Tuesday, 20 October 2020

Ceisteanna (444)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

444. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration if he will have the issues raised in correspondence considered (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31054/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

The Commission of Investigation (Mother and Baby Homes and certain related Matters) Records, and another Matter, Bill 2020 has been brought forward to ensure that we have the opportunity to preserve access to invaluable information relating to Mother and Baby Homes now and into the future. The legislation provides a legal basis for the transfer of specified databases and related records from the Commission to the Child and Family Agency (Tusla) and ensures that the records deposited with my Department are preserved in full.

Earlier this year, the Commission advised that it had created a database during the course of its work of persons who spent time in the main Mother and Baby Homes under investigation. However, the Commission did not feel it had a legal basis to transfer that database and would be compelled by law to redact the valuable information we are trying to now preserve. This Bill proposes to allow the database to be preserved and transferred to Tusla, as the Agency already holds most of the original records. It aims to prevent the information from effectively being destroyed, and legislates to allow access to that information under existing laws.

The immediate and urgent policy intent in drafting a Records Bill is to ensure the Commission's database, and related records, are preserved and available to support current and future tracing services. The Bill is currently making its way through the Houses and following debate in the Seanad, I will be bringing forward a number of amendments to the published Bill in response to a number of the issues which have emerged.

I am aware that interesting proposals have been developed in relation to the potential development of a national archive of institutional abuse at the former Seán McDermott Street Laundry. While this is a matter worthy of further discussion, I am mindful that it is a complex matter which extends beyond my own Department. It would require detailed consideration and extensive engagement, both with other Government colleagues and Departments, and with a large number of statutory bodies and stakeholder groups.

I am also conscious that the Government will wish to consider the final report of the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation prior to considering its overall response to issues of this nature.

I am absolutely committed to addressing the wider matter of providing a new architecture surrounding access to birth information and tracing; this will be advanced soon. I look forward to engaging widely to allow all those with a stake in this process to have their voice heard.