Academics and survivors call for withdrawal of abuse records bill

Academics and survivors of historical institutional abuse have called on the Government to withdraw legislation which would seal abuse records for at least 75 years.

In a letter to The Irish Times, the group called for the “immediate withdrawal” of the Retention of Records Bill 2019 and for ministers to “consult pro-actively and systematically with survivors” on a new approach.

The controversial bill would seal all records currently contained in the archives of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (CICA), also known as the Ryan commission, and the Residential Institutions Redress Board and Review Committee.

The group has recommended a new approach that ensures that survivors can access all personal information that relates to them, including transcripts of evidence and all personal records, upon request, and that personal information relating to children who died while incarcerated is released to their family.

They have also called for the public release of all administrative records, anonymised where necessary, according to the ordinary practice of the National Archives of Ireland, and the opportunity for survivors to voluntarily deposit their testimony and records (anonymised or redacted to the extent desired) in a public archive, for access now or in the future.

The “gagging order” in section 28(6) of the Residential Institutions Redress Act 2002 should be amended to clarify that nothing bars survivors from disclosing their life experience to others, they added.

The Government should also ensure there is access to information not publicly released where Garda investigations or court proceedings require it, they said.

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