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The passing of legislation that would result in the archive of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes being sealed for 30 years would be an act of political cowardice, according to the Social Democrats.

Dublin Central TD, Gary Gannon, said:

“This week, politicians across the island received thousands of emails from citizens deeply concerned about the potential damage of the proposed Mother and Baby Homes Commission Records Bill.

“Hundreds shared their own stories: aunts and mothers who were sent to such institutions; men and women born into them; and individuals themselves desperately trying to access their own information, their own birth names – but denied. These stories need to be heard.

“The Bill proposed by the Government will not allow that to happen. It will continue to enact secrecy, re-traumatise countless people and families and deny survivors the human right of access to their own data and information.

“The current Government is choosing inaction – thirty years of inaction; thirty years of sealing records, voices and stories that belong to survivors and the nation of Ireland to bear witness to our past so we may build a better future.

“The cowardice of the Government is such that it is planning to seal records to an archive which they themselves are ignorant to the contents of – this is a wilful ignorance.

“The records need to be maintained as a source of ethical memory and we in the Social Democrats are calling for the production of an index to the contents of the archive so we may know its contents and the extent of documentation.

“We are also calling for immediate personal data access to the archive to be granted to survivors and a copy of the complete archive to be held by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs and his department.

“If the State chooses to enact the Bill, it will cement a legacy of complicity in relation to enforced disappearance and incarceration of innocents.”

Jennifer Whitmore TD, Social Democrats spokesperson for Children, added:

“The Government must not allow these documents to be sealed for 30 years. These women and children have already been let down by various institutions of the State and we cannot allow that to happen again.

“Any legislation that comes before the Dáil must not delay access to justice for these women and should emphasise the victim-centred and community-oriented approach that is central to restorative justice. Sealing these documents will not lend to this and will not enable victims to hold the State to account for the injustice they experienced.

“I have submitted a series of amendments to the Bill which, if accepted, will ensure continuous access to justice for the victims affected and I would encourage the Minister to consider them as the Bill comes to the Dáil next week.”

October 16, 2020

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