Tag Archives: Mother and Baby Home Commission

From top: Rachael English; Minister for Children, Disabilty, Equality and Integration Roderic O’Gorman in the Dail at the Convention Centre yesterday

This morning.

RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland.

Following last night’s vote on a bill that seals records from the Mother and Baby Home Commission for 30 years, Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman spoke to Rachael English.

Rachael English: “A great many people, including survivors of these institutions are angry and upset by what the Government is doing. Are they wrong?”

Roderic O’Gorman: “Look, I know there, myself and all TDs and Senators have gotten a huge amount of communications from survivors of mother and baby homes over the last two weeks. And look, I acknowledge, as minister, I should have done a, I needed to do a better job at communicating what the Government was doing and engaging with survivors’ groups. And I know that a lot of anxiety has been caused and I certainly deeply regret the fact that my failures to communicate properly caused that anxiety.

“But just to focus on what this piece of legislation does. The Commission of Investigation has been working over the last five years. And it has established a database of all the women and children who passed through the main mother and baby homes and it’s identified the dates in which they were in those homes.

“And that database can help the children connected with those homes establish their full identity. Now, under the existing law, the law under which the mother and baby homes [commission] was originally established, all the archives from the commission’s investigation have to be sealed for 30 years but when we saw the value that this particular database could have for helping children establish their identity, we decided to act to ensure the database and the records that support it, don’t go into that archive.

“So we’ve passed that law to ensure the database and the supporting records are taken out of the archive for the time being. They’re given to Tusla to help Tusla with its existing tracing services and I’ve committed to bringing in new information and tracing legislation and I’ll bring that to the Dail next year.

“And this database will be incredibly useful in helping children who were in the mother and baby homes establish their identity.”

English: “If, as you say, the fundamental problem here is the 2004 act under which the commission was established, why not amend that act rather than introduce this legislation?”

O’Gorman: “The entire commission of investigation over the last five years has worked on the basis of the 2004 act and in the course of the debate yesterday, different deputies expressed different views. Some people said should be able to access their personal information that’s in the archive, others said all elements of the archive should be opened, the entire thing should be opened. And my concern, certainly, with the latter proposal is that if we allowed that, when the commission reports in a week and a half’s time, there’s a real risk we’ll see legal challenges to the commission’s report. Because people who engage with the commission, on the understanding of the existing law, will then feel that the legal protections around them have been completely withdrawn.

“But what I will say is I’m absolutely aware that particularly for personal information, that 30-year sealing, coming from the original law, is really problematic. So what I stated in the Dáil yesterday is that I’m committed initially to engaging with the Attorney General to see what avenues there are there, to address the 30-year issue, particularly with regard to personal information. But I also want to work with the Oireachtas committee on children and work with colleagues in the Dail and Seanad and bring in survivor groups, bring in those academics who have been representing and supporting them to bring a solution.”

English: “But should you not have done that, should you not have done that before now? This commission has been sitting for five years. They knew about the 2004 legislation as did politicians so why this last-minute rush without adequate consultation.”

O’Gorman: “The reason we’ve rushed is because of the deadline of the 30th of October. Once the commission reports and the commission is indicated that it is ready to report on the 30th of October, once the commission reports, it immediately stands dissolved at law and all its archive is sealed.”

English: “Why not then extend the life of the commission?”

O’Gorman: “Because by extending the life of the commission, we would have had to delay the submission of the final report. And as you know that final report was meant to come in two years ago originally…”

English: “But people have already waited five years, could they not wait, would they not be willing to wait another couple of months?”

O’Gorman: “I didn’t want to ask survivors to wait more because I understand how eager they are to see the results of the commission of investigation from the last five years. The report is going to be about 4,000 pages long, it’s going to have specific chapters dealing with each of the mother and baby homes, it’s going to have a chapter looking at the social history of Ireland at the time to try and put what was happening in the mother and baby homes in a wide context and it’s also going to have a chapter where people who gave their personal stories to the confidential committee of the commission where those personal stories will reflected. So I think the commission’s report is absolutely essential part of answering what happened in these mother and baby homes. And I want to ensure that that gets published as quickly as possible. But, as I said earlier, I am absolutely committed to addressing the issue of the 30-year rule and the very legitimate concerns that people have, that their personal information is contained in that archive.

“That decision on sealing the archive was made in 2015 when the commission was established under the original legislation. I think we’ve all a greater understanding now of the importance of people’s personal information and I think some of the issues to do with the mother and baby home commission they were reflected in a debate in the Dail last year about the records of the Ryan Commission into the industrial schools so I think we need to just take a step back and consider how we treat this information and how we archive it appropriately.”

English: “Just on that point, another point being put forward by campaigners and the opposition is that there is a role here for data protection legislation and the GDPR, that people are entitled to their own information. Have you fully explored that?”

O’Gorman: “Yeah and I would have, in the normal course, expected that GDPR would apply to the archives. But when the GDPR was introduced in Ireland in 2018, the commission of investigations legislation, that 2004 act, was amended to explicitly exclude GDPR from applying to the commission’s archive. So the act was explicit, that was done explicitly in 2018. Now I wasn’t in the Oireachtas at that point so I don’t know the thinking behind that. But that very explicit exclusion is what prevents the application of GDPR in this situation…”

English: “Do you accept though that there are a number of experts, a considerable number of experts in this area who have made this, you know, their life’s work, and they disagree with that interpretation. So maybe could you not go back to the Attorney General, who gave you this advice and say ‘listen can we look at this again?'”

O’Gorman: “And that’s exactly what I’ve committed to do in the Dáil yesterday, Rachael. I absolutely accept that there are some very eminent experts in this area who disagree with the interpretation given by the Attorney General so I have said, as well as looking at the 30-year rule, we need to look at the application of GDPR again to personal information that’s contained in the archive. And indeed it may be through some change in that exclusion that we can actually address both issues as regards access to personal information. I completely understand how survivors want to get this information. Ireland has not put in good information in tracing legislation. My predecessor Katherine Zappone went a long way in trying to introduce that but the Bill she proposed didn’t, was withdrawn from the Seanad. And it’s my intention and it was one of the first commitments I made as minister, to bring in proper information and tracing legislation so the people who have been denied access to this information so long can actually secure their full identities.”

English: “As you say yourself though, you’re talking here about people who have been consistently treated with a lack of respect by the State. And by other institutions. Don’t they have good reason to be sceptical about any official or political promises now?”

O’Gorman: “They do. And again, as I say, I should have done better in how I communicated, what I was trying to achieve with this particular piece of legislation but I think it is clear that there is strong support across the Oireachtas for bringing in changes that can properly secure people’s personal information.”

English: “But you won’t be changing it in the short term, that’s you’re fundamental message?”

O’Gorman: “I believe that this Bill is necessary to secure the database and as I said at the start, this database is incredibly valuable and will have an immediate benefit for people who are undertaking, for people who were in mother and baby homes and are seeking to trace their identity, I believe it’s important that this database is secured, taken out of the archive and secured for use.”

English: “Ok, and just one final question then. You’re due to get this report next week. As you said yourself, it’s very lengthy. When will it be published?”

O’Gorman: “The report will need to be reviewed by my department and by the Attorney General as well. And subject to that, a decision of government will be required to publish it. I can’t give a definitive timeline today but what I will say is: I want that report published as quickly as possible. Survivors have waited long enough. And as well as the elements that I outlined earlier, the report is going to contain recommendations as to both how to provide redress to those who were within mother and baby homes and I think it’s important that they’re published so that the government can act on those.

“But as part of the wider government action, as I said I’ve committed to looking at the issue of the availability of personal information in the archives and I’ll be working on that, to deliver that commitment.”

O’Gorman: “All right. Roderic O’Gorman, Minister for Children, thank you joining us on Morning Ireland.”

Last night: Sealed



Last night: Sealed

This afternoon.

Dáil Éireann at the Convention Centre, Dublin

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett makes an emotional plea to Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman (top) to consider opposition amendments to prevent his bill sealing records from the Mother and Baby Homes Commission for 30 years.

The bill was passed this evening 78-67.

Mother-and-baby homes legislation passes through Dáil (RTÉ)


Yesterday: ‘The Proposal To Seal The Archive Is Simply Impermissible Under EU Law’ [Updated]

This morning.


Minister for Children, Disabilty, Equality and Integration Roderic O’Gorman

Proposed amendments by the Minister to the Commission of Investigation (Mother and Baby Homes and certain related Matters) Records and another matter, Bill 2020

This morning.

Children’s minister Roderic O’Gorman has proposed two amendments to legislation which would seal all records of the Mother and baby Home Commission for 30 years.

Via The Irish Examiner:

The first amendment will provide for the commission to remain in existence beyond the submission of its final report to engage with the survivors, to confirm which of them want their story to be made public and those who request anonymity, in order for all those involved to be accommodated and without it delaying the submission of its final report on October 30.

The second would see a copy of the database and related records deposited with the minister as part of the archive so that the records of the commission would be held as a singular, complete archive.

This will maintain a single sealed archive, while still ensuring that the database and related records can transfer to Tusla and remain available for use in accordance with existing and future statute.

One TD, who has seen the amendments, said: “I have never gotten so many phone calls in my time as a TD as I have about this, and the public think you can open the whole thing and they won’t be able to do that. I don’t know that this will satisfy people. They do deal with some of the major issues, but I’m not sure they’ll quell discontent.”

Anger grows over sealing of mother and baby home records for 30 years (Irish Examiner)


In  fairness.

The bill will be debated in the Dáil tonight.

Previously: No Justification Has Been Given For Why This Material Needs To Be Sealed’


From top:  St Patrick’s Mother and Baby Home, Navan Road, Dublin,1960s; Dr Maeve O’Rourke (left) and Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration Roderic O’Gorman

This morning.

On RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

Dr Maeve O’Rourke, Lecturer & Director of Human Rights Law Clinic in NUI Galway, spoke to Mary Wilson on the passage of the the Commission of Investigation (Mother and Baby Homes and certain related Matters) Records and another matter, Bill 2020.

The bill, at its second stage in the Seanad, is intended to seal all records gathered by the commission for 30 years (apart from a database sent to Tusla).

Mary Wilson: “Let’s talk about what’s happening in the Seanad today, maybe first of all. They’re going to debate amendments to this Bill. What’s the significance of this Bill and what it’s seeking to do?”

Dr Maeve O’Rourke: “This Bill, the minister says, it’s just a pretty technical, small bill. The Commission seems to have got in touch with the Department to say it feel it would have to destroy the personal data that it gathered if it doesn’t get this extra legislation. It doesn’t really make sense to me because the existing 2004 Commissions of Investigation Act requires every commission to transfer every single document it gathered or created. But we don’t have a massive problem. Those of us who are advocating with, you know, clarifying that, the Commission. The bigger problem is the other part of this Bill chops off part of the archive that, under the existing act, should all go to the minister and sends it to Tusla without the minister even keeping a copy.

“Tusla has been criticised for decades and more recently extremely intensely by the very body, the Collaborative Forum of People with Experience of Mother and Baby Homes, that was set up to advise the Department of Children on what it should do with records of mother and baby homes.

They say very clearly and it’s clear from Tusla’s public statements that it operates a blanket policy of considering adopted people’s first names to be third-party data. And it operates a risk assessment of all adopted people, who apply for their name, by trying to contact natural extended family members, even where parents are dead, to try and obtain consent for the disclosure to an adopted person of their first name at birth. Now that is…”

Wilson: “But, Maeve, you know, are their clear and important issues of confidentiality here? Commitments that were given? The Minister for Children saying the information from the commission has to be protected because he’s committed to introducing birth information and tracing legislation in the future?”

O’Rourke: “Well, the GDPR is perfectly fine legislation for personal data access. But also I think what those arguments that you are reflecting there go to is the fact that, apart from what goes to Tusla, every other document in the entire archive of the Commission of Investigation is, according to the department, to be sealed for the next 30 years.

Now, that includes every single record that came from every Government department that gave evidence to the Commission that should actually be in the National Archives, every document that came from the archives of the church, the institutions, the dioceses, the bishops, of course all of the transcripts of testimony, of survivors and that, apparently, is to kept from the survivors themselves and evidence that would have been given by various experts, historians, not to mention the people who ran the institutions.

“No justification has been given for why this material, en masse, needs to be sealed. And one of the crucial amendments that we are seeking today in the Seanad and that people have put in, in the Dail, is that anonymised index would be produced within a month or soon after that by the Government when the minister gets the index. So that consultation can be had into the legislation that’s needed now to unseal further parts of the archive because they can show, by sending some of it to Tusla, that actually the Oireachtas can legislate to unseal.”

Wilson: “Can you do that though without going back to each and every individual who gave evidence perhaps or who gave statements under a commitment of confidentiality and asking them to be released from that commitment of confidentiality?”

O’Rourke: “We’re saying that the anonymised index is what should be produced now. Then there can be consultation over the legislation that releases things. People can give consent if they wish to get their statement back. But no Government department was entitled, as a right, to give evidence, that should be in the National Archives, to a Commission of Investigation and therefore to say ‘I gave my evidence in confidence, this can never be revealed’. We know that abuse of an inordinate scale happened in mother and baby homes and that the report will reveal this.

“But the report cannot be the monopoly on history and on telling history. 4,000 pages is never going to be enough to give all perspectives, to go behind everything happened. And survivors of abuse have a right to piece the history together for themselves. And our State needs to be able to learn and future generations need to be protected. And we cannot do that if we’re not willing to allow truth telling and access to information.”

Last evening: Burying Their Past

Top pics by Margaret Moloney via ‘Fallen Women’ project by Emer Gillespie


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.”

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Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone


Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone is expected to bring two reports concerning the Mother and Baby Home Commission to Cabinet tomorrow – to seek its approval to publish them.

The reports are the a) Recommendations from the First Report from the Collaborative Forum for Former Residents of Mother and Baby Homes and Related Institutions and b) the Fifth Interim Report of the Commission of Investigation (Mother and Baby Homes and certain related Matters).

The Fifth Interim report is expected to focus on burial arrangements made for women and children who died while living in the institutions under the commission’s remit.

It’s also expected to include technical reports prepared on the burial site associated with the former Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, Co Galway and the commission’s assessment of burial arrangements at the other institutions within its remit.

The institutions are: Ard Mhuire, Dunboyne, Co Meath; Belmont (Flatlets), Belmont Ave, Dublin 4; Bessboro House, Blackrock, Cork; Bethany Home, originally Blackhall Place, Dublin 7 and from 1934 Orwell Road, Rathgar, Dublin 6; Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home, Tuam, Co. Galway; Denny House, Eglinton Rd, Dublin 4, originally Magdalen Home, 8 Lower Leeson St, Dublin 2; Kilrush, Cooraclare Rd, Co Clare; Manor House, Castlepollard, Co Westmeath; Ms Carr’s (Flatlets), 16 Northbrook Rd, Dublin 6; Regina Coeli Hostel, North Brunswick Street, Dublin 7; Sean Ross Abbey, Roscrea, Co Tipperary; St. Gerard’s, originally 39, Mountjoy Square, Dublin 1; St. Patrick’s, Navan Road, Dublin 7, originally known as Pelletstown; and subsequent transfer to Eglinton House, Eglinton Rd, Dublin 4, and The Castle, Newtowncunningham, Co Donegal.

The four county homes under its remit are: St Kevin’s Institution (Dublin Union); Stranorlar County Home, Co Donegal (St Joseph’s); Cork City County Home (St Finbarr’s); and Thomastown County Home, Co Kilkenny (St Columba’s).

Previously: ‘Delay, Obfuscation And The Blurring Of Boundaries’

‘One Of The Lowest, Dirtiest, Most Mean Spirited Political Tricks’

Thanks Bebe

Screen Shot 2017-03-28 at 16.23.55Screen Shot 2017-03-28 at 16.26.07

From top: Sinn Féin TD and spokesperson for Children and Youth Affairs Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire and Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone


You’ll recall the second interim report from the Commission into Mother and Baby Homes which was given to the Minister for Children Katherine Zappone last September.

This interim report was to identify any matters that the commission felt warranted further investigation as part of the commission’s work.

Last week Fiach Kelly, in The Irish Times, reported that the indemnity agreement signed in 2002 between the then Minister for Education Michael Woods and 18 religious congregations – which served to cap the orders’  liability – may be extended to include children abused in mother and baby homes.

Mr Kelly reported:

Well-informed sources said the delay in its publication was due to the controversial nature of the proposed form of redress.

One source suggested that it may never be published if there had not been public outcry over the commission’s confirmation last month of the discovery of the remains of babies and infants at the site of a former mother and baby home in Tuam, Co Galway.

Further to this.

This afternoon.

In the Dáil, during Priority Questions.

Sinn Féin TD Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire raised the second interim report in the Dail this afternoon after asking what steps the State is taking in regards to protecting unmarked graves – other than the remains recently found at the Bon Secours mother and baby home in Tuam, Co. Galway – in order to prevent them from being interfered with.

Mr Ó Laoghaire also claimed that the second interim report does not recommend widening the terms of reference in the Commission into the Mother and Baby Homes.

From their exchange…

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire: “It’s my understanding, Minister, that the second interim report was before Cabinet this morning. The 27th of July last year, you issued a press release saying that the commission was to report back in September. That report has still not been published. Now you’ve committed to publishing it by the end of the month. It’s not published today, to the best of my knowledge. I presume it will be published in the coming days so I want to hear from you, when you intend to publish it.”

“But also, minister, to outline the reason for the delay because it has been with your department and with you for some six months now. And that has caused a great deal of concern and anxiety among survivors and I think it’s important that we get a sense of, for what reason was, what I think, was an inordinate delay in publishing this report was.”

“And also to state, Minister, it’s my understanding or has been reported that the report does not recommend an expansion of the terms of reference. That being case, I believe that the Commission [into Mother and Baby Homes] is no longer fit for purpose.”

Katherine Zappone: “Thank you, deputy Ó Laoghaire, I’m interested in your comments in that regard. I’d like to bring my comments though, responses, back to the question that you actually have asked me. As I know, I will take up some of those issues later on in terms of other questions and I think again in terms of the question about making decisions to bring forward injunctions. The Government, arguing, has the responsibility, something that we should consider, I’m saying I’m not necessarily, not willing to consider that. But my understanding and in terms of the advice that I have received that in order to do that, we need to have it brought to our attention, that there are some real concerns in relation to a preventative measure, in terms of different sites that may require, that may require an injunction. On the basis of people who have an interest in that regard. And so I would be open to hearing from those and consider the issue again in that regard.”

Acting Ceann Comhairle: “Thank you, Minister…”


Previously: ‘What’s In It That’s So Frightening?’