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
Roderic O'Gorman (Dublin West, Green Party)
I thank the Senators for their engagement. As regards the treatment of these records by Tusla, when my Department has engaged with Tusla on this we have engaged with them on a technical level, and given them an indication how the database could be used, and how it will facilitate their existing functions under the existing, as we all accept, insufficient type of information and tracing that we have in this country. As Senators will know and seen in the budget, my Department allocated a significant amount of money to Tusla this year. Part of that allocation was to improve Tusla's ICT capacity and part of that will be its ability to maintain this particular database. I am confident that Tusla will use this appropriately and that it will benefit its existing information and tracing capacities.
Coming back to the point made by Senator Bacik as regards the 30-year rule, the reason we are acting swiftly is because the commission is to report on 30 October so we need to get this issue addressed by then. A potential change to the 30-year rule has implications for other commissions of inquiry. It has implications for those who provide a testimony to this particular commission of inquiry. So, there are a very wide range of issues that would have to be addressed in the context of changing the 30-year rule. The direction that we have decided to proceed with was this bespoke legislation that ensures this very valuable database is not put into the archive and sealed for 30 years but is available now, increases value in what Tusla can do under its information and tracing powers, and is available for that future legislation. I believe this is the correct way to go.
I fully agree with Senators that it will be a big piece of work but it is absolutely essential that this Oireachtas undertakes the delivery of information and tracing services. The legislation will allow issues to be addressed for the many people who are frustrated, and have been for many years, by not being able to make those connections with their birth mother or siblings, and protecting the database will be of real benefit to that.