Social Democrats TD Jennifer Whitmore says it is baffling that the Minister for Children has refused to extend the term of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes to allow for a full investigation into the deletion of survivors’ recorded testimonies.

Deputy Whitmore, who is the party’s spokesperson for Children, had proposed a Bill calling for the commission, which is due to be dissolved at the end of this month, to be extended by one year. She said this would allow for a full investigation by the Data Protection Commission and other relevant authorities into the destruction of the audio recordings of 550 survivors and establish if any of the material can be retrieved.

After raising the issue with Minister O’Gorman at the Oireachtas Children’s Committee today, Deputy Whitmore said:

“The Data Protection Commission needs time to investigate this shocking development. Complaints have also been made to the Garda by survivors over the destruction of their testimonies and these will need to be followed up. More importantly, the survivors of mother and baby homes deserve more time to have their questions answered.

“Accountability will be key if we are to learn the lessons from the fallout of the Commission of Investigation’s report. This whole experience has left survivors deeply hurt and once the commission is dissolved there will be no answers to their questions, yet again. The Minister cannot allow this to happen and must extend the timeframe of the commission, as proposed by a Bill that I and my colleagues in the Social Democrats have put forward for consideration.

“The Minister confirmed to me today that his department is still seeking legal advice on this matter from the Attorney General. This is a time-sensitive issue and the original deadline for the winding-up of the commission by February 28 will not allow for the accountability that survivors deserve.

“After the decades of trauma and hurt that survivors of mother and baby homes have endured, I am baffled at the Minister’s refusal to consider extending the term of the Commission of Investigation by one year to February 2022.”

February 16, 2021

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