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Government Statement on Mother and Baby Homes

At its meeting today, the Government had a detailed reflection on all of the issues of public concern that were raised in recent days. The Government acknowledges and regrets the genuine hurt felt by many people across Irish society.

It is determined to take the necessary actions to ensure that these concerns are dealt with in a manner that is timely, appropriate and that is focused on the needs of victims and survivors.

The Minister Children, Equality, Disability, Integration & Youth Affairs will ensure that, throughout all of this, engagement and consultation with former residents, their families and advocates will be central to the formulation and delivery of a comprehensive State response.

The Government today agreed the following next steps: The Final Report of the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation, which is due for completion on Friday October 30th, will be published as soon as possible after it is received by the Minister. As required by law, upon receipt the Final Report will be immediately referred to the AG for legal advice as to whether it might prejudice any criminal proceedings that are pending or in progress To expedite publication, the AG will ensure that additional resources are in place to speedily review for publication what is expected to be a very lengthy Report. All relevant Government Departments and Agencies will develop a comprehensive State response to the findings and recommendations of the Final Report for urgent consideration by the Government.

The Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration & Youth Affairs, along with Túsla, will continue to engage closely with the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner to ensure that the rights of all citizens to access personal information about themselves, under data protection legislation and the GDPR are fully respected and implemented; additional resources will be provided where necessary. The HSE will expedite implementation of the provision of health and well-being supports to survivors The Government will advance its work on the Information and Tracing legislation, with a view to publication next year. The Government will also urgently proceed with the legislation to provide for sensitive and appropriate actions at the burial site at the former Mother and Baby Home at Tuam, Co Galway, and at any other sites where this is appropriate.

The Government will work with the Oireachtas Committee on Children to seek an all-party consensus in the Oireachtas on these very sensitive issues The Government will work to establish on a formal, national basis an archive of records related to institutional trauma during the 20th century; this will include archiving relevant records and witness testimony by victims and survivors; it will be developed at a suitable site and operated in accordance with the highest international standards; it will be designed in cooperation with professional archivists and historians, as well as with victims, survivors and their advocates. Finally, the Government reaffirmed the reasons for bringing forward the recent legislation to preserve and protect valuable records that would otherwise have been destroyed or rendered useless. This was as a response to the clearly expressed views of the Commission of Investigation, chaired by Judge Yvonne Murphy, that: The Commission had compiled a database of all the mothers and children who were resident in the main mother and baby homes. It is clear that this database would be of considerable assistance to those involved in providing information and tracing services; under existing legislation, the database would have to be effectively destroyed As the information compiled in the database is all sensitive personal information, the Commission would be obliged under existing legislation to redact the names and other identifying information about the residents of these homes before submitted to the Minister; the Commission stated this would have the effect of rendering the database useless.

The Commission was of the view that the database should be preserved and made available to the holders of the original records for information and tracing purposes (or to whatever body is charged with information and tracing services). The Commission stated very clearly that this would require legislation. The legislation had to be passed before the deadline of October 30th in order to protect and preserve these vital records of a dark chapter in our history.