Mother and Baby Homes GDPR U-Turn Encouraging

29 October 2020

Ivana Bacik

Reacting to news that the Government will enable survivors of Mother and Baby Homes to access their personal records under the GDPR, Labour Seanad Group Leader and Spokesperson for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration, Senator Ivana Bacik said:

“News that survivors will be able to access personal data, following advice from the Data Protection Commission and the Attorney General to the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration is very welcome. I am encouraged to see this U-turn from Government following the passage of the Commissions of Investigation (Mother and Baby Homes) Bill last week.

“Throughout the debate on the Bill, I and my colleagues in the Labour Party consistently put forward our view as to the need for the relevant records to be respectfully preserved and rendered accessible to survivors and their families. This is in line with the overwhelming sentiment expressed in the many emails and calls from survivors received by us in recent weeks.

“In the Seanad last Friday, I read breaking news from the Irish Examiner into the record which revealed that the Data Protection Commission had said that the Bill breached European and Irish law in relation to personal data access rights. Despite these reports, the Bill was passed without any adequate amendments and the Minister at the time did not accept our arguments or amendments on this point.

“Now that the Government has belatedly acknowledged the primacy of the GDPR in regulating survivors’ access to their own data, this right must be fully vindicated by the State. Survivors must be empowered to request access to their own personal data and the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth must be a proactive data controller, providing information to survivors in all cases where it is possible to do so under GDPR.

“Despite this significant, positive development, several issues with the Bill and the Government’s handling of the process remain. As politicians, we must be attentive to the concerns of survivors and their families.

“The news that survivors will be able to access their own personal information will be a great relief to many people today. Survivors and activists groups who led the campaign to provide such access are owed a debt of gratitude for their work.

“Now that some steps are being taken by government to address this issue, I am calling on Minister O’Gorman to consider the implications of this decision for other archives containing the records of survivors of institutional abuse, namely those associated with the Ryan and McAleese Reports.

“Furthermore, once the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes’ report has been published, it must be given adequate time for debate within the Oireachtas and beyond. Enhanced supports must also be provided to support organisations, survivors and their families. Labour will continue to play a constructive role in Opposition to ensure that right is done by survivors.”