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Government must extend Commission and stop retraumatising survivors – Kathleen Funchion TD

24 February, 2021 - by Kathleen Funchion TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Children, Kathleen Funchion TD, has urged the Government to extend the Mother and Baby Homes Commission, warning that survivors have been retraumatised by how the Commission’s inquiry has been handled.

Speaking in the Dáil this morning, in support of a motion to extend the Commission, Teachta Funchion said: 

“We were all aghast at the findings of this report and at the cold, hard language used to describe the most heart-breaking of stories. I would actually go as far to say that this report has re-traumatised survivors and done a great disservice to these brave women and men.  

“Minister, there are several fundamental reasons why the Commission of Investigation should not be allowed to dissolve. Firstly, it is obvious to all who are in constant contact with survivors that many survivors have not fully read the report which has meant that they have not had the opportunity to alert the commission of serious anomalies with their testimonies. 

"There is also the outstanding issue of accountability around the legality of the Commission destroying survivor testimonies. And whilst I am very relieved that you have located these testimonies I think finding them makes it more important that the commission remains in situ. There has to be questions answered about why the Commission believed they could destroy these testimonies in the first place.

“The report specially states in the Confidential Committee section that- and I quote- ‘the person’s full story is retained’ if this is what the Commission has publicly stated in the report, why were they destroyed? On who’s authority were they destroyed and why is the Government not listening to the opposition benches again as we call for greater transparency, great accountability and for honesty? 

“The importance of personal testimony has shown time and time throughout history to play a vital role in our understanding, in our appreciation of the sacrifice that so many have made and gives modern generations an opportunity to understand their history, however painful or confronting that history may be. 

“The personal audio recordings taken after the war of independence and the Easter rising have been vital in understanding who we are as a people. These testimonies are just as vitally important.  

“Minister, I appreciate that you have taken a position in regard to the extension of the commission, but I must say Minister - your position on this is wrong. Again, like in October you have completely misread survivors and your dogged determination to disregard their wishes is simply incomprehensible. 

“What you can do by extending the Commission, is ensure that survivors have a mechanism to amend their testimonies to reflect their reality of what they experienced, not the report’s authors interpretation. If you are truly trying to find a resolution, you need, and I cannot empathise this enough you need to listen to survivors. 

“Minister, I have drafted a bill, I have it here with me today. This simple bill will allow for the extension of the Commission, and it is within your power as Minister to immediately stop the dissolution of the Commission and introduce this bill. I am appealing to you to do the right thing.”

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