An Oireachtas committee has discussed plans to seal evidence given to the child abuse inquiry for 75 years.

The inquiry, which was chaired by Mr Justice Seán Ryan, published its report in May 2009.

The Department of Education said survivors who spoke to the inquiry into institutional abuse did so in confidence.

However, some survivors say they would like their testimony to be publicly available. Academics have also voiced concern about the plans.

Carmel McDonnell-Byrne, co-founder of the Christine Buckley Centre for Education and Support, told the Joint Committee on Education and Skills that: "The State's apology to victims in 1999, though meaningful at the time, is being undermined by this bill."

Ms McDonnell-Byrne, who was a resident of Goldenbridge Industrial School, said that survivors did not agree to the destruction or sealing of their records when they agreed to participate in the commission and or when they applied to the Residential Institutions Redress Board.

"They want their often harrowing experience of giving testimony to matter and to ensure that this never happens again.

"All survivors should have the right to decide for themselves if they would like to access any records relating to them.

"It's very important on our healing journey that we are empowered to make decisions and choices something denied us as children. Survivors deserve the right to own a copy of their testimony if they want it," she said.

Dr Mary Lodato, a survivor of institutional abuse, said she believes the proposal makes it look as though the State is hiding something.

She said: "This State has already robbed survivors of so much, and profited from our suffering. It must give us our history, and let us share it with the nation.

"I understand that our narratives can seem threatening to State bodies, and expose them to further scrutiny.

"However, survivors still live with shame and secrecy imposed on them. They urgently need a process of healing and reconciliation, and this requires willingness to confront the past.

"Only openness and transparency can help Irish society to take responsibility for its part in the abuse of women and children."

Another survivor, Mary Harney, told the committee that when she testified before the Residential Institutions Redress Board, she did so in good faith.

"If this bill passes it would make survivors of the industrial schools invisible once more. It would create another generation of the disappeared of Ireland. I ask you not to let this travesty of justice continue."

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Lecturer in Human Rights Law at the Irish Centre for Human Rights at NUI Galway, Maeve O'Rourke, said that without public records accountability is denied.

"We know that garda investigations were insufficient in relation to the residential schools. If survivors and their advocates cannot access information, they cannot press for investigations or prosecutions. Because of the passage of time, however, and because of the redress board legal waiver, criminal and civil legal accountability have become less available."

A solicitor told the committee that if the bill goes through as drafted it will be in conflict with European Union law. 

Dr Fred Logue, of FP Logue Solicitors, said the bill will delay access to personal data which will have a significant effect on survivors of institutional child abuse.

Mr Logue said he was also concerned about how personal data is handled in the legislation.

Catriona Crowe, from the National Archives of Ireland, told the committee that the "ostensible motivation would be presumingly to protect the names of people who were accused but not convicted that may show up in some of the statements made by survivors.

Ms Crowe said the matter can be easily dealt with through redaction.

The Retention of Records Bill was due to be considered by the Select Committee on Education and Skills at a meeting next week.

But this has been deferred while a response is sought from the Minister for Education and Skills on concerns raised by survivors of institutions and legal experts about the legislation.