Adoptee and survivor rights groups oppose sealing of Mother and Baby Homes Commission files

“We are people, not paper.” That’s according to Aitheantas – Adoptee Identity Rights and Cork Survivors and Supporters Alliance, who are today (14.10.2020) calling on Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration, and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman TD, to halt the sealing of administrative files and the transfer of files relating to the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes and Certain Related Matters to Tusla.

Commenting today, Maree Ryan O’Brien of Aitheantas, said: “We are deeply disappointed that Tusla is being entrusted in this Bill with a guardianship role over the files and personal information of adoptees, birth parents and survivors.

“We object in the strongest possible manner to the notion of establishing an archive as a way of addressing matters arising therein. An archive at this juncture only further objectifies adoptees, birth parents and survivors as a subject matter of the same, as being a commodity in terms of the value of the information in our files. Paper not people, without any provision for any other much needed and long absent supports.

“The history of this issue is one of ongoing loss, disenfranchisement and absence of consent. It is therefore of paramount importance that whatever the pathways forward identified by stakeholders in conjunction with the Minister and his Department are agreed by all stakeholders and with the involvement of all stakeholders. The Minister has very respectfully acknowledged this point himself.

“There needs to be a balance in this Bill allowing for those who gave testimony and wish it to be preserved and accessible, with those who wish to have their testimony destroyed or sealed. The wishes of survivors who were promised that their testimony would be destroyed must be respected.

“If records can be legislatively sealed then provision can equally be made to have them legislatively unsealed and we would ask that the Minister make this concession for those who do not wish to have their records or testimony sealed.

“The Commission of Inquiry and associated Forum was limited in terms of reference as regards its scope and therefore the Report of the Commission will be similarly limited in its findings. We would ask that the Minister view the Commission’s report in this context as being indicative rather than conclusive with much work still left to do.

“This is our history, our lived experience and we would respectfully request that it is stakeholders and those directly affected by these issues who are allowed now to lead how it proceeds.”