Hogan Lovells welcomes Irish Government's commitment to the publication of the Commission of Investigation Report into Mother and Baby Homes and to implementing the right of access to personal records under the GDPR

London, Dublin, 30 October 2020 – As part of its pro bono  advisory work for the CLANN Project, a joint initiative with Adoption Rights Alliance (ARA) and JFM Research, Hogan Lovells welcomes the Irish Government's announcement on access to information for those affected by historical abuses in the 20th century Mother and Baby Homes in Ireland. The Commission is due to deliver its final report to Government today examining what happened in the Homes.

Between 1922 and 1998, widespread forced adoptions of children born to single mothers occurred in Ireland, leading to ongoing severe and unnecessary harm to many affected families. Hogan Lovells supported ARA and JFM  Research to prepare the CLANN Report for submission to the Commission of Investigation. The latest acknowledgment from the Irish Government should make it easier for survivors, adopted people and their mothers to access important personal information. It also signals a more transparent approach by the Irish Government, following a controversial Commission of Investigation Records Bill 2020 passed by the Irish parliament last week. Ministerial briefing documents indicated that the Government had intended to 'seal' the archive of witness statements and other records for the next 30 years.

Importantly, the announcement is also relevant to the Government's handling of the de facto 'sealed' archives of the McAleese Committee on the Magdalene Laundries and the Ryan Commission on residential schools, among other Commissions of Inquiry and additional records of closed, secret, forced adoption and related abuses.

Faye Jarvis, partner lead for the CLANN project said: "We welcome this opportunity for Ireland to establish a transparent and inclusive approach based on protecting human rights, and acknowledging and documenting the history of institutional and gender-related abuse. We look forward to the full publication of the report soon.  We are particularly pleased to see the Government accept a recommendation in the CLANN Report to establish, on a national basis, an archive of records related to institutional trauma during the 20th century, which will include archiving relevant records anonymised as necessary and witness testimony voluntarily deposited by survivors and other stakeholders."

Eduardo Ustaran, partner in the Global Regulatory practice at Hogan Lovells and co-head of its global Privacy and Cybersecurity practice, added: "If there is an instance where the right of access under the GDPR serves a purpose that is intrinsically linked to the fundamental right to data protection, this is it. Knowing your own identity is at the root of what the law envisaged, so it is essential that Member States’ legal frameworks are devised and interpreted in a way that allow that to be the case.  Any exemptions or restrictions to the right of access must be compatible with the fact that this right stems from the Charter of Fundamental Rights and that the GDPR sets out strict boundaries for any such restrictions."

Dr Maeve O'Rourke, Lecturer in Human Rights at the National University of Ireland and Co-Director of the CLANN project said: "We are indebted to Hogan Lovells for their dedicated and expert pro bono assistance to date. Gathering the evidence of what occurred in Ireland's 20th century system of forced family separation, and of the continuing impact of secrecy on those already profoundly failed by State and society, has been vital to our ability to advocate for a human rights-based response."

The CLANN Project looks forward to working with the Government and with the Oireachtas Committee on Children on the legislation to underpin a national archive to the highest international human rights-based standards.

The 40-strong Hogan Lovells team working on the project is led by Faye Jarvis, partner in the Pensions team, supported by Eduardo Ustaran and Andrew Eaton in the firm's leading Global Regulatory practice and Yasmin Waljee, International Pro Bono Director. The firm has been working alongside leading human rights lawyer Maeve O'Rourke and adoption researcher Claire McGettrick. To visit the CLANN Project's website, please click here.

 


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