17 May 2022

Destroying evidence another insult to Mother and Baby Home survivors, says Kilkenny TD

'Pay student nurses and midwives now, demands Carlow TD Kathleen Funchion

Carlow/Kilkenny Fine Gael TD Kathleen Funchion

Instead of bringing closure and comfort, the Mother and Baby Homes report has brought a renewed sense of abandonment to many survivors who have so bravely shone a light on this shameful chapter in our country’s history, says Carlow Kilkenny TD Kathleen Funchion.


"There has been huge upset at the tone and language used in the report’s findings - destroying survivors’ own testimonies is the final insult.


"For many women, it took all the will and courage in the world to share and articulate their experiences of being detained in these institutions and having their children taken away from them. 


"Abandoned, they have spent their lives soldiering alone carrying these memories of unthinkable cruelty.


"Finally, they felt that the Mother and Baby Homes Commission would give them a platform to lay it all out on the table. After generations of the state turning the other way, these women were finally going to be listened to.


"They came forward and shared deeply personal and distressing experiences. But what has transpired in recent months has once again done them an enormous disservice and left them cold.


"Survivors are tired and deflated. They have been subjected to considerable distress.


"First, in October, prior to the report being released, the government caused significant distress and confusion when they rushed through legislation to seal mother and baby homes records.


"Then, last month, we had the report leaked to a Sunday newspaper before survivors and their families had seen it. This was a crass move. 


"This isn’t a game, this shouldn’t be seen as a scoop. This is people’s lives. There was simply no justification for the report being leaked before survivors had sight of it.


"The report itself fell far short of what survivors had been hoping for. The findings do not tally with lived experiences, and the tone and language has caused offence.


"Survivors and analysts are united in their belief that the report was biased in favour of church and state - it downplayed the actions of both.


"They were also underwhelmed, to put it mildly, by the Taoiseach Micheál Martin’s mealy-mouthed apology where he framed what went on a societal issue rather than facing up and accepting responsibility of church and state.


"Now, the latest insult we are hearing from survivors is that their records and testimonies were going to be destroyed.


"Minister Roderic O'Gorman told the Oireachtas Children, Disability, Equality and Integration Committee that the commission asked for testimonies on the understanding that they would only be used as an aide memoire for compiling the report and would then be destroyed.


"But survivors tell me that this was never explained to them. They say that was never the basis on which they gave evidence to the commission. Having read the report, they cannot find or identify their testimonies in the findings. Or, when they do, they feel what was presented in the report does not tell the true story of the evidence that they gave.


"Then, when they go to check their testimony with the commission, it seems that records have already been destroyed. 


"This leads to very serious questions, which we sought answers from at the Oireachtas Committee yesterday from Minister O’Gorman.


"What has been destroyed to date? Can anything that has been destroyed be restored?


"As it stands, the commission, which has refused to appear in front of the Oireachtas Committee, is due to be dissolved at the end of the month. 


"This cannot be allowed to happen with so many questions left to be answered. 


"They cannot be allowed to sail off into the sunset. Survivors deserve better than that.


"As well as protecting survivors’ testimonies, we need to give them greater supports and rights.


"Today [Wednesday], I will introduce legislation to give survivors access to their birth records. 


"The Civil Registration Amendment Bill will give a legal right to any adopted person to access a copy of their birth certificate.


"Survivors have spoken of their distress at the current cruel and unfair system which refuses to give them access to their own records. 


"Current processes see their requests delayed and refused, when they are simply seeking fundamental information about their own lives.


"They have shown immense courage in sharing their stories and we have a duty to listen to them and to act.


"They need more than kind words, they need action to address their needs. Ensuring survivors can access their own birth certificates is a vital first step towards meeting their needs. 


"The right to access records is already in place in the north and in Britain. It is time to ensure it happens here too.


"We cannot in good conscience allow more unnecessary and unfair delays to stand in their path. 


"Nothing can undo the horrific harm of the institutions, but we can do the right thing now by ensuring survivors are not subjected to any further distress."

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