THOUSANDS of people have signed an online petition calling for the seal to be lifted on archives testimony from survivors of Mother and Baby Homes.
The controversial Commission of Investigation (Mother and Baby Homes and certain related Matters) Records, and another Matter, Bill was passed in the Dáil on Thursday night, with 78 votes in favour and 67 against.
On Friday, Aitheantas, the adoptees’ rights group launched an online petition entitled ‘Repeal the Seal, Open the Archive’.
The petition has already amassed over 140,000 signatures.
Opposition parties have strongly criticised both the Bill and the Government's refusal to accept any amendments to it.
Speaking earlier this week Social Democrat TD Holly Cairns expressed bitter disappointment that the Bill had been passed.
“I am sick to my stomach that the State has let the survivors down yet again.
“I want to thank everyone who got in touch with me about this and I want you to know that I will keep fighting for justice,” she said.
“People want justice and accountability for the survivors of these horrific institutions. Survivors or their families have reached out to me, sharing their stories of suffering which was compounded by years of secrecy,” Ms Cairns continued.
In a social media post on Saturday, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath said the Bill had been "grossly misrepresented".
“The Bill that was passed this week did not ‘seal’ or ‘bury’ the records for 30 years, as has been claimed.
“In fact, the Bill protects and saves the records.
"The Bill prevents the records from being destroyed at the end of this month,” he stated.
The Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes, established in 2015, is due to publish its final report later this month after a number of delays.
The Commission was established to inquire into the treatment of women and children in 14 Mother and Baby Homes and four county homes between 1922 and 1998.
In his post on Facebook, Mr McGrath stated that earlier this year the Commission informed the Minister for Children that it had created a database tracking who was in the main Mother and Baby Homes, but “it did not feel it had a legal basis to transfer that database and would be compelled by law to redact the valuable information”.
“The new law allows the database to be preserved and transferred to Tusla (with whom most of the original records are already held).
“It prevents the information from effectively being destroyed, and will allow access to that information under existing laws.
“Failure to pass the new law would have resulted in an incomplete archive transferring and in the database being effectively destroyed and unavailable for information and tracing.
“This would have been a scandal. We could not allow this to happen,” Mr McGrath said.
“The ‘sealing ’ of the records is not part of the legislation that we have been voting on in the Dáil this week.
“That is part of the 2004 act that set up the Commission of Investigation.
“The 30 year rule is nothing to do with the law passed this week.
“Minister O’Gorman has said he will bring forward further legislation to ensure there is access to the information in the database,” he continued.