Friday, 16 October 2020
Commission of Investigation (Mother and Baby Homes and certain related Matters) Records, and another Matter, Bill 2020: Committee and Remaining Stages
Mary Seery Kearney (Fine Gael)
My understanding of what is happening with this legislation is perhaps overly simplistic and I may stand corrected before the day is out. My understanding is that a unique database was created when the commission was carrying out its work and that this database has not been covered by the 2004 Act. The commission itself was founded under the 2004 Act. The 2004 Act prescribes the collection of information and so much of how a commission operates. In the course of carrying out its business, the commission entities discovered that this database is not covered. There is a lacuna about what happens with this database. This legislation is merely to do that, not to do anything else. It is not going to advance the case of disclosure and overturn the 30-year rule. It cannot do that because the information was collected in the context of whatever flows from the 2004 legislation in the setting up of an inquiry.
As much as I desire to support the individuals who want disclosure and I wrestle with how Tusla deals with and decides whether something is third party information, which I intend to make a mission of with the Data Protection Commission, and as much as there are things in this that I want to change, we are here today with the commission having asked the Minister to introduce this legislation so that the database can be transferred. This body of information was not envisaged. Everything related to this has a horrific, harrowing context. We are dealing with technical legislation and we cannot ignore the wider context that we cannot address that healing or that wound here.
If one goes to the website of the commission, it answers that it was not charged with attempting to resolve tracing. It advised people to contact Tusla or the Adoption Authority of Ireland but it is clear in the division. When one follows the link to Tusla, Tusla's role is in information and tracing, and the Adoption Authority of Ireland's role is in the maintenance of the archive. They have distinct roles and until such time as the Minister creates the entity, as he has already said he will, we are where we are. Tusla will assist in that and because it has the repository of the largest amount of documentation, it makes sense that it would go to Tusla. It is purely technical and cannot address the wider issue. It just addresses the pressing issue that, at the end of this month when the report is made, the commission itself expires and this database could potentially be lost. It is a technical point in law.