Thursday, 25 February 2021
Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth
Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries
195. To ask the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the number of taped recordings of the 550 testimonies given to the confidential committee of the mother and baby homes report that have been destroyed; and the actions his Department is taking to retrieve this material. [10715/21]
196. To ask the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth if the taped recordings given to the confidential committee of the mother and baby homes report were saved onto a hard drive; and if he has requested that the Commission of Investigation surrender hard drives that could contain this information. [10716/21]
200. To ask the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth further to Parliamentary Question No. 219 of 11 February 2021, if there have been further developments in relation to the issues raised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10848/21]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 195, 196 and 200 together.
I have engaged intensively with the Commission to resolve the understandable concerns of survivors in relation to the audio recordings made by the Confidential Committee. The Commission notified me on Monday 22 February that it had retrieved the backup tapes containing the audio recordings from the Confidential Committee from its off-site storage.
An IT expert has checked whether the audio recordings are retrievable by testing a random sample and verified that they are accessible and audible.
The Commission states that consent was given by 549 of the 550 witnesses to the use of an audio device and the subsequent deletion of the recording. For clarity, the final witness, who objected to their testimony being recorded, was not recorded.
An important point to note in the information I have received from the Commission, is that approximately 80 people have sought for their interview with the Confidential Committee to be redacted. The Commission is now considering how this will be done and has reiterated its commitment to maintaining the anonymity of these people in line with their expressed wishes.
The retrieval of these audio recordings by the Commission is a significant and welcome development. Their transfer to my Department this week will provide an avenue for those who consented to the recording of their interview to seek access to this personal data.
197. To ask the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the number of survivors who gave testimonies to the commission of investigation's confidential committee that have been contacted, who are still to be contacted or who the Commission of Investigation have not been able to contact; and the breakdown of those that indicated they wished their testimonies to remain unredacted. [10717/21]
As the Deputy will be aware, the statutory Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes is independent of Government in the conduct of its investigations. This independence, which is provided for in law, is a fundamental principle in the establishment of an inquiry under the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004. These questions raised by the Deputy are procedural matters for the Commission of Investigation. As the specified Minister for receiving its reports, I had no role or influence in how the Commission conducted its work.
I am therefore not in a position to provide clarity beyond the information which the Commission has provided in the context of my engagement with the Commission around the transfer of its archive. However, I understand that the Commission has used its best endeavours in its efforts to contact all 550 persons reported as providing a personal account to the Confidential Committee. From these contacts, approximately 80 persons have sought for their personal information to be redacted. The wishes of these people must be honoured and consideration is being given regarding how this will be met in terms of the audio recording.
The Commission has also advised that consent was given by 549 of the 550 witnesses to the use of an audio device by the Committee and the subsequent deletion of the recording. For clarity, the final witness, who objected to their testimony being recorded, was not recorded.