulryan, who is a survivor. I do not think he will mind me mentioning his name because he has gone public many times. It is a few years since I used these notes. Mr. Mulryan has been to the High Court on eight separate occasions trying to get access to his records. That is the background.

I will conclude by speaking about the importance of archives. Dr. Caitríona Crowe, former head of special projects of the National Archives of Ireland, wrote in The Irish Times:

Why are archives important? Because they are evidence of events in the past that give us some certainty about what happened, if used intelligently and carefully. In the era of “fake news” and the supremacy of opinion over fact, archives are a bulwark against mischievous or uninformed attempts to rewrite history. We need to value, cherish and understand them.

In its report published in 2014, the interdepartmental group, which met before this commission was set up, noted:

... the Group’s examination of the extensive records which could contribute to greater public understanding of historic practices has necessarily been very modest given the scale of such records. The Group considers that a very important benefit of such an historical survey would be to provide an inventory and analysis of the archival and other sources, both public and private, of most relevance in researching these issues.

I could go on, but I will not. I know no amendments are being accepted. I find myself in the position of thinking they are not great, mine included, but we are doing our best with very bad legislation. The Department has been on notice for a long time. The Government and the two which preceded it knew that there were issues with how we were going deal with a collection of documents for the first time. It must be borne in mind that in the context of the Magdalen laundries, we had the McAleese report, the commission of investigation and Caranua. Every report highlighted the dispersal of documents and the difficulty in getting them. One of the interim reports referred to a congregation of sisters who swore an affidavit in respect of documents, which the commission found incredible - "incredible" is my word. The commission had difficulty believing an affidavit that the nuns swore and so on. We have known for a very long time.

Regarding the confidential briefing notes that Deputies got when discussing the mother and baby homes in recent years, in 2012 the intelligence unit in the Department of Health highlighted all these issues and the concerns regarding practices that the commission is investigating. The Minister has come to us with this Bill and has told us and the people listening that they are mixing up different things and that this is not about sealing documents away for 30 years. That is disingenuous and unacceptable. For as long as I have a voice, I will continue to say that.

For the last time, I appeal to the Minister to lead differently. We all came in to do things differently and not to repeat Department speak. I do not blame staff. I see how hard they work, but it is time to lead and it is our duty to lead. What is the solution to get the Minister out of this mess? This legislation is not the solution. How do we change the deadline that is, according to the Minister, looming over us? I do not accept that it is. How does the Minister, as a leader, get around that so that we can have satisfactory legislation? How can he stand here and tell us that the sixth report will be published after bad legislation is passed? The Minister should try to listen to us and reflect.

I note with interest the point made by Deputy Connolly about the creation of Tusla. It is a word that does not trip off the tongue easily. I do not even know if there is a statutory basis for the name "Tusla". I believe it is called the Child and Family Agency. We would all do ourselves a favour if we continue to refer to it as the Child and Family Agency. I do not know when the marketing people came in and decided to give it this glossy title. Perhaps this is something that should be reviewed and revised. I agree with the Deputy in that respect.

The Minister is again stating unambiguously that the Bill does not seal the mother and baby homes archive for 30 years. Do I understand that correctly? The Minister is nodding in the affirmative. Last night he said: "this Bill does not seal the mother and baby homes archive for 30 years." Later in that debate, he also said

The 2004 Act provides for the publication of the final report of a commission by the prescribed Minister and further provides that the archive of records will remain sealed tor a period of 30 years, after which time its availability for public inspection is governed in accordance with the National Archives Act 1986.

While I want to give the Minister the benefit of the doubt, these seem to be contradictory statements. While I do not mean this in any pejorative way, there may be a bit of wizardry going on with the words. While, technically speaking, the Bill before us may not seal the database or the records, the Minister has acknowledged that the 2004 Act on which all this hinges provides for the records to remain sealed. That is the point I cannot reconcile in my mind. That is the perception I have, and I am quoting the Minister's own words back to him. We wanted more time to deliberate on this so that we could go through this line by line, dissect the Minister's words and scrutinise the legislation adequately so that we could have a clear conscience collectively that we were passing legislation that would not be detrimental to the women, children, relatives and everybody directly affected by the legislation.

I ask the Minister to clarify for us his intention in respect of this in the simplest language. Our interpretation is that there is a definitive sealing of the records. The Minister made the point previously, in response to points I made on the information and tracing Bill. I acknowledge the Minister's words with regard to there being a process and that he hopes to bring the information and tracing Bill before us next year. The Minister will forgive me if I am somewhat sceptical about his ability to do that. I am not referring to his personal ability to do it. I do not doubt his bona fides in this respect. However, the information and tracing Bill stopped like a juggernaut and it has not started again, and I do not understand why. That needs explaining and further interrogation because it is germane to this Bill, not from the privacy or confidentiality aspects but from the point of view of seeking information and devising a process to facilitate people to seek the information they so deserve and that is theirs as of right.

I ask that the Minister please clarify the seeming contradictions in his Second Stage speech last night on the records' sealing. He stated:

The 2004 Act provides for the publication of the final report of a commission by the prescribed Minister and further provides that the archive of records will remain sealed tor a period of 30 years, after which time its availability for public inspection is governed in accordance with the National Archives Act 1986.

The process of this Bill and the Minister's work has not changed at all. He has come to the Chamber and said clearly that he refuses to listen to the arguments put forward and he will accept no amendments from the Opposition. That fits perfectly with the process so far, which has refused to listen to the Opposition, to the women and to the people who were born in those homes.

Hundreds of people who spent time in those homes are watching this debate in the Dáil from their sitting rooms. They will be saying that the Minister's stonewalling of these amendments is perfectly consistent with the Government's entire approach to their lives; there is no difference at all. It makes this whole process theatre. People come into the Chamber with nailed down perspectives on votes and amendments without taking into consideration the information behind them. The Minister is asking us to buy a pig in a poke. He is asking us to back him, that the Government will introduce further legislation in future, and will release reports in the future and that we should just trust them now. Why would any of the women or people watching from their sitting rooms trust the Government on this now? What has the Government given them that they would be able to trust it?

I will go through some of the amendments I tabled to ask why they were not considered logical amendments. One discusses relevant persons whose details are held in these records and who should have access to the records. The idea is to strike a fair and healthy balance regarding all the issues that have been raised, including consent, confidentiality, public interest and rights to one's records. The specific amendment ensures that relevant persons such as former residents of mother and baby homes will be able to access their own records. Another amendment provides that "Nothing in this Act shall be construed as denying a relevant person whose personal information is held by the agency, authority and/or Minister from accessing such data as is directly relevant to them". It almost feels futile to go through the content of these amendments given that the Minister has come in to stonewall this. It is heartbreaking to see a Green Party Minister do this. There was at least a varnish of an effort to work constructively with Opposition Members but that varnish has disappeared by now.

I wanted to take the opportunity to contribute again as I am conscious that we probably only have 90 minutes left in the debate so we will not reach most of our amendments. Not only are we rushing the legislation, we are rushing this crucial part of the debate and will not even have the opportunity to put forward the arguments for why we tabled these amendments. As the day has progressed, it has become increasingly clear this is a shambles. I wish to put some of the rationale for some of our amendments on the record.

There is no principled reason the Oireachtas fail to legislate to ensure the Minister responds to personal data access requests once he receives the archive. Neither the commission or the Minister has explained why, as a matter of principle, individuals effected by torture or other cruel treatment, forced family separation, enforced disappearance, or the fate or whereabouts of a family member who died while detained or abducted remain unknown and medical experimentation should not have full access to their personal data, including the transcript or their own evidence to the commission. I would like an answer to that, if possible.

The fact that they did not have any access to the commission's archive for the duration of the investigation is a major breech of their basic rights under the European Convention on Human Rights to be properly involved in any inquiry into the abuse they suffered. They should have been able to receive a copy of all their or their deceased relatives' personal data and their transcript of evidence and they should have been invited to comment on the evidence being received from the State and non-State institutions responsible for the treatment of mothers and their children. It is not acceptable to compound that human rights abuse by denying access to personal data in the Minister's possession for the next 30 years. The only justification which the Minister has offered is that the 2004 Act envisages a commission's archive being sealed for 30 years upon deposit with the Minister. There is no obligation on the Minister to seal the records under this Act. In fact, rather than be bound to secrecy, the Oireachtas could legislate to unseal record and evidence gathered by the commission.

We want to reiterate that this legislation needs to be scrapped. I do not care if I sound like a broken record. I appeal to the Minister regarding the time. We are having to explain why we are putting forward amendments while we rush through. We should at least have the time to debate those properly. We need to call a halt to this, put the brakes on and give it the proper time that it deserves, and take the opportunity to ensure the records are not sealed or passed over to Tusla. We need to engage in consultation with the survivors which goes to the heart of the whole matter. It is extremely frustrating that we are rushed on this.

We tabled an amendment on indexing. To engage in debate and consultation on further unsealing of the commission's archive, it is necessary to know what it contains. The archive deposited with the Minister is likely to include witness testimony, State records, many of which should be in the National Archives, but the originals are not because of the National Archives chronic under-funding, institutional records, financial records, correspondence, and bishops' and diocesan records. There could, therefore, be hundreds of thousands of items, if not more. How can the Government justify continued sealing of the archive without explaining what is in it and why exactly it needs to be sealed?

I thank the Cathaoirleach for the opportunity to speak again. although I wonder what is the point. It might be worth recording that everyone is wrong except the Department. Maybe we should put on the record that everyone here is wrong, all the survivors are wrong, all the people who have gone through the material and all the academics who have worked on the entire process over recent years are all wrong and the Department is right. That is what we are to take from the process and go off into the sunset.

Deputy Connolly said everything that needed to be said on what is being done here; there is very little I can add. I am not qualified enough to add anything but I want to echo her call. Since the Minister will not accept any amendments, maybe he will publish the sixth interim report, as Deputy Connolly called for, and do so before this legislation passes tonight. Surely he can call his Department and tell his officials to publish it on its website in the next half hour? Surely it is not that important. It is not the third secret of Fatima, except obviously it is because apparently this legislation has to be enacted before the interim report can be published. It would be vital to give some semblance of rebuilding faith in the Department on the part of the people it is supposed to serve.

They are the people who have lost faith. Unfortunately, many of us politicians probably did not have faith in the first place, but people outside the House did have faith that the process could actually do something and could help them in some way. I call for the publication of the interim report in the next half hour or before the legislation is passed. It is the only thing I can do at this stage.

I listened very carefully to the Minister's introduction of his amendments and his response to what has been said by Deputies. It was very difficult to understand and follow his statement. To be frank, I think he had difficulty articulating his position and what he said was extraordinarily confusing. If he is not able to simplify his argument so that we in this House and those outside the House who are impacted by these issues can understand it, then we have a problem.

The Minister's amendment No. 39 sets out a new section 6, subsection (1) of which states:

Notwithstanding the Act of 2004, the Commission shall stand dissolved on 28 February 2021.

He has said that the purpose of this provision is to allow the commission to continue to operate so that it can contact all those who gave evidence to the confidential committee to ask whether they would like the commission to redact their personal data from its archive. If that is the case, I ask the Minister to delete section 6(2), as inserted by amendment No. 39, which states:

The Commission shall submit its final report to the Government no later than 30 October 2020.

If the commission is not to be dissolved until the end of February 2021, why is the Minister insisting that the archive be given over to him by 30 October?

I will repeat what has been said in the Dáil many times, not just by the Minister but also by the Taoiseach. The argument is that the commission has created a database of every person to have passed through the mother and baby homes and the legislation needs to pass by 30 October or that database will be destroyed. The Minister needs to explain what is meant by "destroyed". I asked him to do so last night and even gave him options that might be envisaged, including shredding, burning and self-destruction. We need an answer as to what is meant by the database being "destroyed". I am trying to offer the Minister a way out that would give everybody more time to deal with this issue. He says the issue is not about the sealing of the archive, because that comes under different legislation. It does not matter which legislation applies. The sealing of the archive has become the issue of concern for survivors and for the Deputies who oppose his Bill, albeit that it is a result of legislation enacted in 2004.

A possible way out for us all, as I have proposed, is for the Minister to delete section 6(2), as inserted by amendment No. 39, and thereby extend the deadline for the archive to be sealed until 28 February 2021. Within that time, a legal challenge might be brought against the Bill, if the Minister proceeds to push it through tonight. If that is the position he feels he has been boxed into, he could at least delete that particular subsection and give us time to react to what is, as Deputy Connolly outlined, a very bad piece of legislation. The Minister does not fully know what he is going to seal on 30 October. I know he does not know because he told me so the other day, unless he has been since more fully informed. He knows most of what will be sealed but not all of it. Apart from the agony this causes for the survivors and those concerned with them, there is also the question of losing access to very important historical documents relating to certain institutions and to the conduct of the State and its institutions. The Minister does not know about those documents, which means that nobody knows about them. He has no right to push ahead with sealing the archive until he can fully inform us of every piece of material that will go into it.

I will try to be brief as I had an opportunity to speak last night. I listened to the Minister's contribution and I commend the colleagues who have spoken. I refer again to the matter of the sixth interim report and why it has not been published. The former Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone, asked on a number of occasions for it to be published and several speakers have already spoken about it. Why has it not been published? The Minister spoke about splitting the report and sending some of the data to Tusla for the reasons he stated. However, the other half of the material will be sealed for 30 years. Is the issue one of concern about what information is contained in the other part of the material? As the last speaker said, the Minister does not know what is in it and nor does anybody else, although we can suspect and surmise. We are all well aware of, and can speak frankly about, the collusion that took place between the State, the church, solicitors and so on. We have all heard the statements and testimonies of survivors.

Listening to the majority of speakers on this side of the House, it is clear the biggest concern is that we do the right thing. It has been said over and over again that we are rushing through very bad legislation. I said last night that a bad law is an unjust law and an unjust law is an injustice to the people to whom we owe it to get their testimonies heard. I join a previous speaker in calling for the publication of the sixth interim report. Let us have the evidence. In any case in any court, under any law and in any country, one is entitled to all the evidence before making a judgment. It may be unintended but the Minister would be letting down himself if he does not ensure all the evidence is available. This is not a personal attack on him. I understand that whips are being cracked and I have appealed to Deputies in other parties to do the right thing.

This is about dealing with historical abuse. It is about telling the truth so that this type of thing never happens again. We are 60 or 70 years on from some of these events and we are going back to the same thing again. It is an Irish way of doing things to believe that if we do not talk about something, it will go away. If we push it under the carpet and say nothing, it will not be seen. That has to stop. My worry is that the report is so damning and puts so many people and organisations on the hook that the Minister is doing what he is doing through fear of letting down a few and, by doing so, he is letting more suffer. We are well aware that chemical trials were done in these places, which means pharmaceutical companies were involved, with the backing of the State, local authorities and the courts. I am concerned that the Minister would sooner cover up that and protect those involved and, as a consequence, let the few survivors who are left, and their children who are also suffering, suffer until they die without getting any justice whatsoever.

We all come into this House with strong beliefs, although our beliefs are different. We have had discussions on this issue on several occasions even during my few years as a Deputy. It has become even clearer to me over the past two days that people on this side of the House are genuinely concerned about the issue and really want to do the right thing. We have all made appeals to the Minister and I will do so again. Will he go back to his own party, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, sit down with his colleagues and tell them that there have been a lot of valid points made in this House? It is not about being nasty and it certainly is not about scoring political points. The Minister can hear that the tone of my voice is a lot different from what it was yesterday. I have been in constant contact with survivors, even while sitting in the Chamber, and they are not impressed. That is being very polite. They are not impressed with what they are seeing.

One person texted me a while ago to say their heart is sinking and they are losing faith. The Minister is where the buck stops this evening. The Minister is the one who will hold all of these records. He has the power to make a stand today, to turn around to his own party and the rest of the coalition and say for once in his life he is going to do the right thing, to stand up and show all the cards on the table without caring who has the four aces or the two jokers. The two jokers are going to be out. I appeal to the Minister to listen to this side of the House, to listen to the speakers who have appealed to him tonight and not guillotine this debate tonight. I do not want to be attached to it. We all make mistakes. God knows I have made so many I could write two books on them. I would probably have seven or eight reports. One puts the hand up when one makes a mistake and, if brave enough, apologises. It has gone on for too long. It is now the chance for the State and everybody else who colluded in the abuse of these people over the years to stand up and be counted, put up their hand, say they made a mistake and move on from that. If we bury this and guillotine it tonight we will be back here again because we will rehash something. We will need to come back in again. We might need to go outside the jurisdiction, but these people deserve the honesty and the truth. They need to know what happened. As I said during last night's debate, they went into this process, not to tell their stories to be famous, but to tell the story so it would never happen again.

There has been a little bit of coverage outside the House in the media. Again, I believe it is shameful because what has happened here is an absolutely massive blimp on Irish history. It will be remembered by me and others and at least we will be able to pass it on in stories. If the Minister does not do the right thing tonight he knows what will happen when this information is locked up. This is a generation that does not have 30 years left in their lives. Most of these survivors do not have 30 years left to live. Many of their siblings will not have 30 years left to live. The Minister has said that while some part of it has to be hidden he does not know what is to be hidden, but I suspect that with this 30-year rule it must be fairly dangerous if the Government does not want it in public. But they are not telling the Minister. Does the Minister understand what I say? Those generations will never see the record and then it disappears. That is wrong. I ask the Minister to get off the high horse, shrug down the shoulders and go back in as a team manager to say we are changing tactics here, this is a different game now, to get out there and tell the truth.

I do not know if the Minister gets the sense from the Chamber today that there is a real sadness here. As the previous speaker said, there is a sinking feeling because we know the clock is ticking and that nothing is going to change, whatever efforts we make. There is an inevitability that those women are going to be let down again and that their histories and their information will be put beyond their reach. It is an incredibly unfortunate, disappointing and shameful thing that will happen today.

I want to have an opportunity to get my amendments on the record even if it will not actually make any difference to the end result. I find it difficult to understand that if the Minister or I, or anyone in this Chamber, went into any government body that held information on us we could get access to it and yet a seal will be triggered by this Bill, and regardless of what the Minister has said those survivors will not be able to access their information. I do not understand how the primary legislation around data protection and GDPR does not apply to this database.

Many speakers have referred to Dr. Maeve O'Rourke who has done a huge amount of work in this area. Dr. O'Rourke has outlined that the commission and the Government should be applying the framework of the EU general data protection regulation, GDPR, which gives individuals many rights on their personal data, including the right to be informed, the right of access, the right of rectification, the right to erasure and the right to object to data processing. One of the Minister's amendments enables the right of erasure but he ignores all the other rights that come in that package.

Under GDPR legislation neither the commission nor the Government is permitted to place a blanket seal over the entire archive it holds. Under article 23, restrictions can only be placed on data subject rights, including the fundamental right of access to personal data, to the extent necessary and proportionate in a democratic society to achieve a legitimate aim and only in a way that still respects the essence of the right. The Government has not explained why it is denying individuals, who were subjected to forced family separation, access to their own transcripts of evidence and personal and family records. The Minister has not explained why that is a necessary and proportionate measure to safeguard the effective operation of this or any other commission or future co-operation of witnesses. In fact, I imagine that by telling a person the Government is going to take his or her information, use that information and seal it away, it would discourage the person and prevent him or her from participating in any further commission.

My amendments to the Bill attempt to reassert the primacy of the GDPR legislation. I have also included the Adoption Authority of Ireland, as have other Members. The rationale is essentially the same, that we listen to the survivors. They do not want their data going to Tusla. The Adoption Authority of Ireland seemed a very practical and good solution and alternative to that. The authority has the capacity to manage this information. Again, this is what the survivors want. They do not want the data going to Tusla.

Some of my amendments also provide for looking forward in time to the Minster laying before the Houses of the Oireachtas a number of reports, one of which is the prospective development of a national archive and the second to support the right to, and strengthen access to, birth and early life information, and to include measures to support access to the information on birth, early life health or family death. My amendment is time limiting these. While the Minister asks the women to trust him because he is going to do something on this, we have not seen any timelines. I am aware that it is difficult to put timelines into something like this but I believe we need to bind them somehow.

These amendments are to ensure we go beyond today's legislation and that consultation with survivors remains paramount. The one stark thing with this legislation is that there was no consultation with survivors. I cannot reconcile that. Restorative justice requires that full consultation is carried out with representative groups so that all opinions, ideas and concerns are addressed.

I hope it does not, but assuming the Bill goes through tonight as the Minister wishes, I ask that the Minister immediately starts talking to survivors and starts working to build their trust again to make sure what they need and what they want to see happen happens very quickly.

I note the Minister did not take the opportunity to answer my question on the free vote. I would like an answer on that because this goes to the heart of Members. As my colleague Deputy Gannon said, issues of taxation or policy issues are okay for a whip, but this is not one of those. Given the sensitive and personal nature of the matter I believe it warrants a free vote. I ask that the Minister respond to that.

I appreciate being allowed to speak a second time. I last spoke before the Minister had replied. He has shown steadfast unwillingness and belligerence with regard to all of the amendments. It is sad to see it suggested that an issue that has gone on for so long, nearly three quarters of century in places, should go on for a full century and that access to these survivors' records should be denied to them, their families, their loved ones and campaigners for justice. I have been in the Dáil for nearly 14 years and have been here for a number of debates on this sad and deplorable issue. I have seen taoisigh and others brought to tears when apologising. I was going to refer to crocodile tears, although I do not mean that personally, but tears like these, pious platitudes, nice or humbling words and passionate views and speeches are no good to survivors. This needs to be dealt with. We cannot push it any further down the road.

I again thank the people who took the trouble to email, write to or ring me or to call to my office. Even today, I got a call from a man in Nenagh about what went on in Sean Ross Abbey in Roscrea in my own county. The people involved there have fought the good fight and have been blocked at every turn. They have some awful and harrowing stories to tell. I support them, thank them and give them some solace. If they are watching from home today, they will see very few in the Chamber and they will see a Minister, who is a member of the Green Party, which tells us that it is modern in its thinking and which is passionate about new climate initiatives on so on, toeing the party line and complying with the party whip for the sake of a State car and getting his legs under the table of Government. The Minister will deny everything he has claimed to stand for. I know many who will be galled to vote down this amendment tonight, but who will still do so. As a previous speaker said, one can understand the whip being used on budgetary or taxation legislation, but there is no place for party whips in such an emotional and charged atmosphere and when dealing with such a sensitive and sad saga in our history.

Will the Deputy speak to the amendment?

I am speaking to the amendment. I am speaking to the fact that the Minister has rejected each and every amendment. With the Acting Chairman's permission, I am making the point, which I will not labour, that I am truly saddened to think that a Green Party Minister would act in this way. I do not see many of his colleagues around him or behind him. There are not many who have come in to speak in support of him or to provide him with moral support because they know this is wrong no matter what way one looks at it. The main wrong has been perpetrated again on the survivors and on their families and support groups. These people met with the former Minister, Katherine Zappone, and told her clearly that they did not want anonymity and that they wanted their names out there. This is all codswallop. It is a game of hide-and-go-seek. It is a case of ducking and dodging. It is the worst type of politics. I expected better from Deputy Eamon Ryan, whom I respect, and from the Green Party. It is very sad to see the price of power.

In the two debates we are having today, including the one this morning about extending ministerial powers, the people have been forgotten. People are only used as cannon fodder for the ballot box. They are abandoned when Ministers get their legs into a State car - whether electric or diesel, that does not matter anymore - and when they get their perks, ministerial advisers and everything else. Power corrupts and total power corrupts completely.

I call on the Minister. I am sorry; I did not see Deputy Harkin up in the gods.

I have been waving consistently. I will just speak for a few minutes before the Minister responds. I thank the Acting Chairman. I appreciate getting to make a second contribution. I will refer to something to which many Deputies have referred - the GDPR, with which I have some familiarity. As citizens of Ireland and of Europe, we enjoy certain rights under GDPR. Colleagues have referred to these. We enjoy the right of access to our personal information, the right to rectify any mistakes and the right to erase certain information. We also enjoy the right to make decisions on the processing of any processing of those data. The Minister tells us that he is protecting this information in what he is proposing in this legislation. The law on the sealing of archives comes from the 2004 Act. This is where the 30-year seal was activated. Surely, GDPR and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, in favour of which citizens in this country voted as part of the Lisbon treaty, are the overarching and overriding legislation in this regard. They have primacy. We often say these are EU legislation but they are now Irish legislation because we have transposed them. The difference is that, if necessary, the European Commission can ensure that we enforce that legislation.

Once again, the Minister said that he is protecting this information and that the Bill needs to be passed by 30 October or some information could be destroyed. It has been made very clear that we do not know precisely what information the Minister is talking about or what might happen to it. Something bad might happen to some of the information. Does GDPR not already protect that information? The provisions of the 2004 Act have been superseded by GDPR.

Many people have referred to Dr. Maeve O'Rourke, whose excellent article I have read. She has included in this article a link to a piece by Simon McGarr in which he talks about a policy document from the European Data Protection Board in June of this year. This document sets out the limits of permissible national legislation restricting GDPR rights. I will quote one or two excerpts from the document. The Minister is probably familiar with it but it is important to quote one or two excerpts because this is an overarching body. One of the points it makes is that:

Any restriction must respect the essence of the right that is being restricted. Restrictions which are general, extensive or intrusive to the extent that they void a fundamental right of its basic content cannot be justified. If the essence of the right is compromised the restriction must be considered unlawful

That is surely relevant to what we are talking about. The second point I will take from the policy document is relevant to the 2004 Act and the possible destruction of information. It states, "In line with the GDPR and the case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union and of the European Court of Human Rights, it is indeed essential that legislative measures, which seek to restrict the scope of data subject rights, are foreseeable to persons subject to them, including with regard to their duration in time."

Any restriction, therefore, that is applied retroactively or not subject to defined conditions does not meet that foreseeable criterion. In that context, I point out to the Minister that all those people who testified and gave evidence could never have foreseen that this was going to happen. We must understand that protections already exist. I am not pretending I fully understand this, although I have listened and tried. We did not have time for pre-legislative scrutiny or to go through this Bill forensically and because of that - I will only speak for myself - there is a certain amount of shooting in the dark. Some matters, however, are very clearly explained in the statement from the European Data Protection Board. It makes it clear that the legislation we must look at in this context is the GDPR and that the 2004 legislation is restricted and superseded by the GDPR. I would like to hear the comments of the Minister on this issue.

I am getting texts from survivors expressing their disgust at what they are witnessing being done by the Minister and the Government. They are saying how pointless this whole exercise seems to be, given the Government's unwillingness to entertain amendments. Is it not pretty damning that the people who should be at the centre of this process are disgusted at what the Government is doing? Another person, whom I mentioned earlier, asked why on earth a whip was being imposed. That is a question the Minister has still not answered, by the way. Why would it be felt necessary to impose a whip? Why would the Minister want to impose a whip? I asked this person if he felt anything else needed to be said, as his point had been made. He just said I should invite the Minister to do the right thing by resigning to make history in preventing a great wrong being done. That man, on behalf of the survivors, is asking the Minister to make a statement that he is not willing to stand over this Bill and be part of a Government that would stand over what the survivors and victims do not want to happen. Is that not pretty damning too? Those were unsolicited texts from people who contacted me because they cannot believe what is happening.

The Minister has been offered ways out of this situation. Deputy Bríd Smith and others have offered him a way out by proposing that he delete the section, which I do not have in front of me, on the imperative for the commission of investigation to report at the end of this month. If that section were deleted, it would create the space to consider this properly and give people a chance to challenge the sealing of archives. I do not know why the Minister would not take that section out on foot of the feelings of anger being expressed.

On the specific group of amendments, I heard the Minister's answer regarding Tusla. I thought about his response and whether it was reasonable. I hope he will not take up wrong because I and, I am sure, the survivors do not want to cast aspersions on the very many good people working in the Child and Family Agency. However, the issue here is the nature of State institutions, the imperatives, if one likes, that State institutions have and the pressures on these institutions to act in a particular way. They are State silos with their own imperatives and it is those imperatives that are not trusted by the survivors. That is perfectly understandable and it is why the survivors do not see Tusla as the right body. I will give an example of what I mean by that and how those imperatives can operate. I just stumbled upon this in a very topical context. A school principal emailed me with a circular on Covid-19 that was just sent out by the Department of Education and Skills to school principals. I cannot read out the exact wording here but the circular stated that if a teacher tests positive, the response of the principal should not be to call the HSE but to ring the Department, which will then arrange for a public health call that will then decide on any measures regarding close contacts and the possible exclusion of people. I ask myself why the Department of Education and Skills is interfering in a public health response in the context of the protection of children from a pandemic. Why is it doing that? The Department is doing that because it has its own imperatives and its imperative at the moment is to keep schools open. If this circular is correct, it would appear that it may be interfering with what should be the proper public health protocols regarding the close contacts of a positive Covid case. I hope the Minister understands the point I am making.

It is the same, potentially, in the case of a body like Tusla. We have seen examples and instances of that because Tusla has its own imperatives which may conflict with the best interests of the people we are talking about in this Bill and their needs, wants and right to access information on themselves and their history and identity. That is why the survivors do not want Tusla to have this role, as I see it. They do not trust the imperatives of State bodies in particular instances because they may conflict with people's aspirations, needs and desires. I think they are right. They have a right to have that concern and to suggest instead a body that is a bit further removed from the imperatives of the State and would not be influenced by political imperatives to cover up certain matters or not to do things that might be damaging in some way to the State. The survivors are right to be concerned in that regard. They are right that it would be better to have that information in the hands of a body that is less susceptible to the political imperatives of a State body and its desire to protect itself or the State.

I find it amazing that the Minister is willing to allow records to be sealed for 30 years when he is not sure what they contain. He is not quite sure what information could be in there that is relevant to particular individuals, their histories and the actions of the State in the abuse of mothers, children and individuals. It is astonishing that the Minister would allow that and think it is acceptable when he does not even know what is or is not being sealed. It is quite shocking that the Minister thinks it is okay for that to happen.

I was born in a mother and baby home and my adoption was organised through St. Patrick's Guild, which is one of the institutions where there are records. I am lucky and I did not have a terrible history, but there are bits of my story about which I do not know. I might be curious to try to fill in those gaps at some point. It is possible that bits of my story, or important bits of many people's stories, could be sealed and that I and thousands of others would never have access to those bits of our identity and history. That is far more likely when some of those histories are absolutely terrible. As I said, I do not want to focus too much on myself because I was lucky. One of the people texting me at the moment went through not just one of these institutions but all of them and still has not managed to secure the information about their real identity and history. Perhaps part of that story is embarrassing to certain people.

I know bits of my own story and bits of others and some of the circumstances surrounding the separation of children from their mothers and some of the characters who were involved at the upper echelons of the State and the church are very embarrassing for them. Powerful people utilised these institutions to protect themselves from some of their shameful and hypocritical behaviour. Is that some of the information that will be sealed up? We might never get to see it but it could impact on the lives and histories of real individuals still existing who have the right to know their story and all the facts surrounding their histories and their lives. Apparently it is okay to seal that and that the Minister would not even know whether it was sealed or not. It is unbelievable that the Minister thinks it is okay that this would happen when he has been given an out. A few suggestions have been made of ways out for the Minister not to do what he is proposing to do. He should do the right thing by the victims who are out there asking him not to do this.

I will address the issue of GDPR first, which was raised by Deputies Whitmore, Harkin and others. I have seen the article by Dr. Maeve O'Rourke and other articles have addressed this particular issue as well. My Department has engaged extensively with the Attorney General's office on this issue and the advice we have received, to which the Department is bound, is that the GDPR right of access to personal data set out in Article 15 of the GDPR is expressly prohibited by section 39 of the Commissions of Investigation Act. Section 39 of the Act prohibits that in accordance with Article 23 of the GDPR, which allows for exceptions to the GDPR in a range of circumstances including those relating to the administration of justice. It is on that basis that the Attorney General has advised my Department that the potential solution to the issue of access to information, which a number of Deputies have suggested, is not available. I understand that that is a contested view. I think Dr. O'Rourke would contest it, as would others. I accept that and that is why I said yesterday in the Dáil that I want to address this matter and broaden access. That will require a change in laws and I do not have the answer in respect of this issue today. I have agreed with the Attorney General that we will meet and discuss it and his office will take me through the argumentation on that point. I hope, with its agreement, that the Joint Committee on Children, Disability, Equality and Integration can bring in academics to voice the opposite perspective and see what we can do to agree on this. Contrary to what Deputy Pringle suggested, neither I nor my Department feel we know it all. We are looking for solutions but they will not be brought forward in this legislation.

Similarly, the 30-year rule stems from the 2004 Act and its interaction with the National Archives Act 1986. I accept that by sealing the archive we will create significant issues, to which Deputy Boyd Barrett has referred, where people want to find information about their lives which is limited by the existing law, under which this commission of inquiry was set up. What I have tried to do is to take one significant part, namely, the database constructed by the commission using records it had copied from other institutions, and take that out so it is immediately available and some of those gaps can be filled in for many people. I have committed to coming back and looking at the 30-year ceiling and seeing what we can do to address that, particularly for personal information.

In the context of the focus on the archive, it is also important to look at the actual commission report, which we will be receiving from my engagement with the commission on 30 October. The commission has spend the last five years looking at many of the absolutely shocking issues, such as the vaccine trials and all these individual and collective atrocities that took place across that period. The commission has spent the last five years investigating those. It is going to produce a report of 4,000 pages, with sections addressing each of the mother and baby homes and county homes that come within its remit. It will be making its assessment on the evidence it has scrutinised over five years. That report, which has been delayed on so many occasions, is going to give us so much of the information, which has been analysed. The judge who led this commission has a track record of undertaking incisive and sensitive investigations of other issues, including legacy issues of our country's past. That is why, throughout this process, my aim has been to ensure the commission can report when it has indicated it is ready to do so, on 30 October. The report will come to my Department and the Government and the Attorney General will have to review it. After review by the Attorney General it will be published by the State. I have made my commitment that I will see that done as quickly as possible because I think the survivors want to see that report and the analysis which has been undertaken over the past five years. That will provide many, though not all, of the answers survivors want. I have no doubt that the commission will set out recommendations on how the State responds to the things it has discovered and the conclusions it has made.

I look forward to working on implementing those specific recommendations.

The issue of a free vote requires a Cabinet decision, as does a decision to release the sixth interim report. It has not been released up until this point because of advice from the Office of the Attorney General. I want to come back to a number of points that Deputy Whitmore made and that others touched on, specifically in the context of archives and the amendment she tabled. Tying into the issue of the 30 year rule and the value of having material available, I absolutely see that. There is an archive with this commission report and with regard to the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, which was the subject of retention of records legislation in the last Dáil, which was extremely controversial and never addressed. There is also an archive for the McAleese report. All of these issues and the material in them, which speaks to dark periods in our nation's past, are contained there and we have to find some way to address that. I do not have the solution for Deputies today. What I have done and will continue to do is commit to seek ways to address that.

Two weeks ago, I met with Dr. Maeve O'Rourke and Deputy Gannon and we discussed the issue of an archive. The proposal relating to Sean McDermott Street was interesting. I need to find out more about it. I have been sent more details by CoLab subsequent to that meeting. It referred to various models. I know there is the model of what was done with the Stasi museum in eastern Europe as a potential model of how one can address a situation relating to a dark part of a country's history, with divisions created in families because of the decisions taken in East Germany and, in our own situation, decisions taken by members of families to direct a mother who is pregnant to go to a mother and baby home. Those are models that Ireland can learn from. I am committed to doing whatever I can as Minister to address that.

In the context of this legislation and the application of the 30 year rule, coming from the 2004 Act, we want to see the mother and baby homes commission of investigation's report delivered to get the information and analysis that has taken five years published as quickly as we can. We want to protect the database and ensure that it does not become sealed before we address issues about the 30 year rule. We want to ensure it is available for current tracing purposes that Tusla undertakes now and that it is available for future information and tracing purposes to be provided for in legislation which I have committed to bring to the Dáil in 2021. I believe this Bill is the way in which we can deliver on those objectives.

I have learned a lot from this process. I have learned about the importance of engagement in all these sensitive issues and the importance of better communication by me. Where I have failed to communicate either in this House or, more importantly, to survivors' groups, I apologise and I will work to do better on that. I genuinely believe that this legislation delivers on its central purpose of protecting that database and allowing its use to try to bridge those holes in information that exist because of what happened in Ireland.

I believe the Minister's intention is as he says. When he says that he is going to try to resolve this in the way that the survivors want, I believe that he will try. I believe it will be difficult for survivors to put trust in the Minister as a part of the State and a member of an institution such as this. What I would prefer to see is for this Bill to be somehow amended to give extra time. I mentioned before that the Minister's amendments allow for the dissolution of the commission to happen on 28 February. My understanding is that the sealing of the records will take effect upon dissolution of the commission under the 2004 Act. I believe that a simple amendment could be made here. If the Minister wants to give himself a year, he should allow the commission to stay in place and not dissolve it. It can still report in October. That will give the Minister the time he needs to put legislation in place and to look into the issue of GDPR. As the Minister says, it is a contested view. He can examine it, bring it to the committee and do whatever he needs to do. He should give himself a year to do it. That is a really simple amendment that he could make to his own amendment, to extend that period of time. That will give everyone a bit of space. The Minister can do his consultation, talk to survivors and get this right. If we rush this through today, it will not be right for a long time.

I would like to press some amendments. I understand the guillotine is at 6.30 p.m.

It is at 6.45 p.m. There are other people who wish to speak.

Can I press an amendment?

There is an amendment before the House which has to be disposed of first. We have to go through the procedures.

There is an amendment before the Dáil and it looks like we will not reach the others. I am on the point of giving up but then I realise what a privileged role I have. If I am at the point of giving up, what is it like for someone who has been through the process? I do not like emotional arguments and I think we have a duty not to be emotional because, while emotion is good, we have a duty to hold the system to account. That is what democracy and being in Opposition is about. I have asked the Minister repeatedly about the sixth interim report and he has finally said, on the advice of the Attorney General, that he cannot publish it. That is mindbogglingly difficult to understand. Earlier, the Minister told us he would publish it when the report was published. I do not know what the connection is between the report which the Minister will receive, which will go to Cabinet, then the Attorney General and then be published, and the sixth interim report, which I presume is one of the reasons that we are in a mess, and the Minister will not publish it. Will the Minister please tell us why it cannot be published? What has the Attorney General said is so difficult in that report that we cannot be party to it? Does the Minister realise what he is doing over and over again? The patriarchal voice is deafening, that they know best, they know most and they will release a little bit. It is happening again here.

The Minister said that he tried to release one significant part, which he gave to Tusla. On what basis can he pick out one part and not another? He said the report has been delayed often but he does not say why it has been delayed. As somebody who has been critical of the delays, I stood up yesterday and put that in context. The delays are not caused by the action of the commission. Please read the reports. It was initially surprised by the number of people coming forward.

I expressed my opinion on that. How could anyone be surprised, in light of our history, that people were just waiting for the opportunity to speak? The primary reason for the delays relates to gathering the documents. The knowledge was spread among many institutions and had to be collected, and orders for discovery had to be made. We must remember the number of bodies involved. In addition, there were delays on the part of various Governments in publishing the reports. Some of the seven reports were published more quickly than others. Some were published within a week or a few weeks, while others took six months. Significantly, the sixth report has not been published.

The Minister states, in the guise of serving the survivors, that we do want to hurt them anymore and want to publish the report as soon as possible. Why do we not ask them? The Minister might be surprised by the answer. Since they have waited through seven requests for extra time, síneadh ama, they might be quite happy to wait a little longer, if that is necessary. I do not believe it is, and I will return to that. However, if it is necessary, I am sure they will tell the Minister if he asks them. Is he aware of the words "consultation", "hearing", "listening" and "reflecting"? They are all part of a process. Let us ask them. They might say that they will wait a little longer for the report, instead of rushing through very bad legislation from a patriarchal authority that is telling us it knows best.

I wish to be specific. What has the Attorney General said that stops the Minister publishing the sixth interim report? Why is his advice on that so different from the advice on the other reports? Was it advice from the Attorney General that delayed the other reports when they were delayed? I asked the Minister to outline the interaction he had with the independent commission. It is independent of politicians. What interaction has there been? Why has the Attorney General been - and who else has been - in contact with an independent commission about a report we have not seen? I asked the Minister to clarify that matter. We set up an independent commission. We were repeatedly told it is independent and I accept that, but then the Minister tells us the Attorney General has been in repeated contact, although I do not wish to use the wrong words, about a sixth interim report we have not seen. Then the Minister tells us that is okay.

There are many solutions to this. What we are trying to tease out here is what the problem is, before we give the solutions. What problem are we trying to address here? We are not trying to address the delay with the commission submitting the report. That is not a problem. It has explained seven times since 2016 the reasons for delays. The reasons were coherent and understandable. In addition, it has pointed to other issues. For a long time it has been communicating with the Minister about what is going to happen with the body of documents it has collected. The Minister has been on notice, so there is no reason for urgent legislation this week. I come from a city and county that is struggling like the rest of the country with Covid, including in the nursing home in the Galway East constituency. We should be putting our energy into that, instead of trying to cope with a legislative measure that has come straight out of a Kafka novel. The Minister tells us he is doing that for the survivors, because we cannot disappoint them any more with a report and there cannot be any more delays. We are to praise the Minister because he has saved a significant part of this body of documents and given it to Tusla, without him explaining why he could not save the rest of it.

The Minister has extended the commission's term until February, so it will not yet be dissolved. We are having Jesuitical arguments - the commission is in being, it is not in being, the commission is dissolved and it is not dissolved, depending on the day or the month - but there is no information about what interaction there has been between an independent commission and the Government that established it through the Dáil, the voice of democracy. If the Minister can extend a commission to February for one purpose, why can he not extend it, if necessary, for another purpose?

I did not intend to contribute again. I tend to make my points and sit down, but there has been a mixture of emotions and thoughts in my head as I listened to this. If it is like this for me, what is it like for those outside who have been affected by this as we continue to use this patriarchal language that is designed to obfuscate, hide, deflect and pretend - cur i gcéill i nGaeilge? Is cur i gcéill amach is amach an méid atá ar siúl anseo agus ní féidir glacadh leis. Beidh mise ag vótáil glan in aghaidh an Bhille seo. Tá sé dochreidte go bhfuil an tAire ag leanúint ar aghaidh ag cur brú orainn glacadh leis an mBille nuair nach bhfuil gá agus nuair nach bhfuil sé sásta míniú a thabhairt maidir leis an séú tuarascáil nó an t-idirghníomhú idir an Rialtas agus an coimisiún, atá in ainm a bheith neamhspleách. Tá an tAire ag rá linn go bhfuil sé á dhéanamh sin ar son na mban. Tá an Bille agus an próiseas seo maslach amach is amach.

I will be brief as we are up against the clock. To reiterate, I have an issue with the fact that we have not had an opportunity to discuss our amendments in detail, regardless of the position the Minister set out at the start. It is unfair and wrong that we are not getting that opportunity at least. The Minister said that he wanted to look for solutions, and that the solutions were not necessarily in this legislation. I do not know if he meant his legislation or the amendments I and others have put forward. I do not believe in this legislation. I do not believe it is necessary or that it is a good legislative measure, but my amendments and those of other Members go some way towards addressing the issues. If the Minister is looking for solutions and acknowledges they are not in this measure, that is the reason he should put the brakes on, halt it and give it at least three months so we can put the solutions forward and the Minister will know that he is 100% doing the right thing.

If there is the political will to do something, anything can be done. We have seen that often in the last number of weeks with regard to Covid and the various decisions that were made. If there is the political will to do something, it definitely can be done. This measure is very wrong. The Minister is putting himself in a very difficult position. With this start, he is setting out on the wrong path in the context of how he will be able to deal with survivors in the future. The right thing to do is to delay this, get it right, not seal the records and ensure all the survivors have a chance to have consultation and their voices heard. The Minister will hear directly from them why they feel so strongly about the records and the involvement of Tusla.

I have a question and an observation for the Minister. I am watching the Twitter feed and Facebook and the main issue for people is the sealing of the archive for 30 years. Obviously, Tusla is a big issue, which is why we are pressing this amendment. If the sealing of the archive falls under another legislative measure, the 2004 Act, and if it is something that the Minister does not fully agree with, should he not have attempted to amend that Act to stop that happening? If he has not attempted to amend it or if that is not appropriate, will he explain that? If it is possible to amend it, could the Minister not take up my suggestion and seek to push the report back and then bring in an amendment to the 2004 Act before the report is in his possession and he must seal it?

I wish to make an observation on this process. There is no Deputy from the Government parties to speak in defence of this Bill. The Minister is being thrown under the bus by the lot of them. He has been left on his own. I am particularly amazed and a little disgusted, to be honest, that no female Deputy from Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael or the Green Party had the courage to come here today and defend this legislation.

In response to the queries about the issue of delay and the sealing of the archive, I have said that I want to look at the sealing of the archive, particularly in the context of personal information. I am being asked to completely remove the sealing of the archive, which is provided for in the 2004 Act and which comprises the commission's work in the past five years. Everything the three members of the commission have done has been on the basis that the archive would be sealed. They operated on the understanding that everyone involved in the commission was working under a legal framework whereby the archive would be sealed for 30 years at the end of the process.

Some Deputies have suggested that the entire archive would be completely unsealed. The risk there is that one would immediately have challenges to the commission's report. We have seen that tribunals have been challenged. Years have been spent getting tribunals established and although the inquiries have been undertaken, the findings of the tribunals have been struck out by the courts because of issues regarding fair procedures. I do not underestimate the challenge in addressing the 30-year rule, but we can make the case for access to personal information, especially if we look at GDPR and the ways it could potentially be used. I commit to try and find pathways to address the issue that way.

I do not think this will be done quickly and that is why I do not want to see the report delayed on that basis. Getting the report published and getting the outcome of the work that the commissioners have done in the past five years into the public domain is going to be an incredibly important moment. It is not the only moment in this entire process; there will be recommendations that the Government will need to consider and on which I will urge the Government to act, but getting the report published is incredibly important. I want to see the report delivered on 30 October, as the commission has indicated it intends to do.

There is no reason to delay the report. The reason the Minister gave for the Bill is that the commission will dissolve at the end of the month when the report is handed over. While it is extremely important, the report is a side issue. The report should be published forthwith. In the context of what the Government said, however, once the report is handed over, the commission will be dissolved. That is what the Minister told us and he said that is the reason for the urgency in dealing with the legislation. Now we know that the commission will not be dissolved because the Minister is tabling an amendment to his own bad legislation and saying the commission will not be dissolved until February. If the Minister is not dissolving the commission for one purpose, surely he can get the report and not dissolve the commission if it is not necessary.

This is unreal stuff. I, more than anyone, want to see the report published. It should inform our debate about what legislation is necessary regarding the documents, as should the sixth report and all of the other documents, including those of the interdepartmental committee that was behind the commission and the debate in the Dáil. The Minister should please stop insulting us or misusing the report or the people who are waiting to read it. Will he be dissolving the commission or not when the report comes to him? According to the Act, it will be dissolved automatically once the report is handed over, but the Minister's amendment will ensure that it will not be dissolved. I will leave it at that.

Amendment put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 62; Níl, 78; Staon, 0.

  • Andrews, Chris.
  • Barry, Mick.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Browne, Martin.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Cairns, Holly.
  • Canney, Seán.
  • Carthy, Matt.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Connolly, Catherine.
  • Conway-Walsh, Rose.
  • Cronin, Réada.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Daly, Pa.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Donnelly, Paul.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Farrell, Mairéad.
  • Fitzmaurice, Michael.
  • Funchion, Kathleen.
  • Gannon, Gary.
  • Guirke, Johnny.
  • Harkin, Marian.
  • Healy-Rae, Michael.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kelly, Alan.
  • Kenny, Martin.
  • Kerrane, Claire.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McDonald, Mary Lou.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • Mythen, Johnny.
  • Nash, Ged.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • O'Callaghan, Cian.
  • O'Donoghue, Richard.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • O'Rourke, Darren.
  • Ó Broin, Eoin.
  • Ó Laoghaire, Donnchadh.
  • Ó Murchú, Ruairí.
  • Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Quinlivan, Maurice.
  • Ryan, Patricia.
  • Sherlock, Sean.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Smith, Bríd.
  • Smith, Duncan.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Tully, Pauline.
  • Ward, Mark.
  • Whitmore, Jennifer.
  • Wynne, Violet-Anne.

Níl

  • Berry, Cathal.
  • Brophy, Colm.
  • Browne, James.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Burke, Peter.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Cahill, Jackie.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Carroll MacNeill, Jennifer.
  • Chambers, Jack.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Costello, Patrick.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Crowe, Cathal.
  • Devlin, Cormac.
  • Dillon, Alan.
  • Donnelly, Stephen.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Duffy, Francis Noel.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Feighan, Frankie.
  • Flaherty, Joe.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Foley, Norma.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Higgins, Emer.
  • Hourigan, Neasa.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Lahart, John.
  • Lawless, James.
  • Leddin, Brian.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Madigan, Josepha.
  • Martin, Catherine.
  • Matthews, Steven.
  • McAuliffe, Paul.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • Moynihan, Aindrias.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Murnane O'Connor, Jennifer.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Brien, Joe.
  • O'Callaghan, Jim.
  • O'Connor, James.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Gorman, Roderic.
  • O'Sullivan, Christopher.
  • O'Sullivan, Pádraig.
  • Ó Cathasaigh, Marc.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
  • Richmond, Neale.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smyth, Niamh.
  • Smyth, Ossian.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Troy, Robert.

Staon

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Bríd Smith and Catherine Connolly; Níl, Deputies Brendan Griffin and Jack Chambers.
Amendment declared lost.

As the time permitted for the debate has expired, I am required to put the following question in accordance with the order of the Dáil of 20 October: "That the amendments set down by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs for Committee Stage and not disposed of are hereby made to the Bill; in respect of each of the sections undisposed of, other than sections 4 and 5, which are hereby delete, that the section or, as appropriate, the section, as amended, is hereby agreed to in Committee; the Title, as amended, is hereby agreed to in Committee; the Bill, as amended, is accordingly reported to the House; Fourth Stage is hereby completed; and the Bill is hereby passed."

Question put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 79; Níl, 67; Staon, 0.

  • Berry, Cathal.
  • Brophy, Colm.
  • Browne, James.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Burke, Peter.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Cahill, Jackie.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Carroll MacNeill, Jennifer.
  • Chambers, Jack.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Costello, Patrick.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Crowe, Cathal.
  • Devlin, Cormac.
  • Dillon, Alan.
  • Donnelly, Stephen.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Duffy, Francis Noel.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Feighan, Frankie.
  • Flaherty, Joe.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Foley, Norma.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Higgins, Emer.
  • Hourigan, Neasa.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Lahart, John.
  • Lawless, James.
  • Leddin, Brian.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Madigan, Josepha.
  • Martin, Catherine.
  • Matthews, Steven.
  • McAuliffe, Paul.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • Moynihan, Aindrias.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Murnane O'Connor, Jennifer.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Brien, Joe.
  • O'Callaghan, Jim.
  • O'Connor, James.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Gorman, Roderic.
  • O'Sullivan, Christopher.
  • O'Sullivan, Pádraig.
  • Ó Cathasaigh, Marc.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
  • Richmond, Neale.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smyth, Niamh.
  • Smyth, Ossian.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Troy, Robert.
  • Varadkar, Leo.

Níl

  • Andrews, Chris.
  • Barry, Mick.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Browne, Martin.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Cairns, Holly.
  • Canney, Seán.
  • Carthy, Matt.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Connolly, Catherine.
  • Conway-Walsh, Rose.
  • Cronin, Réada.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Daly, Pa.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Donnelly, Paul.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Farrell, Mairéad.
  • Fitzmaurice, Michael.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Funchion, Kathleen.
  • Gannon, Gary.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Guirke, Johnny.
  • Harkin, Marian.
  • Healy-Rae, Michael.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kelly, Alan.
  • Kenny, Gino.
  • Kenny, Martin.
  • Kerrane, Claire.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McDonald, Mary Lou.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • Murphy, Verona.
  • Mythen, Johnny.
  • Nash, Ged.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • O'Callaghan, Cian.
  • O'Donoghue, Richard.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • O'Rourke, Darren.
  • Ó Broin, Eoin.
  • Ó Laoghaire, Donnchadh.
  • Ó Murchú, Ruairí.
  • Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Quinlivan, Maurice.
  • Ryan, Patricia.
  • Shanahan, Matt.
  • Sherlock, Sean.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Smith, Bríd.
  • Smith, Duncan.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Tully, Pauline.
  • Ward, Mark.
  • Whitmore, Jennifer.
  • Wynne, Violet-Anne.

Staon

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Seán Canney and Jack Chambers; Níl, Deputies Bríd Smith and Pádraig Mac Lochlainn.
Question declared carried.

This debate has been painful to watch. The victims and their families appealed to the Minister and the Government to listen to their point of view and to act on it by not sealing these records. Under Standing Order 83(3)(b), I propose that the vote be taken by other than electronic means.

As the difference between Tá and Níl was greater than ten votes, it is not possible to conduct a vote by means other than electronic. The Bill, which is considered to be a Dáil Bill under Article 20.2.2° of the Constitution, will be sent to the Seanad.