Opinion Piece: Access to Mother and Baby Home Records Upon Assessment Not Enough to Turn Scandal Around

The government came under fire last week as it was revealed that the government had signed the Mother and Baby Homes Bill which seals records for 30 years. The bill passed will allow a database of the names of women and children who were residents in the homes to be taken out of that archive but all other data will be sealed. 


There has been a public outcry around Ireland ever since details of the bill were announced and rightfully so, in my view. The mother and baby home debacle is an issue that has dogged the nation for much too long. These families deserve answers and closure now not in years to come.


I feel that the signing of this bill into law comes at a difficult time for people anyways during a pandemic but it means that the survivors and their families cannot protest or seek justice. I have seen teddy bears and signs left outside politicians’ constituency offices and I feel sad that this is the only way that survivors can voice their opinion and distaste at the government’s decision. 


I think it is interesting that the politicians themselves are divided in their opinions on the matter. Sinn Fein has said it is “absolutely disgusting” that some TDs have accused those supporting the unsealing of the Mother and Baby Home records as “nasty people.” This was in response to Fianna Fáil TD, Niall Collins email reply to a constituent in which he said that there was a “repulsive online campaign where some very nasty people are exploiting this situation and the vulnerabilities of some.” 


That may be the case, but I feel that the victims deserve clarity around what happened to them and justice for how they were treated by the state. The injustice and just downright cold heartlessness shown to the mothers by taking their babies away can never be overstated. 


However, after sparking unsurprising anger from the survivors the government has been forced to offer more clarity on what the new bill means. Minister for Children, Roderic O’Gorman since clarified that access to records is possible, assessed on an individual basis. “It is not absolute access by any means. We will look at each request on its individual merits.” 


My heart goes out to the survivors that this is the best response that they can get from the government after the suffering they have endured. How many hoops must these survivors and their families jump through before they get what they are asking for? – unlimited access to records. 


The state must stop trying to protect itself and take accountability for how these women and their children were appallingly mistreated. We all know just how bad the mother and baby homes scandal was for the survivors and remains to this day. 


We love to preach about mental health and mindfulness in this country but when it comes to the victims of the mother and baby homes they are left out in the cold.