The Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Inquiry has confirmed that it has recovered recordings of testimony from around 550 survivors which it previously said had been destroyed.
A major legal wrangle developed after the commission, established in 2015, published its final report last month and said it had destroyed the files in advance of its February deadline.
Ministers were challenged over whether the destruction took place in line with data protection law and with consideration for witnesses right to access personal information.
Its emerged that some survivors were apparently unaware their testimony would be destroyed following the publication of the report, which has itself come under some criticism.
Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman confirmed in the Dáil this morning that the commission had successfully recovered the audio recordings from backup tapes stored off-site.
Mr O’Gorman told TDs: “The commission has agreed to deposit the audio recordings with my Department, a commitment that is in keeping with other actions it is taking to transfer the rest of the archive to me by 28 February.
“The commission has repeatedly stated that this process and the associated actions were carried out with the knowledge of survivors and it documented this in its final report. It is clear that some survivors do not share this view. I hope the retrieval of the recordings offers reassurance to those survivors.”
He added: “The retrieval of these audio recordings by the commission is a significant and welcome development. Their transfer to my Department this week will provide an avenue for those who consented to the recording of the interview to seek access to their personal data.
“If they consider that the record is inaccurate or incomplete, they will be able to exercise their general data protection regulation, GDPR, rights once my Department becomes the data controller after 28 February. This will involve persons making a request to exercise their right to rectification after the archive transfers to the Department.
“I will publish policies containing information about how this can happen shortly. I am acutely conscious that the next steps in relation to these audio recordings will need to be carefully managed in a manner that respects both the protections afforded to an archive of a commission of investigation and the rights of all parties involved.”