Thursday, 11 July 2019
Department of Children and Youth Affairs
Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries
847. To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she has considered making inspection reports from mother and baby homes that are in the ownership of her Department available to survivors; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30711/19]
My Department would consider any request for access to records in its possession on a case by case basis in accordance with the relevant rights and protections governing access to public records, in particular where such records may contain sensitive personal information.
All records held by my Department in relation to Mother and Baby Homes have been disclosed to the Commission of Investigation to assist its statutory inquiries into related matters of significant public concern.
848. To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if testimony provided by survivors to the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes will be made available to these survivors after their testimony has been made. [30712/19]
In accordance with section 9 of the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004, the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes is independent in the performance of its functions. The engagement with witnesses is a matter for the Commission and the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs does not have any role or information in this regard. These operational considerations are managed directly by the independent Commission.
The Commission has previously confirmed that individuals who have met the Commission’s Confidential Committee may visit the Commission’s premises and hear the recording of their evidence and/or read the notes on their case if they so wish. Similarly, individuals who give evidence at a full Commission hearing may read the transcript of their evidence on the Commission’s premises. If individuals provide personal records to the Commission, it is the Commission's policy to photocopy these and return the originals to the people concerned on the day.
The legislative framework requires that evidence is generally given in private to facilitate fact finding while also protecting the rights of all individuals and bodies to fair procedure. The Commission has discretion to hear all or part of the evidence of a witness in public if it is satisfied that it is in the interests of both the investigation and fair procedures to do so, or where the Commission agrees to the request of a witness to provide all or part of his or her evidence in public. Compliance with these requirements prohibits the Commission from providing written transcripts directly to witnesses in the course of its investigations.
I want to acknowledge the courage it takes to provide testimony on such personal experiences, and the crucial importance of this information in informing the Commission’s work.