National Archive: General Election 2020

Survivors, academics and practitioners call on every election candidate and political party to commit to a National Archive of Historical Institutional and Care-Related Records

A coalition (individually named below) of institutional abuse survivors and those affected by adoption, along with academic and practising archivists, historians, psychologists, sociologists and lawyers, have called on all election candidates and political parties to commit to establishing a National Archive of historical institutional and care-related records. The group says that this should be a cross-party commitment, which is urgently acted upon in 2020.

The group has called for the creation of an independent national archive, as an Annex to the existing National Archives, which would provide at a minimum:

  • Access to full personal files for institutional abuse survivors and those affected by adoption, including women whose children were unlawfully taken from them;
  • Access for family members of those who died while in custody or care to information about their relative’s fate and whereabouts;
  • An opportunity for survivors and others to deposit testimony and other information for public access now or in the future;
  • Public access to the administrative records of the systems of institutionalisation and adoption in 20th century Ireland, whether currently held by private or State bodies; and
  • The extra staffing, training and records management infrastructure (physical and digital) required at the National Archives or appointed body in order to achieve the above.

A note regarding confidentiality

None of the above proposals are intended to compromise survivors’ confidentiality. It is our position that donation of testimony and personal records to the archive should be entirely voluntary. All records intended for public consumption (whether administrative or donated personal records) should also be anonymised to protect survivors’ confidentiality unless a survivor explicitly requests otherwise in relation to themselves.

This call to politicians builds on advocacy work by all members of the coalition over the past months and years. This work includes: resisting the current Government’s proposed Retention of Records Bill,[i] questioning the secrecy imposed by the ongoing Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes,[ii] and highlighting to national and international human rights bodies the failure of accountability for Ireland’s ‘historical’ institutional and adoption-related abuses (such as: the refusal to give survivors access to evidence held by the State and Church authorities, the absence of criminal prosecutions, and procedural barriers to survivors accessing the civil courts).

Rosemary Adaser, Survivor and Founder and CEO of The Association of Mixed Race Irish, said: ‘The Mother and Baby Homes Commission is due to report soon, and the next Government will have to ask,How do we provide redress?’ We say that no form of acknowledgement or redress will work if survivors do not also have the right to access their personal records and the administrative records of the systems that abused them.’

Carmel McDonnell-Byrne, Survivor and Co-founder of the charity of Christine Buckley Centre for education and support for survivors of institutional abuse, said: ‘Survivors want to know that their history will be told, that children will be educated about it, and that their testimony and lives mattered. Survivors should have the right to place their testimony, if they wish, into a national archive for the public to access now or in the future.’

Dr Maeve O’Rourke, Lecturer at the Irish Centre for Human Rights, NUI Galway, said: ‘The pattern of censorship is getting worse over time. State bodies and inquiries are refusing more and more information to survivors and the public about institutional and adoption-related abuses. Families are being denied information about the whereabouts of their deceased relatives. Survivors are being denied transcripts of their own evidence. Adopted people are still being denied their birth certificates. New data protection laws are being wrongly interpreted, and survivors’ rights are being violated repeatedly. All politicians need to stand up for what is right and commit to a truth-telling process that follows international best practice. A National Archive is an essential part of redress.’

Catríona Crowe, former Head of Special Projects at the National Archives of Ireland, said: ‘The Decade of Centenaries must include proper discussion of Irish social history. Access to information about the institutional and adoption-related abuses of Irish women and children is imperative. We need political commitment from all sides to funding this archive as soon as possible.’ 

Dr Sarah-Anne Buckley Lecturer in History NUI Galway ‘This is an investment in the future social history of Ireland and a small part of the memorialisation of Ireland’s institutions and the experience of Survivors. As part of this move to ensure historical justice, the necessary resources must be made available to the National Archives in order to be able to meet its statutory requirements under the National Archives Act (1986) and the National Archives (Amendment) Act 2018.’

Professor Alan Carr, School of Psychology, UCD, author of a study on the psychological effects of institutional abuse included in the Ryan Report, said ‘It is essential that a National Archive of historical institutional and care-related records be established. Secrecy and silencing were a central part of institutional abuse. Details about the humiliation, beating, rapes, emotional neglect and physical neglect that survivors suffered were kept secret, in many cases for decades. To move past the psychological distress and shame caused by institutional abuse and the secrecy surrounding it, survivors need accounts of their abuse to read, heard, understood and validated by Irish society. Survivors need to know that lessons learned from how their traumatic experiences were allowed to occur and to be kept secret for so many years will have an impact on preventing institutional abuse from occurring again. This will contribute positively to their recovery and the healing process’.

The members of the group issuing this statement are:

Survivors / 2nd Generation Survivors

Tom Cronin
Dr Mary Lodato
Carmel McDonnell-Byrne
Anne Grehan
Rosemary Adaser
Eileen Molloy
Elizabeth Coppin
Mary Harney
Conrad Bryan
Susan Connolly
Richard Heeney
Derek Egan
Francis Timmons
Christine Buckley
Martin Woodland
Terri Harrison


Dr Barry Houlihan, NUI Galway
Joanne Carroll
Catriona Crowe, Former Head of Special Projects, National Archives of Ireland
Conor Dent
Kate Manning, UCD Archives
Meadhbh Murphy, UCD Archives
Niamh Ní Charra, NUI Galway/ FairPlé
Kasandra O’Connell
Sarah Poutch, UCD Archives
Maria Ryan 


Dr Maeve O’Rourke, Lecturer in Law, NUI Galway
Máiréad Enright, Reader in Law, University of Birmingham
Dr Sinéad Ring, Assistant Professor in Law, Maynooth University
Dr James Gallen, Assistant Professor in Law, Dublin City University
Fionna Fox Solicitor
Helen Kehoe, Solicitor, PhD candidate at the Irish Centre for Human Rights, NUI Galway
Dr Fergus Ryan, Associate Professor in Law, Maynooth University
Dr John Reynolds, Assistant Professor in Law, Maynooth University
Dr Lynsey Black, Assistant Professor in Criminology, Maynooth
Dr Vicky Conway, Associate Lecturer in Law, Dublin City University
Dr Ruth Fletcher, Senior Lecturer in Medical Law, Queen Mary University of London
Professor Patricia Lundy, Ulster University
Rossa McMahon – Solicitor, PG McMahon Solicitors
Dr Anita Ferrara, Lecturer, NUI Galway
Dr Yvonne Daly, Associate Professor in Law, Dublin City University
Claire Bruton BL
Dr Charles O’Mahony, Head of School, School of Law, NUI Galway


Dr Sarah-Anne Buckley, Lecturer in History, NUI Galway
Dr John Cunningham, Lecturer in History, NUI Galway
Dr Ciara Breathnach, Senior Lecturer History, University of Limerick
Dr Laura Kelly, Senior Lecturer History, University of Strathclyde
Dr Fionnuala Walsh, Lecturer in History, University College Dublin
Dr Jennifer Redmond, Lecturer in History, Maynooth University
Majella McAllister, Board Member Museum of Childhood Ireland Project
Dr Cara Delay, College of Charleston
Dr Elaine Farrell, Senior Lecturer in History, Queens University Belfast


Dr Katherine O’Donnell, Associate Professor of Philosophy, UCD
Dr Joan McCarthy, Senior Lecturer, Healthcare Ethics, School of Nursing and Midwifery, UCC

Sociology / social sciences

Claire McGettrick, Irish Research Council Postgraduate Scholar, School of  Sociology, University College Dublin
Dr Margaret O’Keeffe, Department of Applied Social Studies, School of Humanities, Cork Institute of Technology
Brian McMahon, School of Humanities, Cork Institute of Technology
Professor Margaret Linehan, Cork Institute of Technology
Dr Paul Michael Garrett, School of Political Science & Sociology, NUI Galway
Dr Ian Marder, Assistant Professor in Criminology, Maynooth University
Dr Mary McAuliffe, School of Social Policy, Social Work and Social Justice, UCD
Professor Linda Connolly, Maynooth University
Professor Caroline McGregor, School of Political Science & Sociology, NUI Galway
Dr Anne Mulhall, School of Social Policy, Social Work and Social Justice, UCD
Dr Joe Mooney, School of Social Policy, Social Work and Social Justice, UCD
Judy Walsh, School of Social Policy, Social Work and Social Justice, UCD


James M. Smith, Associate Professor of English, Director, Lowell Humanities Series, Morrissey College of Arts & Science, Boston College


Professor Alan Carr, Professor of Clinical Psychology, UCD
Anne-Marie Crean, PhD student in Psychology, University College Cork
Dr Jennifer O’Mahoney, Lecturer in Psychology, Waterford Institute of Technology


Jesse Jones, artist and lecturer TUD


[i] See for example:

  • Submissions to the Oireachtas on the Retention of Records Bill, November 2019, , by Tom Cronin, Dr Mary Lodato, Carmel McDonnell-Byrne, Anne Grehan, Rosemary Adaser, Eileen Molloy, Elizabeth Coppin, Mary Harney, Conrad Bryan, Anne-Marie Crean, Dr Maeve O’Rourke, Mairéad Enright, Dr Sinéad Ring, Dr Fred Logue, Dr James Gallen, Catríona Crowe, Dr Sarah-Anne Buckley.
  • Letter to the Editor: ‘Abuse records Bill should be withdrawn’ Irish Times (4 December 2019),, signed by Rosemary C Adaser (Survivor and CEO, Association of Mixed Race Irish), Conrad Bryan, Survivor; Dr Sarah-Anne Buckley, NUI Galway; Elizabeth Coppin, Survivor; Anne-Marie Crean, PhD Candidate, UCC; Tom Cronin, Survivor; Mairéad Enright, University of Birmingham; Fionna Fox, Solicitor and Second Generation Survivor; Dr James Gallen, DCU; Anne Grehan, Second Generation Survivor; Mary Harney, Survivor; Dr Mary Lodato, Survivor and founder of Blooming Survivors; Carmel McDonnell-Byrne, Survivor and co-founder of Christine Buckley Centre; Eileen Molloy, Survivor; Dr Maeve O’Rourke, NUI Galway; Dr Sinéad Ring, Maynooth University.
  • Letter to the Editor: ‘Survivors should be in control of their own records’ Irish Examiner (7 December 2019),, signed by Dr Barry Houlihan (NUI Galway), Joanne Carroll, Catriona Crowe (former head of Special Projects, National Archives of Ireland), Conor Dent, Rebecca Grant (Doctoral Candidate, UCD), Aisling Keane (NUI Galway), Fiona Kearney (Fellow, Information and Records Management Society), Leanne Ledwidge (Irish Film Institute), Kate Manning (UCD Archives), Dr Jane Maxwell (TCD Archives), Felix Meehan, Dr Kirsten Mulrennan, Lisa Murphy, Meadhbh Murphy (UCD Archives), Niamh Ní Charra (NUI Galway), Kasandra O’Connell (Irish Film institute), Fionnuala Parfrey, Sarah Poutch (UCD Archives), Maria Ryan, Orna Somerville (UCD Archives).

[ii] Clann Project, Press Release, ‘Clann Publishes Findings of Three-Year Project on Adoption and Mother and Baby Homes’, 15 October 2018,