Wednesday, 10 February 2021

Questions (544)

Martin Browne

Question:

544. Deputy Martin Browne asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the reason many survivors have yet to receive their copies of the Final Report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes; his knowledge of the circumstances that led to some aspects of the report being leaked to the media; his views on the detrimental impact that these issues as well as the deletion of survivors’ recorded accounts have had on the survivors’ trust in the process of attaining further clarity on their histories in the time to come; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6754/21]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

A printed hard copy of the Final Report of the Commission is being made available to any survivor who wishes to have one, at no cost, by my Department. On the 13 January, my Department issued an email to our contact list of survivors and advocates and posted a notice on our website, outlining how survivors and their advocates could secure a copy of the report. My Department can be contacted at 01-6473200 or by emailing motherandbabyhomes@equality.gov.ie.

The Report was published in digital format in the first instance so as to immediately make it available to the widest possible audience. This is particularly important having regard to the sheer size of the report and the challenges which arise in disseminating hard copies, due in part to current necessary public health restrictions. The Department also has an abridged version of the Report available, containing chapters such as the Executive Summary, Recommendations, and of course, the report from the Confidential Committee, if this format is preferred.

My Department has secured the services of third parties to print and deliver the hard copies of the report. With the consent of those seeking copies of the report, arrangements are being made for delivery of the reports in response to the requests being received by my Department. This is being done in full compliance with General Data Protection Guidelines. I am advised that a large number of full reports have been dispatched and that more will follow shortly.

It is a matter of deep regret that details of the Commission's Final Report were leaked ahead of its publication. I contacted survivors immediately on learning of the coverage in a Sunday newspaper and the matter is now under investigation. I understand why many survivors felt hurt and let down that any element of the Report was given to the media in this manner. This is not what I had planned and it should not have happened.

It was always my intention that survivors would be the first to hear details of the Commission's findings, how to access the Report, and the measures proposed by Government in responding to the Commission's recommendations. My Department had taken appropriate steps to set up engagement with survivors and to maintain the confidentiality of the Report prior to its publication. This issue was discussed at Government level and the Secretary General to the Government is leading an investigation into these matters. I await the outcome of this process.

Supporting survivors to access their personal information is a key priority and a cornerstone of Government's Action Plan in response to the Commission's report. The action plan contains a number of items that will assist survivors in accessing their information such as implementing new Information and Tracing Legislation; providing access to the Commissions archive of records when it transfers to my Department at the end of February; the creation of a central repository of institutional records and the appointment of an archivist to lead work on preservation of, and appropriate public access to, the records held by my Department. I am working to implement these measures as quickly as is possible.