Mother and baby home survivor calls for inquiry to be extended

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A survivor has called for Ireland’s mother and baby homes inquiry to be extended.

The Commission of Investigation has said back-up “disaster recovery” tapes have been located which may contain the recordings of personal testimonies given, Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman has said.

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Siobhan gave evidence to the inquiry in 2017 and said the information should become part of an archive for future generations.

She said: “I do not want them to stop next weekend on February 28.

“We need them to be extended for at least another six months or a year to find out what has happened to our tapes and for our personal documents to be returned to us.”

Mr O’Gorman has said it is just a possibility that the tapes found contain the audio files of testimony 549 survivors gave to the commission’s confidential committee, but he hopes they do.

Former residents shared personal memories of the homes during the confidential section of the inquiry and were guaranteed anonymity.

When the inquiry published its final report last month, it said witnesses had been told in advance that recordings would be used as an “aide memoire” for researchers, after which they would be destroyed.

Some witnesses have disputed they were ever informed about the plan to delete their Confidential Committee testimonies.

Siobhan said: “Who does that? Who destroys survivors’ testimonies?

“It should be in an archive for future generations.

“No survivor wants to tell their stories again to have it destroyed.”

The inquiry, known as the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes, is set to be dissolved by law on February 28 and its archives will be passed to the Department of Children.

The Children’s Minister has previously told the Dail that the commission had written to him to say it believed the tape recordings were not retrievable.

The Confidential Committee section of the inquiry was set up to allow badly hurt witnesses to share recollections of the homes in complete privacy.

Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman said he hopes the tapes do contain the confidential recordings (Niall Carson/PA)

It is believed some may not have come forward without the guarantee of anonymity.

Their accounts were recorded without challenge or investigative questioning.

These witnesses were then also offered the opportunity of appearing before the full commission, giving evidence under oath and being questioned by a member of the commission.

The final report said transcripts of that sworn evidence will be passed to the Department of Children as part of the commission’s archive later this month.

The report published last month found the institutions for women who became pregnant outside of wedlock produced high levels of infant mortality, misogyny and stigmatisation of some of society’s most vulnerable.

Siobhan addressed a “virtual protest” outside the commission’s Dublin offices on Saturday.

She appeared on a social media stream and others watched online.

The event was organised by People Before Profit.

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