Wednesday, February 07, 2024

Probe into mother and baby homes report leak unable to find source

An investigation into the leaking of the report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes to a Sunday newspaper concluded 14 months ago, and was unable to ascertain the source.

Details of the long-awaited report were leaked to a Sunday newspaper two days before its full release in 2021.

Cabinet agreed to investigate the leaking of the report at the time, with Tánaiste Leo Varadkar saying the leaking was “disrespectful”.

Survivors of the homes were angered by the leak, many finding out much of the details of the report through the media.

In September 2021, then secretary general of the Department of the Taoiseach, Martin Fraser, said he had begun the investigation, but was “not optimistic” about finding the source of the leak.

The Irish Examiner asked in February, March, and December of 2023 for an update on the investigation, but received no response from the Department of Taoiseach.

Aontú TD Peadar Tóibín was told last week that a parliamentary question was “awaiting a response” from the department, which has since been updated with the same statement given to this paper. The department says that the investigation finished over a year ago.

The statement adds that, given the level of information which had been in the public sphere previous to the publication, it was impossible to know whether the report had been leaked at all.

“Given that information relevant to the matters in the report had been circulated widely in advance of the Government’s meeting, the investigation concluded that it was not possible to establish with any certainty whether, or by whom, information relating to matters in the report may have been disclosed in advance of the Government’s consideration of the report,” it said.

Mr Tóibín, however, said this explanation did not add up, and pointed out that the original article featured quotes from then-taoiseach Micheál Martin.

“For the Government to describe this as anything but a leak would be an insult to everyone,” Mr Tóibín said.

Social Democrats leader Holly Cairns said the approach to mother and baby home legislation, and how the report came about, 'disregarded survivors'.

“Everyone remembers that the first we read about the mother and baby home report was in the media, prior to its official publication by the Government.

“We really need a Dáil debate on this.”

Mr Martin at the time described the leak as “regrettable”, but added that “in the modern era, various Government reports ... get leaked and we certainly will be addressing that issue as well”.

Social Democrats leader Holly Cairns said that the statement was “not surprising”.

“The approach to mother and baby home legislation, and how the report came out, has been handled in a way that disregarded survivors,” she said.

NUI Galway human rights lecturer Maeve O’Rourke, who is also a member of Justice for Magdalenes Research, said that survivors will want to know the details of the investigation.