Tag Archives: Katherine Zappone

Yesterday, The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone announced that she ‘had secured Government approval’ to draft amendments to revise the privacy provisions in the Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill 2016.

The Bill as published requires applicants for birth information to…

‘..sign an undertaking, in certain circumstances, that they will not contact the birth parent. It also allows birth parents to invoke compelling reasons as to why their information should not be released, where such release would be likely to endanger their lives’.

The revised bill will:

‘Include the undertaking, and will provides for contact with all birth parents to ascertain whether they have any objection to the birth information being released.

Where the parent does not consent to the release of the information, there will be an opportunity for both parties to make their case before the Adoption Authority of Ireland.

The Authority will make a determination in the case, against a range of criteria by reference to Supreme Court jurisprudence. There will be an appeal from the decision to the Circuit Court.’

Dr Zappoone said:

The provisions in the Bill in relation to release of birth information are very serious and complex. We must balance the competing rights to identity with the right to privacy, in certain circumstances. I believe that people have the right to know of their true origins but we are also required to protect vulnerable birth parents.

I believe the scheme for which I got approval today is a reasonable compromise in all the circumstances, and I hope all stakeholders will support the proposal, so this legislation can be enacted as quickly as possible.”

Minister Zappone said she had listened to “Members of the Oireachtas, stakeholders and lobby groups ” and engaged again with the Office of the Attorney General “to revisit the privacy provisions and strengthen the right to identity”.

Paul Redmond, of The Coalition of Mother And Baby home Survivors (CMABS), writes:

Zappone’s new amendment makes this a “mother dearest” Bill, meaning that adoptee’s have been stripped of all rights to their original birth certificates and their files including their medical records: meanwhile natural mothers have been given all the rights as they must be asked for their permission before anything can be released to an adoptee.

This is not what our community was promised nor anything close to it. It is a backwards step and a gross betrayal of a vulnerable and aging community who have already suffered enough without having to endure the nightmare of having Minister Zappone inflicted on us.

While the old version of the Bill was not perfect by any means, and any Bill at all would have split our community in some way as there are always small splinter groups, at least the old Bill gave adopted people actual rights for the first time in the history of Ireland.

Now Minister Zappone has torn even the possibility of rights away from us.

That this treachery is dressed up as something positive is yet another act of bad faith and dishonesty by Katherine Zappone who needs to resign at once and allow a competent person without a personal agenda to do the job she refuses to do.

Zappone’s story about fighting with the Attorney General has a very hollow and suspicious ring about it and CMABS calls on the Minister to publish the legal advice from the Attorney General forthwith.

The practical aspects of this new Bill are a recipe for an expensive, wasteful, bureaucratic mess. Before an adoptee’s mother can even be asked for her permission, she must be tracked down. There are currently waiting lists for tracing of up to two years and this is going to be far worse.

This betrayal must be reversed by Minister Zappone at once.”

Coalition of Mother and Baby Home Survivors

Statement by Dr Katherine Zappone, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs

Sean Ross Abbey in Roscrea, Co Tipperary

This afternoon.

The Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation has announced it will carry out a “geophysical survey” of a children’s burial ground at Sean Ross Abbey in Roscrea, Co Tipperary – which was a mother and baby home from 1930 to 1970.

This will begin tomorrow and is expected to take one day.

[According to Mike Millotte’s Banished Babies, 438 babies were secretly exported from Sean Ross Abbey to the US for adoption.]

Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone told RTÉ’s News At One that the MBHCI received “new information from a member of the public in relation to the burial grounds” at Sean Ross before Christmas.

She also confirmed that Cabinet has approved a request from the MBHCI for an extension of a year before publishing its final report.

Survivors, family members and supporters of people who lived in the Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, Co Galway first became aware of this request for an extension via a report in The Irish Times on January 9.

The extension means the final report will be published in February 2020.

Ms Zappone also said the commission has said it will publish an interim report on March 15 “on burials for all of the institutions that they are investigating”.

On News At One, journalist Aine Lawlor asked Ms Zappone about the exclusion of survivors of Bethany Home from the State redress scheme.

Ms Lawlor put to Ms Zappone that any delay in including the Bethany Home survivors “compounds the injustice being done to elderly people at this state, time is not on their side”.

Ms Zappone said:

“Yes, I deeply appreciate those views that are being expressed. I am aware of that. May I say that, in relation to the Bethany Home, of course, I think many are aware, there was a decision made not to extend the original redress scheme to them, subsequent to the Ryan Report.

“That decision is being reviewed by a number of, on a number of occasions, by a previous Governments. My own Government looked at it again and ultimately decided that we needed to wait in order to have the final reports from the Mother and Baby Home Commission.”

Ms Lawlor put it to Ms Zappone that the survivors of Bethany Homes “don’t have a year to play with”.

Ms Zappone said:

“Again, I’m fully aware of that Aine, because I have met many of these people. I aware of the recommendation of the commission. At the same time, they have not provided us with a report in terms of findings of, final findings of abuse or neglect.

“And so we decided that it was not appropriate to deal with redress…but on the basis of that decision, I did move forward and establish a collaborative forum of representative stakeholders across all of the mother and baby homes to see what kind of supports maybe we could provide to former residents in relation, while we are waiting for the final findings of the commission.”

Meanwhile…

Ms Zappone has delivered a fourth interim report from the commission to Cabinet today and it states that the commission’s confidential committee has met with 519 former residents or other people connected to the institutions under investigation.

Meetings were not only held across Ireland but also in Birmingham, Manchester and London, while 26 people are still waiting to be heard – including residents in the US who will speak to the committee via Skype.

The commission is also arranging to have affidavits sworn in some cases.

The fourth report also states that “considerable work remains to be done to cross reference” the information the commission has regarding registers of entry, exit, birth and death.

The report notes that the commission has received “extensive material” from the Department of Health and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs but the commission “only recently received the bulk of this material and further material is in the process of being provided”.

It also states that the commission is “painstakingly analysing” more than 100,000 pages it has received in discovery from the two departments and cross referencing them with records maintained in the institutions.

The first tranche of discovery consisted over more than 12,000 pages in March 2017; more than 54,000 pages in March 2018; 36,000 pages in June 2018, while the commission learned in November 2018 that 277 more relevant files – likely to run to “many thousands of pages” – are also available.

The report also says the commission is “dismayed” by the documentation it has received from the HSE.

It states:

“The Commission acknowledges the efforts made by the HSE staff to find relevant documentation but it is dismayed that so little has been found. It is clear that the HSE does not have any system, much less a proper system, of storing and archiving material.”

It adds:

“It is difficult to understand how relatively recent documentation is not available. For example, the North Western Health Board, and subsequently the HSE, was intensively involved in the running of one of the institutions under investigation – The Castle, Newtowncunningham, Co Donegal. This opened in 1984 and closed in 2006. The HSE has been unable to provide any documentation on its involvement with this institution.”

Listen back to Ms Zappone on RTE Radio One in full here

Thanks Breeda

Report in The Irish Times on Wednesday, January 9; Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone; debate in the Dáil last Thursday

On Wednesday, January 9 last, the Religious Affairs Correspondent for The Irish Times Patsy McGarry reported that the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation was to seek an extension of a year before publishing its final report which was due in February.

The report took survivors, family members and supporters of people who lived in the Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home by surprise.

Following on from the report in The Irish Times, Broadsheet contacted the Department of Children and Youth Affairs on January 9 and asked a spokesman to confirm if The Irish Times article was correct; if it was, to set out the reasons for the seeking of an extension; to outline when the MBHCI made the request for an extension of Government; and to explain when the survivors/survivors’ groups were informed of the request.

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone’s department responded at 5.45pm that evening, essentially confirming The Irish Times article, but without answering the other specific questions, stating:

“The Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes has written to the Minister to seek an extension to the time frame for delivering its final reports. The Minister is considering the request and will meet the Commission next week to discuss it further.

“The Minister will then respond to the request in consultation with her cabinet colleagues.

“The Minister has given a commitment to interested parties to communicate any updates in relation to the Mother and Baby Home issue in as timely a manner as possible.

“The Minister will use existing channels to communicate
with interested parties, including survivors and their advocates in advance of any public statements on this matter.”

Yet, when the matter was raised with Minister Zappone in the Dáil last Thursday evening by Galway West Independent TD Catherine Connolly, Dublin Fingal Independent TD Clare Daly, and Dublin South Central Independent TD Joan Collins, Ms Zappone said “the coverage was misleading”.

She also eventually confirmed, after being asked several times, that she had received the request from the commission in December.

Ms Collins said:

“I ask the Minister to correct me if I am wrong, but my information is that the report was finalised in early December last and had been sent to the Attorney General pending transmission to the Minister and the Cabinet.

“I have also been informed that more files from the HSE have emerged which is why, potentially, a further delay is being sought by the commission.

Survivors have been waiting anxiously for this report, as the Minister knows, and have been physically and emotionally shattered by the announcement in last week’s newspaper. It was a cold and calculated way to inform survivors and their families.

Some survivors in their 70s and 80s were outside the gates of Leinster House yesterday. They were cold and they were angry. It was a disgraceful way to treat these ageing people. Their rights and justice are being denied. Will the Minister please explain exactly what is happening and set out why there was no early warning of the proposed delay? These people are losing confidence in the Minister and her Government and in the commission.”

Ms Daly said:

“The request for a second extension from the commission is the last straw for many of us here and certainly for many of the survivors. The request should be refused.

“I am very curious to hear what the Minister’s attitude is and what level of warning she was given by the commission that this bombshell would drop a year almost after the last extension was granted. Many felt it was a step too far even then yet a year on, here we are.

“It is jaw-dropping to have a scenario in which four years later, we have had three interim reports comprising fewer than 40 pages between them. Of those interim reports, two sought more time while another focused on process. There have been no details and no findings and we must ask what in God’s name is going on in this gathering.

“As Deputy Joan Collins said, a suspicious person might wonder if things were being done in this manner so the community dies off.

The fact that they had to hear this as they did via a newspaper leak has caused more insult to them. In many ways, the process is as important as the outcome. The process here has been an abysmal failure and it has retraumatised many of the survivors.

“I do not necessarily blame the Minister and certainly not before we hear what she has to say. I assume she got the information. It is important for her to tell the House when she got it and whether it was flagged. If it was not flagged to her, why did the commission wait until the 11th hour? If it was flagged and everyone knew, why was it done like this? This is devastating and we need clarity around it. My attitude is that the request should be refused. It is too much.”

Ms Connolly said:

“Has the commission of investigation asked for an extension of time? If so, when was the request made, how was it made and how long has the Minister known?

“…From day one, there was confusion and delay. The third report asked for extension of time. While it caused real upset then, people accepted the assurance that the report would be published in February of this year.

“…Subsequent to what we found out in Patsy McGarry’s newspaper report earlier this month, it was claimed on the Department’s website that “reports in the media did not come from this Department and the speculation contained in these reports is inaccurate”.

“What specific inaccuracies are there? Has an extension been sought? If so, when and why was it sought? I will await the Minister’s answer before I give my opinion.”

In her response, Ms Zappone said:

“The scope of the investigation is broad. It was acknowledged at the outset that the timeframe was ambitious. I received the fourth interim report in December 2018. I met the chair of the commission, Judge Yvonne Murphy, last week to discuss the request for the extension of the timeframe for the delivery of the commission’s reports and to ensure I had a full understanding of the progress to date and the basis for the additional time being requested.

“I know it is important for the commission to complete this sensitive and complex work as soon as possible… There can be no shortcut to finding the truth.

“The interim report is short. Contrary to what the Deputies have suggested, it is not a proposal. It grounds the request for an extension of the timeframe to deliver the three reports from the commission by one year.

“As the request constitutes a change in the terms of reference of the commission, it is a matter for the Government to consider the request in reflection of its statutory provisions. Government approval is also required to publish the report. With this in mind, I intend to bring a memorandum to the Cabinet.

“I have already circulated a draft of the memorandum to Government Departments. I hope to have it on the agenda next week for discussion. Ahead of the Cabinet meeting, it would not be helpful to speculate on what the Government will decide.

I am conscious that the commentary on this issue in the media last week has caused distress and anxiety for those involved in this process. The coverage was misleading and did not originate from the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, as one of the Deputies mentioned.

“I reiterate my commitment to use existing channels to inform stakeholders of any developments in this area in advance of a public notice. I intend to make a public announcement following the Cabinet meeting to clarify the position for them….I will engage with stakeholders ahead of any public announcements. I hope to announce the details of the interim report as soon as possible.”

Ms Collins told Ms Zappone that she still didn’t answer her questions, namely when the commission requested an extension, if it was made at the beginning of December and, if it was, why weren’t the survivors not informed of this request before reading about it in The Irish Times.

Ms Daly said the essence of what was in The Irish Times article was correct – in so far as the final report will be delayed by a year.

She called for a report to be published in February outlining exactly what the commission has done to date, what needs to be done and a timetable of when the work will be done.

Ms Connolly said:

I am afraid I am not so sympathetic. I am holding the Minister to account because her answer is not acceptable. When and how was she approached by the commission in relation to an extension? Why are the grounds for an extension not set out in the Minister’s reply? Why do we not have a copy of the report? The lines that should demarcate who is responsible for what are being blurred.

“An independent commission of inquiry was set up. It has a duty to report in a way that we can see, read and look at. It is not acceptable that the Minister is not telling us where the report is, why we do not have it and what the grounds for the request are. It is ridiculous and utterly unacceptable that she is telling us there are grounds for the request but not telling us what those grounds are or when they were set out.

“The Minister referred to a meeting that took place last week. If there is a shortage of staff, as has been mentioned, we should know about that. If there is a reason the work cannot be completed on time, it should be made known to us in an open and accountable manner. That is the least we deserve in this Dáil so we can represent the people outside who have suffered greatly.

“The Minister knows well that I have attended many of the meetings. The anger on the ground is palpable. There was an absence of trust from day one. I went out on a limb to give the system a chance. Looking back on that, it was rather foolish. Since 2015, we have had nothing but delay, obfuscation and blurring of boundaries. The very least the Minister should do is tell us precisely when the request came and how it came. Regardless of the nature of the report the Minister has, she should publish it.”

It was after this contribution from Ms Connolly that Ms Zappone said the request was made in December.

She said:

“It is an interim report.

“There are procedures in terms of the establishment of the independent commission and the commission has requested an extension for the completion of its work. That request must be presented to Government, which must agree or not to it. Once that has happened, there will be the publishing of the report.

“That is the process and those are the procedures.

“I intend to do that at the next Cabinet meeting. When I have provided my Cabinet colleagues with the rationale for this, in addition to advising them of the discussions I had with Judge Murphy, which I sought as soon as I could subsequent to the presentation of that interim report taking account of the Christmas period, I will engage with my Cabinet colleagues and we will make a decision.

We will let the survivors and those primary stakeholders know. I will publish the report and we will publish our decision. Those are the proper procedures. The Deputies will know then what is the rationale in that regard. I am happy to come back to the House and discuss those issues with them.

“Second, as the Deputies well know, this is an independent commission and therefore there are certain things I can and cannot do. The commission has made this request and laid out its rationale. I am able to talk and have talked to it about that – I have spoken of that – to more deeply understand its rationale in this regard.

“Third, as I mentioned in my opening remarks, I know the Deputies – who represent the people concerned very well – would acknowledge I also am aware of how awful and difficult this news is for these people to receive. I understand that. I will be able to provide the Deputies with the rationale with regard to the response, and my own response specifically to what they have said, next week after I have given that to my Cabinet colleagues.”

Transcript via KildareStreet.com

Previously: ‘A Dishonest Exercise’

January 9, 2015

Then Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr James Reilly (centre) with Michelle Shannon (left) from the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and Elizabeth Canavan, then Acting Secretary General Department of Children and Youth Affairs at the publication of the Terms of Reference for the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes and Certain Related Matters, to examine the records of and practices at 14 Mother and Baby Homes as well as four county homes….

March 3, 2017

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone (centre) and Assistant Principal, Department of children & Youth Affairs James Gibbs (left),  and Secretary General, Department of Children & Youth Affairs Fergal Lynch announcing a one-year extension to  the Mother and Baby Homes Commission….

January 9, 2019

‘The Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation is to seek an extension of one year before publishing its final report, which was due next month. The Irish Times understands the request has gone to the Government and is expected to be discussed by the Cabinet next week.’

Mother and baby homes commission seeks extension to finish report (Irish Times)

Rollingnews

From top: The former Mother and baby Home in Bessborough, Cork; from left: Irish Examiner journalist Conall Ó Fátharta, Minister for Children Katherine Zappone, Dr James Gallen, of Dublin City University

In April 2017, Dr James Gallen, a lecturer in the School of Law and Government at Dublin City University, was appointed by the Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone to help the Mother and Baby Homes Commission.

Specifically, Ms Zappone asked Dr Gallen “to assist by mapping out a model of ‘transitional justice’ as a means of giving voice to former residents of Mother and Baby Homes and County Homes”.

This morning, Conall Ó Fátharta, in The Irish Examiner, reports that Mr Gallen has accused the State of being:

“more concerned with managing the ‘potential scandal and legal liability’ of illegal adoption, birth registration, and other coercive adoption practices than helping victims”.

Mr Ó Fátharta reports:

Mr Gallen said “the State simply doesn’t get it” and pointed to the fact that the Department of Children and Youth Affairs has committed to a “transitional justice” approach to the Mother and Baby homes scandal.

Talk of transitional justice is fundamentally undermined when the ongoing relationship between citizens and the State is one where the interests of an individual are countered by the desire to maintain the reputation of institutions,” said Mr Gallen.

Mr Gallen was speaking in light of a detailed special investigation by Mr Ó Fátharta published in Monday’s Irish Examiner about a woman Jackie Power (not her real name) who had to sign a consent form for her son to be adopted under a fictitious name.

Mr Ó Fátharta reported how, in 1974, Ms Power had a baby boy when she was a teenager in the Bessborough Mother and Baby Home in Cork.

Five months later she went back to Bessborough and signed a consent form allowing for her son to be adopted through the Sacred Heart Adoption Society.

She was told to put a false name on the consent form, which was also signed by a named nun.

The boy’s birth was illegally registered under this false name while the false name was also used for the formal adoption order.

In official documentation that followed, including the adoption order issued by the State’s regulatory body, the Adoption Board, both Ms Power and her son’s names were replaced by fictitious names.

Mr Ó Fátharta explained that if Ms Power’s son, who would now be 44, tried to contact his mother, he would, unbeknownst to himself, be searching for her under a false name.

In 2005, Ms Power told the Adoption Board (the AAI’s predecessor) about the false name and illegal registration and the agency didn’t inform the gardaí.

And…

Mr Ó Fátharta reported:

“Almost half a century later, the attitude of certain State agencies — the Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI), and Tusla — to her case is as cold-hearted as the nuns who forced her as a 16-year-old to sign away both her and her son’s identities.

Instead of offering support or offering assistance, emails between staff members show the attitude of Tusla to be one of institutional self-preservation.

“Just last year, staff handling Jackie’s case were instructed in emails not to refer to situations like hers as “illegal” but instead as “possible illegal registrations”. Reference is made to having to “hold our powder” because “that stuff is FOI’able… and it could be used against us if someone takes a case”.

State ‘prioritising liability over adoption rights’ (Conall Ó Fátharta, The Irish Examiner)

Special Report: Women forced to give up babies for adoption still failed by State bodies (Conall Ó Fátharta, The Irish Examiner)

This afternoon.

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone informed a meeting of the Oireachtas Committee on Children and Youth Affairs about a review of Scouting Ireland records by safeguarding expert Ian Elliot.

She said she was informed last night that Mr Elliot found evidence of 71 alleged abusers and 108 alleged victims of abuse.

She added: “This is based on his work to date and the number may change.”

She said most of the alleged abuse occurred between the 1960s and 1980s but one case may be from an earlier period.

She said none of the alleged abusers are currently working with Scouting Ireland and that reports have been made to Tusla and An Garda Siochana in respect of the alleged abusers who are still alive.

Scouting Ireland finds evidence of 108 child abuse cases (The Irish Times)

This afternoon.

There will be an exhumation and a forensic examination of remains at the site of the former Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, County Galway but no inquests to discover the causes of death.

Actions to be taken will include:

A phased approach to the forensic excavation and recovery of the juvenile human remains in so far as this is possible;

The use of systematic on-site ground-truthing and test excavations to effectively locate potential burials;

The forensic analysis of any recovered remains and, where possible, individualisation and identification, and arrangements for respectful reburial and memorialisation and the appropriate conservation of the site.

Statement by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone TD

The Tuam Babies’ Family Group said:

‘This is an exceptionally important decision and will pave the way for all the other mother and baby homes, and the lost children of Ireland.

We want all of the children found, if they are not in the grave, where are they? All of the children must be found and we would like to see a full excavation of the entire site as we believe there are many graves in the area, not just at the site we have all come to know.”

Kevin Higgins, a legal advisor to the Tuam Home Survivors’ Network, said:

“The set piece orchestrated today by Katherine Zappone announcing an excavation of the Tuam grave is possibly one of the most cynical and callous acts ever carried out by an Irish Government.

Having maintained for almost two years that Government would make the ‘final decision’ on the Tuam grave -she has repeatedly rebuffed the plain truth that Government did not have the power to make that decision.

Last evening [Monday] Leo Varadkar was asked several times by a representative of the Tuam Home Survivors’ Network – what powers Government had to make such a decision and whether they had advice from the Attorney General, that they had such power.

In response he filibusterd and failed to give a direct answer.

Today in her Statement, Minister Zappone explicity acknowledges that it will require new legilsation to allow the Government excavate the site.

For two years the Coroner for North Galway has sat on his hands and declined to convene an inquest into the deaths of 800 children who have no known burial place except a cess-pit.

Two successive Attorneys General have declined to appoint another Coroner on foot of his failure to carry out his statutory duty to convene an Inquest.

Today the Government announces its intention to introduce legislation, effectively giving it the power to by-pass the law in respect of Inquests.

The only purpose of an Inquest is to determine the cause of death.

Neither Government or the Bon Secours Order are disposed to public knowledge of how those children died.

Denied any justice in life, Government now proposes to deny them any justice in death.

What is proposed is an excavation, reburial and as a gesture an attempt at identification for the benefit of survivor families.

A ‘dignified reburial’ means giving the residents of the Dublin Road Estate in Tuam, back the full run of their playground.

There will be no blame, no liability, no accountability, no vindication for the Tuam babies.

In tandem with today’s announcement, the biggest global owners of private hospitals, the Bon Secors nuns, have offered a ‘voluntary contribution’ of €2.5 million towards the cost of excavation.

They must consider it very good value.”

Tuam Home Survivors Network

Earlier….

From top: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Galway Independent TD Catherine Connolly

This afternoon.

In the Dáil during Leaders’ Questions.

When posing a question to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar about a change in the application process for women who formerly worked in Magdalene laundries seeking compensation and Caranua, Galway Independent TD Catherine Connolly referred to the pending decision of the Government on the Tuam Mother and Baby Home site.

She said:

“I sincerely hope that your decision will be for a full excavation, a full exhumation of the site with a view to maximum information being available.”

In regards to Tuam, Mr Varadkar said:

“In relation to the Tuam Mother and Baby Home, Minister [Katherine] Zappone will make a statement about that at 3pm and I think it’s fair to say that she’s put an enormous amount of work into studying this matter over the last two years.

“The Cabinet accepted her recommendations today and I’d like to give her the opportunity to outline them in detail at 3pm when she’s able to do so.”

Related: Magdalene laundries victims fear officials want to limit compensation (Ellen Coyne, Times Ireland edition)

Earlier: ‘The Taoiseach Reflected The Need To Respond Now With Action, Rather Than Words’

Yesterday: ‘The Only Acceptable Outcome Is The Immediate Convening Of An Inquest Into The Deaths Of All The Children’

This morning.

In the Dáil.

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone was asked by Sinn Féin TD Denise Mitchell about her department’s scoping exercise into illegal adoptions being carried out – which was announced in May.

Ms Mitchell asked Ms Zappone to outline the number of records being examined by Tusla and the Adoption Authority of Ireland as part of her scoping exercise and the progress on it.

Ms Zappone said there are approximately 150,000 adoption records in existence and, of these, 100,000 are in possession of the State – Tusla or the Adoption Authority of Ireland.

She said the sample of adoptions being investigated has been taken from this 100,000 but she didn’t specifically state how many records are being examined.

She said issues regarding data protection and GDPR rules have arisen and so the estimated time for the independent reviewer’s report to be delivered has been extended until mid-December.

Later, Ms Mitchell, who raised the work of the Irish Examiner’s Conall Ó Fátharta on the matter, said asked Ms Zappone if she would commit to holding an investigation into all adoption records and commit to seizing records not in the State’s possession.

She added:

“Recent media reports suggested that much of this documentation has been in the Department of Children and Youth Affairs for years. So, minister, I want to ask you, if this information has been in this department for years, why has it taken so long to initiate an investigation?”

Ms Zappone, in her reply said she was “deeply concerned about the issue of illegal registrations” and is in regular contact with people who have been adopted and their advocates.

She said:

“It’s true that the adoption authority has previously spoken publicly about cases on its files where it suspects there to have been an illegal registration but, so far, it has not had sufficient information on file to confirm them.

“As I said in my press statement of the 29th of May, it is examining these unconfirmed cases further, to see if any further facts can be established. But it’s really difficult to prove these cases in the absence of good records.

“If the AAI, following this validation exercise,  reaches the high level of certainty that I have spoken of, these cases will be added to the 126 that have already been confirmed and announced by me. “

Ms Zappone told Ms Mitchell that she also reads the Irish Examiner and is aware of the work of Mr Ó Fátharta and other journalists on the subject.

Watch back here

Related: Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone under fire over adoption records (Conall Ó Fátharta, August 2018)

 

From top: Minister Katherine Zappone with Pope Francis at Áras an Uachtaráin on Saturday; Historian Catherine Corless (right) joins Tuam Survivors, including  Peter Mulryan, of the Tuam Survivors’ Network (third right), at a march through Tuam, County Galway on Sunday.

Yesterday, Minister for Children Katherine Zappone released the copy of a letter she gave to Pope Francis regarding the Tuam Mother and Baby Home and her hope that the Vatican will pay for the costs for the exhumation of the mass grave.

Via the Tuam Survivors’ Network

‘The publication of a letter, by Katherine Zappone, which she handed to the Pope is nothing more than a publicity stunt.

She writes in the preamble to that letter: I am the Minister responsible for the Tuam Mother and Baby Home. This is of course an absurd statement.

Ms Zappone is merely the Minister to which the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes is to report. In a different country, such a Commission would be reporting to a Justice Minister.

What Minister Zappone has been responsible for more than two years, is a dishonest exercise in respect of the Tuam pit, which has prolonged the agony of survivors and those whose relatives may be buried there, by standing in the way of an exhumation.

In the course of her letter to the Pope, she attempts to maintain the myth that she with her Cabinet colleagues can decide the future of the mass grave at Tuam.

To be clear once more, the only office-holder with jurisdiction over the mass grave at Tuam is the local Coroner.

Where a Coroner fails to convene an Inquest, the Attorney General has under s24 of the Coroners Act 1961, the power indeed obligation, to appoint another Coroner to do so.

Neither the previous Attorney General Maire Whelan nor the current incumbent Seamus Woulfe, have fulfilled their obligations to do so.

Minister Zappone has sat in Cabinet with both and cannot be unaware of the position.

Yet in the warmest and driest summer for forty years in which an exhumation of the Tuam children could have been speedily accomplished, she has clung to a position which is both vile and dishonest.

She writes to the Pope expressing the hope that the ‘church’ should ‘contribute substantially’ to the cost of whatever option is decided by the government.

To repeat, government does not have the power to make such a decision. There is no option, other than to convene an Inquest and complete an exhumation.

Those responsible are the Bon Secours Order, not merely the largest private health provider in Ireland, but probably the world.

Can the Minister produce a single piece of correspondence between her or her office, written to the Bon Secours Order, since she became Minister, pointing out their obligations to them?

In all, her letter to the Pope smacks of a stunt, a desperate attempt by a Minister completely out of her depth, to try and regain a grain of personal and political credibility. It fails miserably.’

A statement from the Tuam Survivors’ Network

Tuam Survivors’ Network

Revealed: What Katherine Zappone said in letter to Pope Francis on Tuam scandal (Kevin Doyle, Independent.ie)

Yesterday: ‘Her Department Knew About Infant Mortality, Concerns About Illegal Adoptions And Trafficking In 2012’

On Saturday.

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone spoke with Pope Francis briefly at Áras an Uachtaráin (top).

This morning, she was interviewed by Miriam O’Callaghan on RTÉ Radio One (above) and recounted that she said to him:

“Pope Francis, I am responsible for the Tuam Mother and Baby Home. Children’s remains were found in a sewage system there. I hope the church will make reparation for its part in this shameful chapter. It is important and I will write to you in detail.”

Ms Zappone has since published on the Department of Children and Youth Affairs website what she wrote to Pope Francis.

The website states Ms Zappone wrote:

Dear Pope Francis,

As Minister for Children and Youth Affairs and an Independent Minister of the Government of Ireland I am writing to you in the hope that the church will accept its responsibilities and make reparation for its part in a very shameful chapter of Irish history.

Mother and Baby Homes came to public attention in Ireland during the summer of 2014 following a series of disturbing reports of high mortality rates and claims of possible burials of children on the grounds of a former home in Tuam Co Galway. The then Government decided to have these matters investigated and a statutory Commission of Investigation was established in February 2015.

The Commission has been examining a wide range of concerns related to the institutional care of unmarried mothers and their babies during the period 1922 to 1998. The Commission is examining 14 Mother and Baby Homes and 4 County Homes. It will in time provide a full account of what happened to vulnerable women and children in these institutions; how they came to be there; and the pathways they took as they left.

An early focus of the Commission’s work was to examine the Tuam site to address questions about the alleged internment of human remains. As part of this process, the Commission conducted a series of surveys and test excavations, commencing in October 2016. I visited the site myself and met former residents and relatives shortly before these works commenced.

The statutory Commission of Investigation confirmed the presence of human remains on the site of the former Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home in Tuam. The Home was run by the Bon Secours Sisters from 1925-1961 in what was previously a workhouse dating back to famine times. In the 1970’s the former home was demolished to make way for a local authority housing estate. A small memorial garden is maintained by local residents and there is also a children’s playground on the site.

The Commission’s excavations have revealed that human remains are visible in a series of chambers that may have formed part of sewage treatment works for the Home. The Commission believes that there are a significant number of children’s remains there. It recovered some juvenile remains for detailed forensic analysis. From this analysis, it has determined that the remains are between 35 foetal weeks and 2 to 3 years of age. From carbon dating it has correlated the age of these samples with the time period during which the home was in operation – between 1925 and 1961.

This news was met with widespread disgust both in Ireland and abroad. There were suspicions about burials of this kind in Tuam for some time.. However, it is fair to say that the confirmation received from the Commission of Investigation caused many people to demand that dignity and respect be afforded to the memory of the children who lived their short lives in this Home. We also owe it to the families of these children to now do the right thing by their loved ones.

We have now put in place a series of actions to ensure that we have an appropriate and respectful response to the discovery.

Since then, I have instructed an expert team to do further work on the site to determine the options that are open to us to fulfil our duty to these children. The team has reported offering options including a complete excavation of the site and DNA analysis of the hundreds of remains contained therein.

A consultation has also been carried out with survivors and local residents about what they would like to see happen on the site in Tuam.

There was little compassion shown to children and their mothers in this home.

We cannot change what happened to them. For the little ones whose remains are in a sewage system, we owe them dignity in death. For their mothers, siblings and families we need to give them some peace.

It is my strong conviction that given the role of the Church in this shameful chapter of recent Irish history it must play a practical role in addressing the hurt and damage. I believe that the church should contribute substantially to the cost of whatever option is decided by the government. This should be done willingly, unconditionally and quickly. Nothing less will demonstrate remorse.

I look forward to receiving your response.

With every best wish, sincerely yours,

Dr Katherine Zappone, TD
Minister for Children and Youth Affairs

Meanwhile…

Journalist Conall Ó Fátharta, of the Irish Examiner, has tweeted the following…

Conall Ó Fátharta

Minister Zappone’s Remarks to Pope Francis at Áras an Uachtaráin (Department of Children and Youth Affairs)

Previously: Open The Files

Top pic: Conor Ó Mearáin