Thursday, 11 February 2021

Questions (186)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

186. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth his plans to amend section 7 of the commission of investigation records Act 2020 to extend the term of the commission of investigation into mother and baby homes in order to resolve the issues arising from the destruction of the audio recordings of testimony given by persons to the confidential committee; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7515/21]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

The Confidential Committee report from the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes states that recordings of Committee interviews 'were destroyed after the report was added to the Confidential Committee electronic repository of information'. It is my understanding that the Commission did not take verbatim transcripts of oral testimony given by persons to the Confidential Committee.

The Commission has stated that all people being interviewed for the Committee were told at that time that audio recordings would be destroyed. The decision to destroy these recording was taken by the Commission in order to ensure the anonymity that they had promised interviewees. The Commission of Investigation is independent in the conduct of its inquiries. Government had no role in the operational decisions made by the Commission in the discharge of its functions.

I am committed to having robust processes in place for management of the archive when it transfers prior to the end of the month and I have sought further information from the Chair of the Commission. In particular, I have sought to establish whether it may be technically possible to recover any recordings or notes made by the Confidential Committee and not retained after each account was added to the electronic repository of information.

I am liaising closely with the Commission of Investigation and the Data Protection Commissioner to ensure these matters can be appropriately addressed by the Commission. Decisions on any further action will be informed by this information gathering exercise. At this point, it is not clear that an extension is in fact necessary to clarify these matters, or that additional time would assist in any way.

It is important to state that any call to extend the timeframe of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes must have regard to the fact that the Commission completed the inquiries it was established to conduct when submitting its Final Report last year.