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'Mother & Baby Homes inquiry discounted hundreds of survivors' testimonies

The Mother and Baby Home inquiry discounted the testimony of hundreds of survivors because it was given in private, a commission member has revealed.

Prof Mary Daly has admitted that the testimony of mothers and those born in institutions was not considered, as anything contained in the main report of the commission had to "meet robust legal standards of evidence".

Prof Daly has also hit out at interested parties who had "the nerve" to question the commission's findings and claimed they came up against "serious pushback" to their draft reports.

Survivors and representative groups have expressed shock and anger at Prof Daly's comments including her belief that allowing people give confidential evidence while the commission carried out its work was "not a wise idea". 

Reacting to Prof Daly’s comments, Claire McGettrick of the Adoption Rights Alliance said: “It's impossible to adequately convey what has happened this afternoon. I've been working in this area for two decades but I've never seen anything like it.

“The dismissive attitude towards the testimony of survivors, mothers and adopted people was frankly breathtaking.”

Some 500 survivors gave evidence to the confidential committee. In the wake of the publication of the final mother and baby home report this year, it emerged that the commission had wiped these personal testimonies and the recordings were only retrieved after intense lobbying from campaigners and politicians.

The commission separately heard from a smaller number of people under oath.

However, Prof Daly claimed that the commission only managed to get "odd snippets" from survivors adding that "nobody described really heavy work to us".

Defending the commission's report, which survivors claim does not reflect their experiences, Prof Daly said: "We have done a job and I think let it stand".

Asked about evidence given to the confidential committee Prof Daly said: “how could we have integrated the confidential inquiry into the report?” 

“Well first of all, it would have taken a lot of additional time. It would have taken hundreds of hours of cross-checking, re-reading against the other evidence available from registers and so on. Then maybe interrogation… and then maybe working out how to integrate the two.”

Findings questioned

Taking aim at the responses to some of the conclusions, she told an Oxford Seminar in Irish History: "If we wrote something that was adverse or critical about an individual or an entity or an institution we had to write a draft report, send that draft report where we made these critical observations and supply them with the accompanying documentation that we used to write that draft report and they had a chance to read that and had the chance to come back."

She said that individuals "came back with a vengeance" and the commission got "heavy push back" on their conclusions on both Bessborough and Tuam.

Tuam came back with this extraordinary assertion... that those burial tanks were actually purpose-built burial vaults, the kind of things you see in continental Europe, used by Royal and other families. Stressing that it would be impossible for a "cash-strapped" local authority to build such a burial vault, she said "interested parties had the nerve to send that back to us".

Prof Daly and her commission colleagues are now under renewed pressure to appear before the Children's Committee, after turning down an invitation earlier this year.

In the Dáil, Labour leader Alan Kelly called on the Taoiseach to directly intervene to ensure the commission appear before the Oireachtas committee, "rather than appearing for people who sign up for an academic exercise".

However, Micheál Martin said that "it has never been the case that those that do the work of the commission come before Oireachtas committees".

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