Organisation says people are suffering “huge distress” as result of public debate on Mother and Baby Homes legislation
Aitheantas, the adoptee identity rights organisation, has called on the Government to immediately introduce free mental health supports for adoptees and survivors of Mother and Baby Homes.
Aitheantas is the organisation behind the ‘Repeal the Seal, Open the Archive’ petition, which has attracted over 189,000 signatories as of this morning, calling on the Government to allow adoptees and survivors to access the database prepared by the Mother and Baby Home Commission of Investigation.
Commenting today (28.10.20), Maree Ryan-O’Brien, founder of Aitheantas, said: “We urgently need mental health supports in place for adoptees and survivors of Mother and Baby Homes. The debates in the Oireachtas over the past week were really difficult for our community and have caused huge distress, with severe implications for people’s mental health.
“People have been panicked, wondering will they get their file, will files be destroyed, are they running out of time to access their personal data, will the report be published. These fears were combined with re-traumatisation and raw emotion as this issue was discussed in both Houses of the Oireachtas and played out online and in the media.
“I am an adoptee myself, and hundreds of people are contacting me buoyed up by the support #RepealtheSeal is getting, but still anxious and uncertain as to the status of the bill and what access they will have.”
Mental Health Supports in Advance of Commission’s Report
“Our immediate concern now is that the Commission’s report is due in the coming weeks and we know that the contents will be harrowing,” continued Ms. Ryan-O’Brien. “This will cause even greater distress for survivors and adoptees. What we need – urgently – is for Minister Roderic O’Gorman to put mental health supports in place in advance of the Commission report being published. People need to kn ow there is a helpline and other supports available, and that they can easily access those if they need to.
“Media reports this morning indicate the publication of the report is being delayed until towards the end of the year. This means there is no excuse for the Minister not to take swift action to address the mental health needs of our community.”
Clarity on Access to Personal Information
Ms. Ryan-O’Brien said adoptees and survivors of Mother and Baby Homes are also calling for clarity on access to personal information and how the Government intends to reconcile provisions in the new Act with GDPR and data concerns.
“The Government needs to move rapidly to introduce legislation to ease our concerns over access to personal data,” she said. ““We have concerns over Tusla’s role as a gatekeeper to files and information. This needs further discussion. We also need to ensure that future developments in relation to Mother and Baby Homes are truly representative and inclusive. Many adoptees and survivors were not involved in the work of the Commission, due to its limited remit. They must have a voice on the way forward.
“We need systemic change. As evidenced by the thousands of people signing our petition, the people of Ireland are strongly rejecting legislation that continues our State’s legacy of secrecy. We want legislation for the country we want to be, not the country we once were.”