Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said that mother-and-baby homes are part of a "dark chapter in our past" and he wants "openness, honesty and transparency" around what happened.

He said the Government had "no agenda to bury anything" and wants to do whatever it can to facilitate access to information.

Mr Martin's comments come after the Government clarified last night that adoptees and survivors of mother-and-baby homes are legally entitled to access their personal data.

In a statement, it said it had a "detailed reflection" on the issues raised in recent days and "acknowledges and regrets the genuine hurt felt by many people."

Speaking today, the Taoiseach said that if the legislation at the centre of last week's controversy had not been passed, it would have subsequently emerged that the databases was destroyed.

He said there was a campaign on social media, a lot was written about the Government's motives that was factually incorrect and "no Government wants to bury anything".

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Mr Martin said the Government's first concern is for survivors of mother-and-baby homes.

He said it was "a terrible chapter in our lives" and it is important there is a comprehensive commission of inquiry and this "is on the cusp of being published".

The Taoiseach also outlined the Government's plans to set up a centre where all of the material from inquiries into "dark chapters" in the country's past will be housed.

Mr Martin said they will be available to people and families who would have been affected by events, including mother-and-baby homes, Magdalene laundries and industrial schools.

He said this centre "would tell a story" and would be Ireland saying that a dark part of our history is open for people to access.

"We are going to create a modern centre where all materials relating to dark chapters of our past can be housed, properly curated and available in to the future for archivists and academics," he said.

"But more crucially, available for individuals and families who would have been affected by these events from industrial schools, to Magdalene laundries to the mother-and-baby homes."

Mr Martin said it would not be just an archive centre, but would be a "centre that tells a story".

He said it would be "demonstrably and publicly seen as Ireland saying: 'this was a part of our history too an unedifying dark chapter in our history and it is open for people to see, to interpret and assess, so that future generations are under no illusions about what went on".

He added: "We are going to do that. I am very committed to doing that as Taoiseach and to make sure we have the building, invest in it, and to do so in consultation with the groups involved."


Read more:
Groups welcome access to personal data on mother-and-baby homes


Minister for Children Roderic O'Gorman said he consulted with the Office of the Attorney General who confirmed that GDPR laws do apply to the archive - meaning people will have a right to access personal information.

However, he told RTÉ News that anyone seeking to get information will have to prove that doing so does not infringe on the rights of others, and does not undermine the work of the commission of investigation.

Mr O'Gorman later clarified in a tweet that "the burden will fall" on the Department of Children "to show why the restriction is necessary, not on the person seeking the information".

The minister said that while the announcement by Government regarding access to information is "important and significant" for survivors, it does not answer all of the issues that have arisen in relation to the issue.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, he also said he is willing to meet with campaign groups, and  acknowledged that he should have "done more of that" when the initial database legislation was brought forward.

"Anything that touches on the legacy issues in this country has a deep rawness for many survivors," Mr O'Gorman said. "So I am absolutely committed to engaging with survivors and advocacy groups."

He said he made a mistake in how he did not initially engage with survivors' groups, adding that he hopes the "very substantial number of measures discussed yesterday" will be seen as a step to build trust.

The minister also said the report of the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation will be published "as quickly as possible".

Opposition parties welcomed what they termed a "U-turn" by the Government on access to mother-and-baby home records.

Sinn Féin's Rose Conway-Walsh said there must be engagement with survivors in a timely manner.

She said the Government must make up for the distress and anxiety caused and she said that could have been avoided if it had listened to survivors and families in the first instance.

Labour Senator Ivana Bacik said the development was positive and significant but she said several issues remain with the Bill and the government's handling of the process.

Ms Bacik said politicians must be attentive to the concerns of survivors and their families.

Additional reporting Aisling Kenny & Sandra Hurley