Friday, 19 February 2021
Report of the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation: Statements (Resumed)
It is a month since the report of the commission of investigation into mother and baby homes was launched and since the State apologised for how our most vulnerable were failed, shamed and traumatised, institutionally, systematically and holistically. The report could have offered survivors some ownership or empathy but disappointed many because of its detached and legalistic tone. We as a Government wanted the 22 actions coming from the report to be the start of a process of healing for what I can only imagine is a huge amount of pain, pain from being alienated and stigmatised by those who should have cherished and protected them. What happened to survivors was unnatural, unchristian and unforgivable.
When the report of the commission of investigation into mother and baby homes was launched, it was to be the beginning of a process of redress and reconciliation and not shutting the door on their pain and our shame. Unfortunately, what says shutting the door more than deleting testimony without full clarity and consent? I understand the Minister will afford an opportunity to those who gave their testimonies to rectify the inaccuracies in the official record of their contributions where there is dispute as to what was said or how it was portrayed. I look forward to seeing that.
I do not think that it matters that it was the commission, acting independently, that chose to delete the audio recordings of the statements made to the confidential committee and did not keep transcripts.What matters is whether those recordings are gone and irretrievable. What matters is that survivors might be let down and that their unmet needs of the past still will not come first. Meeting their needs must come first. If we have the opportunity to rectify that as a Government, we must do it and do everything we can. I know that the Minister was speaking on the radio this morning.
I welcome the fact that he is working on the interdepartmental group on restorative recognition with a report due back by the end of April. I welcome the broad approach he is taking and that it will be underpinned by human rights consultation and previous learnings and will include wider supports and not only financial supports. I know that he is absolutely committed to the 22 actions in the report, including access to birth and early life information, the reclaiming of data and information, and information and tracing legislation. I know he will ensure a dignified burial for the babies who perished. The work that he is doing through the collaborative forum, setting out a workable structure of engagement with survivors, is critical. I ask him for a timeline now that we are one month on from the publication of the report.
The process of reconciliation works best when it is reciprocated, when people are able to their truth and feel that they are truly heard. As a Government, we cannot rest until the process for doing that is achieved. As part of our collective history, these events must be memorialised and preserved so we never forget the wrong that was done.
My question for the Minister relates to the extension of the commission, given all the emails we have received. What can be achieved by extending the commission? If it can give any peace, offer any respite or answers to survivors, of course it should be considered. I also heard what he said this morning about how difficult it was to conduct the judicial investigation and truth-telling process in the one inquiry. I understand that and think it is important, going forward.
I am glad that Ireland has transformed in the past 30 years but all trauma carries forward. These events are part of our identity and there can be no hiding from the pain that was caused. We have to own that. The Minister is my constituency colleague and sometime competitor. While the words of the report could be cold and uncaring, he and the Government are not. I welcome the update that he will give us later. I heard his words on the radio this morning. I hope that we can get this right and that the 22 actions are our main focus. We must not let down the survivors.