The Gist: Drop the Dead Donkey
Demonstrating an hitherto unknown ability to not stab itself in the eye needlessly, the Government went out onto the airwaves to let the word go out- The Commission Report was dead to them.
The Mother and Baby Home Commission of Inquiry spent six years and €11 million or so euro compiling a report which, like Dracula when the blinds are pulled back, has crumbled to ash the moment it was exposed to sunlight.
The report did ensure that a stack of documents were dug up and it will be valuable midden for future researchers to mine. But as to its conclusions, and any suggestion that it might stand as the final word on the issue, the Government went out on the airwaves today to declare a Great Reverse. The signal was for all parties to toss the report it launched with great fanfare and a welcoming webinar last week under a passing bus.
Senator Regina Doherty kicked off the new position, calling it ‘cold’ and ‘callous’ and backpeddaling on the now-failed Plan A of accepting the report.
“we accepted the report and I think that's wrong”
On Gavan Reilly’s radio show, the Minister for Children, Roderic O’Gorman sharply departed from the Commission report’s attempts to claim there was no evidence that adoptions were every anything but voluntary. He said they’d taken a ‘legalistic approach’ in finding these women weren’t compelled and cited the descriptions in the report, and in particular the personal accounts from the women who gave evidence to the Confidential committee . He said it was clear the women were left with no choice.
He also rejected the Report’s recommendation that redress should be blocked for anyone who was coercively confined and/or whose child was taken after 1973 on the basis that there was a little known social welfare payment available and so they should get nothing after that. That.. just isn’t going to fly.
He declined to endorse how the Commission conducted its inquiry. This break was made easier by the discovery by Noelle Brown that the Commission hadn’t actually taken a transcript of her evidence, but had just slotted in facts to a pre-defined questionnaire, and as she discovered that it wasn’t even accurate. Those details would have been the key ones for anyone trying to trace their mother or their own story- the date of entering the home and the date in which her birth mother died. How unfortunate.
Finally, the Minister promised to take a GDPR approach to his proposed next legislation to allow for access to people’s records. Why he doesn’t just apply GDPR directly right now, given it’s already the superior law, remained unanswered.
The Commission Report should be subjected to further academic and historical analysis. But as a political document its life has now ended.
Nobody who doesn’t hold the title of Bishop is going to stand behind this Commission report now, and its members can look forward to an unfamiliar experience of being asked to account for their choices as the last leg of their participation in this public issue.
For the survivors and the public whose sympathy has driven this volte face by the Government the question can move on to pressing the Government to break from another of its past habits and not cause survivors any further trauma as a price of compensation.
[You can read my piece on GDPR and the Mother and Baby Homes in the Irish Examiner here]