Author Archives: Dan Boyle

From top: Bessborough former Mother and Baby Home in Cork; Dan Boyle

This June will see the 30th anniversary of my first election as a councillor. I was elected for the South East ward. The now infamous Bessborough Mother and Baby Home was part of the ward.

I hadn’t canvassed there. Part of my reticence was based on fear. My then wife had been born at the facility. She would have associated the place as representing a black hole in her knowledge of herself. While she had no direct memory of the home, her sense that her being born there would not have been positive.

Later I would have been asked to represent the Lord Mayor of Cork at an event to mark a significant date in the history of Bessborough. When asked to speak to the gathering I sought to depart from the usual platitudes by adding a personal touch.

I thanked those associated with the centre with being involved with the birth of someone important in my life.

My revelation was met with silence. It seemed that I had broken the Omerta. Taking pride in what had been determined was an act of sin in this place of shame. The shame, as defined then, was to be female and in ‘trouble’.

The report of the Commission of Inquiry into Mother and Baby homes makes copious mentions of Bessborough. Many of references are horrific. The unsocial contract that Church, State and much of Irish society shared contained provisions that went beyond the dumping on of the frowned upon, the tutted upon, and the failures to God’s grace.

Many, who were sent here to spare the embarrassment of others, were subject to a torrent of psychological terror. Many were put through awful levels of physical abuse.

Constantly they were told they were the fallen undeserving of respect. Their children were not their children. But they were considered to be bearers of the same sin, entitled by those who so determined to the same lack of respect and disgust as their woebegone mothers. The health and very often the lives of these children were disgustingly neglected. The death rate in these institutions were many times that which existed in general society.

Where they survived the children were taken away and given to others, often commercially. Some were made human guinea pigs for the testing of drugs.

The Commission Report goes into far greater detail on the scale and incidence of these atrocities. Though written with legal considerations in mind, it doesn’t in any way dilute the nature of these crimes. Where it does disappoint, however, is being emphatic on where the responsibility for these crimes lay.

Ultimately it is the State, in the form of governments elected and public servants administering, that bears the greatest responsibility. With this commission report, one of a series of investigations that expose how the Irish State unduly influenced by religious organisations has failed in meeting the rights and entitlement of all its citizens equally, it seems that the need to apologise, if not atone, has become all too familiar.

We cannot continue to allow sorry to be the easiest word. Such apologies are hollow if not followed by real and effective ways to bring about change. Give those who have been left behind and forgotten the rights they should be entitled to, the right to full and total information as to who they are and where they come from.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator and serves as a Green Party councillor on Cork City Council. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

Paul Soden (left) with Dan Boyle

I last met Paul in February. He was something of a force of nature, somewhat ironic as nature was a theme he enthusiatically chose to promote. Paul had left Cork and Ireland some years earlier, seeking not only to live somewhere else but also to live another kind of life.

He went to Brazil where he became a farmer, as far removed from his previous life as he could get. He lived, worked and raised a family in a remote part of the country, equidistant from Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

Despite his radical change of lifestyle his initial approach to farming was quite conservative. He bought into the idea that nutrients needed to be artificially added, in vast quantities, to make land arable.

He soon saw this approach was having the opposite effect. He worked with others in his new community to practice regenerative farming. Working with rather than against nature, he and they saw this as a better way of doing things.

While he loved his new locale and his very different way of life, he wanted to share what he was learning with as many people as possible.

He returned to Ireland several times. On each visit he would seek to meet with as many people as he could to share his experience of farming with nature, and how Irish agriculture would benefit if it would also change.

His February itinerary was typical of such visits. He spoke at a number of events in Galway, and in Kinsale. He spoke at a seminar at University College Cork. I organised a meeting for him at Cork City Hall, where he also met with the then Lord Mayor, who was someone who he had gone to school with.

That was Paul’s great strength. He wasn’t messianic. He didn’t seek to hammer home his values. He chose instead to relate to people with warmth and empathy.

I found him to be supportive and encouraging of me. Like many in politics I suffer from Imposter Syndrome. Because I speak more of the experience of others than those of myself, I’m always aware that undermines my credibility.Somehow Paul saw past that. He would ask me to introduce him at events, and to introduce him to others.

He saw networking as a global opportunity. He worked with the Kiss The Ground Foundation, an organisation that promotes environmental policies through documentaries. They had made a documentary on his work in Brazil. Paul would have seen this as an opening feature. This year he was promoting the Kiss The Ground documentary, narrated by the actor Woody Harrelson, shown through Netflix.

The last time I physically saw Paul was through a Zoom meeting I had organised with Minister of State, Pippa Hackett, herself an organic farmer.He was as enthusiastic as ever, greatly looking forward to his next trip to Ireland, whenever this ‘thing’ would be behind us.

I learned of his death through a third party who presumed I had heard. It was later again I discovered his death was covid related. That was from a phone call from the wife of a man, now in his nineties, whom we mutually knew. Our last conversation was on how we would meet in the future to celebrate this man’s life.

Paul was younger than I am and far more healthy. I see his death as emblematic of the year we have been living through. I see his legacy as something I would like to encourage in others.

It was an honour to know you Sir.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator and serves as a Green Party councillor on Cork City Council. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

From top: Cork Airport last Tuesday; Dan Boyle

It had been planned meticulously we thought. The plan was that I go with my Mam to Scotland visit my sister, who has been recovering from a long term injury, and whom we haven’t got to see for the best part of a year.

The trip was not without risk. We reckoned that the infection rate in Ireland had reduced considerably. We would be going to that part of the island of Britain, that had seemed to be dealing with the pandemic that bit better than elsewhere.

It would have been an early Monday morning flight so we chose to travel on Sunday, then stay near the airport.The news we were hearing over the radio talked of a more contagious COVID variant taking hold on the South East of England. Still too distant we thought.

Each hour’s news bulletin brought worsening news. European governments were making decisions to cease flights from the UK in and out of their countries. The Irish government was considering a similar action.

I did try to make contact with someone who might know. Not to influence him, not either of our styles, but knowing the difficult decision that had to be made I sought an inkling of the thinking that was going on. What followed was something of an Irish solution. Incoming flights from the UK were to stopped, but outgoing flights from Ireland to the UK would continue.

Airlines interpreted this in line with their corporate personalities. Ryanair immediately cancelled all Ireland/UK flights. Aer Lingus announced it would fulfil outgoing flights for essential workers and for those returning to the UK.

My mother and I did not fall into either category and so a decision was made for us. We later rang my sister. While there was a sense of disappointment, there was also unsaid relief at not being able to go in these circumstances.

There was a huge personal frustration but there was also a sense that ours was not a unique story; that thousands were experiencing similar frustrations and disappointments.

We have now had nine months of going into lockdowns with intermittent slivers of light. Every setback has taken its toll on our collective psyche. Even with the hope being provided through vaccines, it could be that we are still only halfway through this crisis.

Despite this proviso we should begin thinking about a Post COVID world. What are the lessons that have been learned? What should we restore? What should be glad to be leaving behind?

We will probably spend too much time wanting to know who knew what when and who did what because of that. The real lesson from any human crisis should be whether response was based on the presence or absence of humanity.

We should start living life more slowly. We probably won’t. We need to more properly divide our use of technology with our interpersonal needs. Technology helps us in better entwining ourselves in the global. It also enables us to live our lives more local. If there is any lesson to be learned from our COVID disconnect it should be that we work, rest and play more in the local.

We need to be making the World a smaller place. We should be bringing our values closer, our experiences wider, our expectations more honest.

We can choose to do this by touching the screens of any number devices that now predominate our lives. Or we can try harder to touch the lives of those who make our own lives worth living.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator and serves as a Green Party councillor on Cork City Council. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

Pic: ESC Scoreboards

Dan Boyle

Maybe I’ve become more patient, more accepting, more tolerant, but I am finding that there is much to be encouraged about in how decisions are being made, particularly at a local level.
Perhaps it is as a result of the response to COVID. It seems there is a willingness to see and think about things differently.

The past six months have been revelatory in Cork. Things that weren’t before thought possible, or were subject to interminable gestation, were coming immediately into being.

Café society, outdoor dining, a largely pedestrianised City Centre have been knit together almost overnight. Kilometres of protected cycleways were marked out, seemingly out of nowhere. What has been most impressive about this new dispensation is the degree of public buy in that is being achieved.

When I first was elected I used to despair at what passed for public consultation in this country. Where it existed at all it was at best a venting exercise, where people were given the opportunity of stating concerns or misgivings, without ever having those concerns addressed.

For any consultation to be effective, it is important that those being consulted with believe that their views can change what is being proposed. Of equal importance, is that those who eventually decide realise that whatever is proposed may have to be changed.

One area where in Cork we have seen particular benefits of this approach, has been in approving new social housing projects. Over the past eighteen months since I have returned as a councillor, we have had around a dozen housing projects to consider. All have been approved and have been comprehensively approved.

All of these projects were significantly changed from their original proposal to what was eventually decided on. As current chair of our local area committee, I have had the opportunity of seeing through a project from its original design stage.

From my previous experience of public consultation I’ve learned that, too often, it has it proved to be a passive experience. Legislation requires the placing of advertisements in local newspapers then wait to see what response, if any, follows. Engagement has to coaxed. It can’t exist in a vacuum.

With this housing proposal I sought to provoke engagement. I copied the site map and delivered same to householders living around the site. This provoked about a dozen reactions. Some of which were more negative than I hoped. This brought about a virtual meeting between local residents, councillors and council officials. The concerns were real. They were about boundaries, about vantage points, about possible increased traffic levels.

It made formulating a scheme difficult but not impossible. The council officials have come back with a scheme that has buildings with less storeys, but the same number of units with a different configuration.

Having a consultation that has been deeper and more real, met with a willingness to consider and adopt change, is bringing about an acceptable and necessary housing scheme. All this without ever crossing the threshold of social housing, of its nature, being thought of as inherently wrong.

Experiences like this are still exceptions rather than the rule. That they are happening at all gives me great cause for hope.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator and serves as a Green Party councillor on Cork City Council. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

From top: Greyhound racing; Dan Boyle

Dogs have loomed large over Green Party participation in government. In 2009/10, unexpected controversy was created with the passage of the Dog Breeding Establishments Bill. This bill wasn’t even a Green Party commitment. It had been introduced in the previous Dáil by then FIanna Fáil Minister Dick Roche.

A fault line was created between dogs and greyhounds, seen by many in Fianna Fáil as being a breed apart. Because of this it became necessary to introduce separate legislation to regulate the breeding of greyhounds.

This fault line also provided cover for some in Fianna Fáil to jump ship. This was the issue on which Mattie McGrath chose to stress his independence.

Animal rights and welfare have always been a priority for the Green Party. To the extent that other political parties have criticised The Greens claiming the party prioritised such issues over socially more important issues, such as the need to change our two tier health service, or the need to address access to housing for so many of our citizens.

Of course this isn’t, nor has it ever been true. Exaggeration and marginalisation are common tools of those in politics who seek to avoid change.

The other fallacious argument that has been used is that any attempt to regulate this sport/industry is a bourgeois attack on rural Ireland. Again not true.

Diminishing attendances at racing meets, along with a growing public distaste for the sport, shows that a majority also exists in rural areas opposed to this ‘sport’.

Traditional political parties in this country, Sinn Féin and Labour as much Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, see in those who support greyhound related ‘sports’ an important cohort of their voters, hence the reluctance to challenge or seek to change the many unacceptable practices that are found in the industry.

In June 2019 the RTÉ Prime Time Investigates programme produced a stinging exposé of the greyhound industry. From training methods to the export of discarded dogs, the industry was shown to be an ethical mess.

This is a ‘sport’ that has evolved from the other non sport of coursing. The Irish Coursing Club continues to be an important part of how greyhound racing is administered. This of itself should be reason enough to remove funding.

Outside of the political reluctance to change, there now also exists an additional legislative barrier. Under legislation funding for greyhound racing is now linked to that of horse racing. An increase for one means a pro rata increase for the other. This puts both beyond the remit of normal budgetary processes.

The need to change this legislation was not agreed in the most recent programme for government. Given the positions of Sinn Féin and Labour I think it would be unlikely that a PfG of any alternative government would either.

What we can do and should do is better define government policy on all sport. State support should be based on direct participation, especially of young people, in a sport.

The use of animals in a competitive activity shouldn’t be characterised as a sport. It may have a cultural element but they lack of any of the cultural depth of music, theatre, literature or visual arts.

These are activities that exist purely for commercial gain. Without a State subsidy greyhound racing, in particular, would not survive.

There is not a political will yet to remove this subsidy. Within the next few years I believe there will be. Even the dogs on the street know that.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator and serves as a Green Party councillor on Cork City Council. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

Pic: Betfair


From top; EPA’s State of the Environment 2020 report; Dan Boyle

The tone of the Environmental Protection Agency‘s State of the Environment 2020 report, released this week, is extraordinary, if ultimately highly depressing.

There are many fine people within the EPA, people motivated in wanting to bring about a better environment. Their ability to do so has been limited by a legislative straitjacket jacket that compromises the EPA’s ability to engage in actual environmental protection.

For most of its existence the agency has been a pollution permitting authority. In issuing Integrated Pollution Control Licences to different industries, the EPA has been sanctioning levels of pollution based on perceived economic need rather than protection of the environment.

Lacking capacity in its early years the EPA issued these IPC licences in ways that the industries issued with these licences tended to be largely self regulating.

In its governance, particularly at board level, the agency has been almost entirely influenced by industry interests. Since its foundation there has been a total exclusion of environmental campaigners at board or policy level making levels within the EPA.

Knowing this history, the strength of the language contained in the State of the Environment report comes as a pleasant surprise.

Maybe it’s because of a Green Party presence in government that we have a report that has not been written in the usual timid, evasive terms previous reports have been. Maybe it’s the realisation that damage caused to the Irish environment can no longer be denied.

Whatever the reason this report is a damning indictment of how damaged Ireland’s environment has become.

It isn’t churlish to point out that this has happened over a nearly thirty year period that we have had an Environmental Protection Agency. Granted, during that time, the agency has been hamstrung in term of resources, and in the type of political support that would help it achieve.

The tone and content of this report gives me some cause for hope. We are finally being honest about the extent of the damage caused. This can only be helpful in making us finally address the decades of negligence.

There are many metrics to measure the effects of Green Party participation in government. High among these should be our ability to police the environment.

Undoubtedly the capacity of the EPA has increased. Many skilled people have come into the organisation and have helped map the extent of our failure. What has continued to be lacking is any serious political consideration for if this was a problem, and if so how it should be responded to.

If this report is a statement of intent of a properly focused EPA, I would very much welcome that. I feel there is a particular responsibility for the Green Party in government to ensure that this represents the future role and direction on the EPA.

The first step in helping to make things better is to stop making them worse. It may not be politically wise to say so, but for much of the past thirty years the EPA has been part of the problem.

An Environmental Protection Agency that is structured not only to record, but more importantly to counteract, is what we should be aspiring towards. With this report we may be beginning to see that.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator and serves as a Green Party councillor on Cork City Council. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

EPA report here

Dan Boyle

Politics to me has never been about getting one over, or doing down, perceived opponents. I accept that for many people, maybe even most people, it tends to be. The worst motivation is always assumed. The worst possible construction is placed on any issue. Our politics are ill served by being almost entirely reactive and rarely proactive.

Movement, even in an agreed direction, is invariably criticised as being too late and/or too slow. Sequencing is particularly viewed poorly. Do it all and do it now, is the expectation that never be met. Part of that expectation is that legislation should be delivered in a ready to go fashion, as if there should be no role in a parliamentary process that scruitinises and amends.

The sclerosis that reactive politics creates is a culture where nothing clear gets stated, lest the words get misconstrued with the actual context lost.  Analysis and real accountability disappear when we rely on memes and tropes, repeated endlessly, to establish narratives that help explain nothing.

To govern is to fail. To seek to do things differently is an admission of failure. This helps create a politics that is not only risk adverse but is also change repellent.

Because of this change happens far more slowly than it needs to. Despite all this change does manage to occur, even if we often fail to acknowledge such change.

How we measure change exacerbates this problem. Gains are there to be won not shared. Wins need to be gained in order to create certain losers so that they appear real. Battle lines have to be absolute. There is government and there is opposition. The idea of shifting coalitions that are issue dependent is seen to be heretical.

Considering government as an amorphous whole is a particular conceit. Shared government means just that, an ability to achieve but only partially. It doesn’t mean absorption. It shouldn’t mean loss of identity. The lines of attack seem to indicate otherwise.

In a mature political society it should be possible to pursue agreed approaches while stressing distinctiveness. These are unnatural divides that exist within political parties and within government as much as they exist within politics itself. While acknowledging these divides we don’t have accept them as being the only way we operate.

We need to stop behaving as if the holding of political beliefs are akin to being part of a religious cult. We can and should be able to disagree without having to reduce to invective. Views can and should change. Being persuaded by others’ arguments is not a weakness.

Since coming back to local government I’ve tried to turn my back on the point scoring, name calling, character assassinating aspects of Irish politics. I can’t see the point of it. I’ve certainly come to believe that it achieves little. I’ve learned that it’s best to concentrate on trying to achieve things. So much energy is wasted on the circus element of politics.

The most pointless aspect of our politics is that of the kneejerk response. Because it has been determined that adversarial politics are the only type we can practise, we are similarly expected to have pre-determined responses to any given situation.

Proof of this is how I expect many will respond to what I am saying here. I am expecting some pejorative comments about me and my party attributing many of the ills of the World to our existence. I’m expecting some amount of whataboutery, where unconnected or very tenuous facts will be presented to undermine the context I seek to make with these observations.

Once I would have reacted and would have done so badly. Now I have to interpret what is real and what is contrived. Because so much of our politics has been reduced to background noise, perhaps we have to learn to listen less in order to be able to listen better.

Then, perhaps, we can learn to respond better instead of trying to react more.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator and serves as a Green Party councillor on Cork City Council. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

Dan Boyle

This week Cork City Council moved into the twenty first century with our first ever live streamed council business meeting. It was an interesting experience, not without some gremlins, but still an useful exercise in public access.

Previous meetings had been time restricted, because of COVID, leading to a forty eight page agenda. Five hours later we had more than tested the patience of anyone who had chosen to link in.

For those who came on to identify elements of Ballymagash in the deliberations of the Council, there were some items that could be portrayed in that way.

The longest debate of the night was on whether statues of War of Independence figures – Collins, MacSwiney and MacCurtain – should be erected on Patrick Street. I found the amount of time discussing this to be frustrating, as I suspect did many of those watching.

Despite that some that useful thoughts came from the discussion. The role of statues as tools of commemoration was rightly questioned. More seriously, arguing for further acknowledgement of male heroes, from a period in history that has yet to reflect at all the role of women, was more marked.

Earlier in the meeting we had approved planning for three infill housing projects. These had all involved a period of public consultation. As these applications often are, they were not without controversy. The consultations, with each of these projects, brought about considerable changes. The public interaction of these consultations was the catalyst for those changes.

Some objections would have remained. They probably never could be met. It is to the credit of local area councillors that they rose above continuing objections to make their decision solely based on housing need.

In my local electoral area another planning decision was in facilitating a pedestrian/cyclist access to an amenity park, where such access has been severely restricted.

On the surface this might not seem the most important issue. When our political debates are more influenced by what happens at a national level, we often forget that it is the small physical changes that can matter more to people.

Local government can be mundane. It’s activities can often invite justifiable derision. Without it, however, many everyday essential public services would become harder to provide.

Our political system is evolving. It is tentatively moving towards better public access and engagement. We need to be going further and faster in making these changes. The further we go in making these changes the better we can make our systems of government.

The speed of these changes will depend on how soon we are willing to put those elements of administrative culture, which have prevented change in the past, aside.

Administrative change in Ireland is still overly influenced by a philosophy of being risk adverse. An overriding attachment to secrecy still remains. A greater need level of trust, especially of the general public, needs to be created. A willingness to try and sometimes and fail has to become accepted.

Over my thirty years in public life I have seen some changes, but they have been far too few. I’m encouraged that there is now a greater capacity for change that is coming as much from council officials as it is from elected councillors.

Most of the work will remain mundane, necessary, occasionally worthy. But we can do it better and we should want to.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator and serves as a Green Party councillor on Cork City Council. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

RollingNews

From top: US President Donald Trump; Dan Boyle

I chose not to register to vote this time. I have voted in three previous presidential elections. My vote on neither of those occasions made any difference at all. Despite that I enjoyed the opportunity of taking part.

It is likely that the votes I sent at those elections were never counted. The state where I registered, Illinois, had a rule not to count overseas votes unless and until the counting all other votes was done, and only then until if the amount was greater of any difference that existed.

That never happened with any of my votes. It wouldn’t have happened this week either. If my vote was registered in Wisconsin or Michigan it might have done.

Not fully participating this time hasn’t diminished my interest in the outcome of this election. Despising Trump hasn’t been my only motivation.

Despite detesting almost every aspect of his being, I find myself oddly in admiration of Trump’s campaigning skills. Outside of his contempt of not exposing anyone to unnecessary COVID risks, the gusto with which he threw himself into the last ten days of the campaign undoubtedly helped him regain lost ground.

His tactics were as reprehensible as ever, but resonated with his supporters. He successfully portrayed Biden (someone who politically is to the right of Fine Gael!) as a rampant socialist. As a reds under the bed scare it worked.

Another scare that seemed to work was portraying Biden as an anti-fracker. It was a crude caricature of someone who in his eight years as Obama’s Vice President did as much as anyone to promote fracking.

In Trump’s World green is as bad as socialist. Both seen as good dog whistles for his base.

Trump’s innate anti-environmentalism won him his biggest prize of green disdain, the day after votes determining his future were cast. On this day the US became the first country to turn its back on the Paris Accord on climate.

For that alone Trump deserves all the contempt in the world. I had hoped for a Biden landslide, but I think how it is working out might be even better.

For someone who is so cruel in nature and character, there is something quite piquant in having Trump coming so close to retaining office. Being so near but so far is a deserved cruelty.

He ain’t gone yet nor is he likely to go quickly or willingly. His exit will prolong all our agonies. It may the last indignity the US and the rest of the world might have to put up with. Soon he can be placed on the proper side of history.

His impact won’t be as easily eradicated. Others will follow his template. That patented mix of narcissism and arrogance will be emulated by many as the way to get ahead.

I’m thinking dignity can make a comeback. I’m hoping it will. What Trump has personified in the American character will continue to linger.

Biden won’t be a panacea but he can help bring about a kinder, gentler America. That’s a deliberate reference, being a speech note from George Bush Snr. For Biden to help bring the US together, philosophically at least, he needs to reach out to sane Republicans.

This wouldn’t be about establishing a new coalition. It would be about helping to establish a more humane discourse. We not only have to end the madness, we have to make it go away.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator and serves as a Green Party councillor on Cork City Council. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

RollingNews

From top: Attorney General Paul Gallagher’s advice on the Mother and Baby Homes Commission file sealing asserted that Commissions of Investigations were excluded from EU data protection laws; Dan Boyle

One of the briefs I covered, when a TD, was as an opposition spokesperson on Social and Family Affairs. A bill that came before the house was the Civil Registration Bill. This was seen as a tidying up in how births, deaths and marriages were being recorded.

Someone close and important in my life had been adopted. There were many things that bothered her about not having even the most basic life information. Among them was that all her public documents recorded her as being born in Dublin. All adopted people were recorded as being Dublin born.

One of the few facts she had ascertained about her birth was that she was born at the now infamous Bessborough centre in Cork. One of amendments I sought to have accepted was to correct this wrong. I was surprised, perhaps I shouldn’t have been, at the unwillingness to accept an amendment.

The Minister, supported by Fine Gael and Labour spokespersons, argued that to list place of birth on the documentation of an adopted person would give them a tool to discover who their birth parents might be.

Into the twenty first century such thinking continued to inform official thinking on this subject. Sadly to a large extent it still does. Adoption in Ireland has always been implied as a social rescue process.

Removing the young ‘fallen’ woman from the fruit of her ‘sin’ was the first purpose of this process. The child available for adoption was to be given a new identity, as if a participant in a moral witness protection programme.

During that same parliamentary session the Oireachtas also finished its consideration of the Commissions of Investigation Bill.

Introduced by the then Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell, the bill’s intention was to have a more focused, more streamlined approach to investigations on matters of public concern.

Patience had been overly tested by the open tap to costs approach, that had existed with the Beef and Planning tribunals.

The bill outlined the establishment and more particularly the procedures that would be involved in the setting up commissions of investigation.

Among these procedures were processes to collect testimony confidentially.

A thirty year rule to archive the procedings of any established commission was put in place to protect this confidentiality.

This putting beyond use, and its length, could also be construed as protecting the guilty as well. The Oireachtas felt otherwise. The bill was passed without a vote.

Along with me in that Dáil are several current members of the Oireachtas – Sinn Féin, Labour, Social Democrat and Independent TDs.

Excluding Commissions of Investigation from GDPR, done through legislation passed in 2018, was a far more contentious matter. The opinion of the Attorney General that they can be and should be, is not an opinion I share, nor do I suspect do most people.

I’m hoping that the imminent publication of the report of Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes can become the key to unlock those rusting chains of shame that have denied so many for so long.

The pain of those denied is too deep and has been too prolonged. Only those who continue to experience this hurt know how this pain feels. The rest of us can only speculate. I fear that much of that speculation is intensifying the hurt. We need to be ending this hurt now.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator and serves as a Green Party councillor on Cork City Council. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

RollingNews