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19th Oct 2020

Plans to seal the records of Mother and Baby Homes met with backlash

Melissa Carton

A dark part of Ireland’s history might be sealed away this month.

The history of Mother and Baby Homes in Ireland is long and heartbreaking, and for many, still not over.

For years, family members of women who went through the Mother and Baby system, or adults who were born in a home, have tried to gain access to their family records to no avail.

Now there are plans to seal these records, further preventing access, as part of new potential legislation.

With news that the records of Mother and Baby Homes across Ireland may be sealed, many have spoken out about their disapproval of the decision.

RTE reports that human rights lecturer Dr Maeve O’Rourke said the records are needed to properly examine how the homes ran.

“They are likely to include innumerable State and institutional administrative records, which are crucial to piecing together how the system of forced family separation operated,” she said.

Likewise, many families members and those born into the homes are outraged that, decades later, they still can’t get the information that they need on family members and, in some cases, even their own mothers.

Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman has said that the 2004 Commissions of Investigation Act requires that the records are sealed for a period of 30 years pending their transfer to the National Archives.

Mr O’Gorman went on to say that he is committed to addressing the wider matter of providing a new architecture surrounding access to birth information and tracing, but when that will that happen, no one knows.

Unfortunately for those searching for answers about what happened to their daughters, sisters or mothers, 30 years is far too long a wait.

The Commission of Investigation (Mother and Baby Homes and Certain Related Matters) Records Bill 2020 is set to be discussed in the Seanad this week.