Burying Away Their Past And Our History


Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration Roderic O’Gorman introducing his bill to the Seanad yesterday seal the archive of  Mother and Baby Homes Commission for 30 years (except for a database on mothers and children detained in 11 institutions which it wants to give to TUSLA)

This afternoon.

Breeda Murphy, PRO of the The Tuam Mother and Baby Home Alliance writes:

‘In recent days the controversy over the depositing of evidence related to the Commission’s investigation into Mother and Baby Homes (including the Tuam home) has gained momentum.

The Minister has explained the reasons for legislation being due to the dissolution of the Commission of Investigation when evidence gathered will have to be placed somewhere or destroyed with timeline of October, 2020. The Cabinet and Minister have agreed its best lodged with Tusla.

However, Minister O’Gorman did not address the opportunity that presents of keeping a copy of the entire archive within his own department.

Yesterday when he spoke in Seanad, he admitted the concern expressed among the various communities and groups involved and representations made to local representatives and members of the house, etc.

Ministers and TDs have outlined that they are inundated with emails, (in some cases receiving up to 6000 in the last two days) calls, snail mail and texts as this affects people who have been disadvantaged for decades through no fault of their own.

Survivors and families through a campaign for transparency outlined that the many records relate to their time in the ‘home’ and that indeed their own testimony forms part of the collection.

And of interest to survivors and families and applicable to public interest is the vast collection of administrative data which reveals the extent of the State’s involvement, entry routes and exit pathways, the welfare/care structure, the monies paid regularly from exchequer, maintenance orders, minutes of council meetings, etc. They are all there too.

They go a long way to explaining ‘the system’ that was in operation for decades.

The Minister can, at the stroke of a pen keep a full copy of the archive in his Department. He has told Seanad members that he understands perspectives of those affected and that he will advance comprehensive information and tracing legislation. But that doesn’t guarantee access.

Why can the entire lot not be indexed and archived like any other such important resource?

Regarding access to one’s own information, Niamh Herbert wrote on Twitter:

‘I sat with a Social Worker & a student Social Worker earlier this year for an adoption tracing information meeting. Both of them confirmed they knew MY OWN birth name but they couldn’t tell me because of GDPR.

I’m not angry because I can’t even process it. There’s an approx 2 year waiting list to contact the birth mother to ask permission to share my birth name, which can be refused. In the case of her death the decision is passed to next if kin for them to decide on her behalf. We have no rights. That’s not even half of it.

And in case it wasn’t obvious – there’s also absolutely ZERO rights to any medical history unless permitted by the birth mother or her next of kin. I have no family medical history for myself, or to pass on to my children.’

That is not the fault of the social worker but of the policy makers who have not amended the legislation. There was a time last year when it looked as though any such records would be sealed for 75 years under the failed Retention of Records Bill. To a person who survived those institutions now in their 70s or 80s (as is the age of many Tuam survivors), it’s meaningless.

Minister O’Gorman is a law lecturer who understands the significance of legislation to provide access. Even if he is unsure, even if he has misgivings, there is nothing to stop him accepting the data and keeping a copy.

There was political will in the Seanad yesterday  to tackle this once and for all.

Senator Ivana Bacik explained the Labour party could not support the Bill currently given the rush to get it through without commitment provided as to future access.

Senator Michael McDowell raised the issue of privacy rights afforded to those who contributed to the Confidential Committee.

Senator Alice Mary Higgins wants assurances as to how and where the archive material will be stored and stressed the need for a timeline, mentioning the importance of providing closure.

Senator Aisling Dolan said she was fortunate and privileged last year to receive testimonies when our Alliance presented to the 39 Galway County Councillors where she was then a member.

Senator Gerard Craughwell spoke movingly of young women leaving his own community for a period of time who they knew had given birth to a child. His words ‘no one ever asked where they were, we all knew. Nobody ever spoke about it”

Senator Mary Fitzpatrick urged the Minister to provide an assurance that all living survivors would gain access to their own data and to house the archive in a suitable repository such as the former Magdalene Laundry in Sean McDermott street.

Senator Lynn Boylan pointed out that the Government is not bound by the 2004 Act but has legal experts who are able to legislative for amendments. And some senators tabled up to 20 amendments to the Bill in its current format.

We have the opportunity, the capacity and the courage as citizens to lead on preservation and ultimately access of records related, including records held by Religious Institutions.

This is our history. We must ensure it doesn’t get hidden away because the people who suffered most – many who never made it out – and some who did are no longer with us deserve so much more.

We owe it to them just as much as survivors we battle with today to make sure they too are remembered as central to the case for justice. After all, it was their ‘absence’ in 2014 via Catherine Corless’s research, that prompted the Government to act in the first instance.’

Breeda Murphy.

The Tuam Mother and Baby Home Alliance.


Senator Ronán Mullen


During the debate on the Commission of Investigation (Mother and Baby Homes and certain related Matters) Records and another matter, Bill 2020: Second Stage, Senator Ronán Mullen followed a number of speakers critical of the Catholic Church’s role in the homes.

Senator Ronán Mullen: “I would like to say a little about how we talk about the past. There was harshness in our past but when we think about the decade of commemorations that we are going through, we see how dangerous it is to get into the business of assigning blame. Senator Dolan referred to the Catholic Church and people talk about the dark periods in Irish history.

Are people open to recognising that even though there was harshness, there were people who had positive experiences of how they were treated? Are people open to considering that some who worked in these institutions had the best of intentions? Do people think that things were significantly better in other countries? Do they think that the church institutions involved were only doing it for money or the sexual control of people’s lives?

Is it not the case that, in the context of a poor and difficult society, some, many or most of those people were trying to be a part of a caring agenda? Are people interested in that kind of nuance or do we all want to be running with the pack in condemning the past? It is easy to condemn the past because the people who were involved are either dead or weak and voiceless now.”

Senator Lynn Ruane: “This line of debate is insulting to the survivors about whom we are speaking. We are speaking about a specific area of the church and institutions. We are not here to defend something that clearly happened. It is disrespectful.”

Senator Ronan Mullen: “Are we willing to talk about the families, for example, who did not show love? I ask that people be less preoccupied with anger and blame, and to think about the hypocrisies of the present. Senator Warfield mentioned direct provision. I could ask how we treat unwanted babies in the present. Does our law not now sentence them to death in many situations? People think that is an inconsistent…”

Senator Mary Seery Kearney: “That is shameful.”

Senator Ronan Mullen: “Of course it is shameful.”

Senator Mary Seery Kearney: “That is shameful commentary in our national Parliament.”

Senator Lynn Ruane: “Shameful.”

Senator Ronan Mullen: “Is it not interesting when somebody has a different perspective about what justice to children involves-…”

Senator Mary Seery Kearney: “It is not different, that is shameful.”

Senator Lynn Ruane: “This is not about Senator Mullen’s agenda. It is about the survivors and the Senator is making it about his agenda and is using the backs of survivors to do so.”

Senator Mary Seery Kearney: “Hear, hear.”

Senator Lynn Ruane: “Shameful.”

Senator Ronan Mullen: “I also care about survivors. I have explicitly stated that I want to support people who want to find out more about what their experience was. I just ask colleagues to remember that this is a kaleidoscopic situation where many people have different stories to tell. If we are only interested in some stories, that marks us down as some kind of hypocrites. That is all I will say.”

Yesterday: Sealing Secrets

Previously: Sealing Their Fate

50 thoughts on “Burying Away Their Past And Our History

  1. paul

    I had forgotten how odious and unlikeable Ronan is.

    Can someone just whip a copy of the report and leak it, forget this protection of the abusers and smothering of the truth. Just blast it out there and treat us like adults and the survivors like people.

  2. ian-oh

    Curious that my incredibly harmless poke at Ronan Mullen was removed?

    Should I have said something that was actually abusive, offensive or even threatening? Hopefully not, that wouldn’t be my style.

    : |

    1. MME

      Did you call him a “confirmed bachelor”? That winds him up no end.

      Top brass in Opus Gei are celibate.

      Just saying like.

      1. ian-oh

        I actually just expressed my happiness that Will from the Inbetweeners was doing something since the series ended. Literally just that? I also note how nice his Mum is. Again, literally just that. Not even a cheap innuendo!

        Am starting to think that perhaps I never posted it in the first place because I genuinely cannot see why it would be removed, especially when you see some of the less kind replies below?

          1. ian-oh

            Well what do you think of Stephen Merchant being our minister for children?

            Seems a little shorter than I remember!

  3. Dr.Fart

    Mullen purposely goes against the grain on every issue. He doesn’t have opinions, he just goes against what the majority are for in an effort to be controversial, but he just ends up being incredibly insensitive and mean. Are the people who elect him also insensitive and mean? Who votes for him and why?

    1. yupyup

      Yes, they probably are. Uber Catholic fundamentalists. There’s less and less of them around these days but unfortunately there’s enough to elect him to the Seanad. He is helped by the lack of public uptake at Seanad elections. So a small cohort of dedicated voters is all he needs.

      1. Cian

        He topped the poll for the NUI vote.

        Mr Mullen was deemed to be elected on the first count having secured the largest number of first preference votes. He won 9,642 first preference votes meaning he exceeded the quote of 25% of votes.

        1. italia'90

          Now topping the poll is important to you.
          You guys didn’t seem to think that was important or relevant after February lol

    2. newsjustin

      Speaking out against abortion in Ireland comes across, to many who support abortion, as insensitive. People pointing out any hint of hypocrisy about a society allowing abortion get told they are insensitive to the experiences of others. When they point out that the vast majority of babies with Down Syndrome are aborted in other jurisdictions they are told not to be insensitive to people with Down Syndrome. When they point out the humanity of unborn humans and how abortion treats that humanity, they are told that they’re being insensitive to woman who have suffered miscarriages. When they highlight hospitals who’ve made errors in diagnosis and aborted babies on that basis, they’re told this is a private affair, not to be spoken about.

      When people convince themselves that abortion is morally acceptable, they cannot bear to be presented with the downside of that decision or the hypocrisy of claiming to care about children having campaigned to allow unwanted children to be aborted.

        1. newsjustin

          I know, I know. I’m being insensitive.

          Even though abortion is a matter of public policy and legislated for, its not to be discussed. I know.

          1. Janet, dreams of warm feet

            it has been discussed, the church lost, the people have spoken, they trust wemon to make the right decisions for their bodies, their lives.

          2. Janet, dreams of warm feet

            + every woman in Ireland regardless of religious beliefs ( not everyone is Catholic ! or should have to live by their doctrine )

          3. newsjustin

            Janet. I really don’t see why you’re dragging churches into this. This was decision of the Irish people. The decision was to remove the right to life of the unborn. Everything else is a matter for public and political debate.

          4. Janet, dreams of warm feet

            just a little facetious of you there News,
            unfortunately for people like you the rights of a living woman take precedence over the rights of a possible life ,
            and your argument for Downs doesn’t stand, the earliest blood tests are firstly elective and too expensive for many, secondly don’t give you results in time to abort, you must be at least ten weeks gone for enough DNA to be in your blood, it takes two weeks to process results, you cannot abort after 12 weeks so do the maths.

          5. ian-oh

            I disagree with you Justin but think your views are as valid as anyone else’s.

            Otherwise, where will we end up? In a liberal (I am a liberal, an old school one I suppose) ‘paradise’ where we all walk on eggshells and nobody says anything in anyway uncomfortable?

          6. Janet, dreams of warm feet

            happily he can say what he wants Ian, yes indeed, just as happily common sense won the day :)

          7. ian-oh

            Indeed Janet, but I think a lot people are projecting their dislike of Mullen onto Justin. For all me and him (Justin) might disagree I have found him to be generally a decent, informed and reasonable poster. I personally voted for abortion myself to be clear on this,

          8. Janet, dreams of warm feet

            oh I get on with news just fine in most other topics, I’m sure he’s just a product of his ( his being very catholic ) environment as are we all products of our environment to a certain extent, some more institutionalized than others.

          9. newsjustin

            Janet: “and that’s their business.”

            You’re correct. Its also a matter of public policy.

            On the point of the thread……talking aboit abortion policy. I think I’ve proved my point as I’ve been told:

            “The people have spoken.”
            “What you’re at now is bullying”
            “Unfortunately for prople like you….”

            If abortion is so normal, why can’t we just speak about it as it is?

          10. Janet, dreams of warm feet

            it is normal and it’s for the people affected by it to discuss and make their choice as each individual case presents itself, it’s not normal to have a policy denying that choice,
            I’ll be voting yes for the right to die too

      1. MME

        “When people convince themselves that abortion is morally acceptable, they cannot bear to be presented with the downside of that decision or the hypocrisy of claiming to care about children having campaigned to allow unwanted children to be aborted”.

        Funny how so-called pro-lifers are never really bothered about the challenges of living children: homelessness, caring for a disabled child, childcare in general, bullying (some usually celebrate certain types of bullying) – in fact they are quite willing to rain down abuse at those living children and adults who don’t conform to their “Christian” world view. So please, the hypocrisy is a flipping two-way street.

        Outright and highly restrictive abortion bans similar to what was provided for cruelly in the 8th Amendment fetters doctors in the performance of their duties and endangers the lives of women and girls. As referred to in the Savita report, even with the casacde of medical errors, it clearly stated the spectre of the 8th Amendment was a serious contributor to her death as no termination could be performed as long as there was a heartbeat even though the obstetrician knew the foetus would die.

        So spare us your macabre moralising, please!

        1. newsjustin

          “Funny how so-called pro-lifers are never really bothered about the challenges of living children:”

          Do you generalise in general?

  4. Toby

    Feels a bit like cancel culture going on here lads. Mullins is an elected Senator speaking in a public chamber- he is entitled to express his opinion. There is much truth in the fact that the Church did a lot of good in this country when Government and Citizens would not step in. That is simply a matter of fact. Do we still bang on at Germany about the second World War, or Britain bout the atrocities it carried out in the North, or Muslims and the atrocities they have carried out in their religions name. Its hypocritical bigotry in my opinion. And for progressives to promote censorship is weird except when Nigel explains it.

    1. ian-oh

      So you think we should cancel criticism of him?

      Mullen can say what he says, we can say what we say. Can you pinpoint where anyone has suggested he be stopped from giving his opinion? I’ll give you clue – nobody is saying it on this thread at least. I for one think he is entitled to say whatever he likes and we are entitled to say what we like, so long as nobody is libelling anyone and telling lies what’s the problem.

      You didn’t really think this through did you?

    2. yupyup

      Oh I’m sorry, I must have misunderstood, was there a debate in the Seanad on the pros and cons of the Catholic Church ?

      Whose promoting censorship here Toby?

      The only thing that resembles censorship here is an eagerness to lock away this archive for 30 years.

  5. Maureen

    If Jesus were in that chamber when Roderick O’Gorman made pathetic excuses, he’d no doubt tell him to his face what a hypocrite he is.
    Its your history, for Christs sake own it!
    If you cant do the decent thing resign.

  6. Truth in the News

    Gorman and indeed Zappone have no control of the Depts the have political responsibility
    for, hidden puppet master’s control the show, and if all documation and records are open to
    access, it spells the end of the Irish Catholic Church, and those who are their puppet master’s
    are cut from the same cloth as those who orchestrated the pope’s visit in 1979, essentially
    to buy time, and preserve assets, their reputation is long gone, the best solution may be
    total dissolution

    1. Bodger

      As many were simply trafficked not formally adopted the archive likely contains evidence that can help identify those responsible for crimes against humanity. A Police matter in any other country.

      1. Cú Chulainn

        Absolutely. It’s a disgrace but old habits die hard obviously. No reason for O’Gorman to refuse to sign this or keep a copy in his dept. I would have expected better.

  7. Kingfisher

    *Finally* people start posting about the real question: is it right to hide people’s history from them, and why are a 21st-century government trying to do this.

Comments are closed.