By Aoife Moore
A Fianna Fáil TD has accused those supporting the unsealing of the Mother and Baby Home records of “fake news” and “exploiting the situation”.
Niall Collins, the Fianna Fáil representative for Limerick was replying to an email he had received along with area TDs Patrick O’Donovan and Richard O’Donoghue from a Limerick constituent concerned by the controversial legislation passed in the Dáil last week.
The email, seen by the Irish Examiner, said the law was “denying people who faced untold abuse and trauma the right to their own personal data.”
Mr Collins replied saying: “The choice we faced last week was pass the legislation and preserve the database of information, which will be available once further legislation has passed in the coming months, or allow the database be deleted or destroyed forevermore.
“These are the facts. There is a repulsive online campaign where some very nasty people are exploiting this situation and the vulnerabilities of some.
Please do not let the online trolls and bullies peddle their fake news and lies unchecked.
“Please do not let the online trolls and bullies peddle their fake news and lies unchecked.”
The email comes days after Fianna Fáil senator Lisa Chambers said the bill had been “politically hijacked” by Sinn Féin, and senator Erin McGreehan emailed her party colleagues saying there was a “campaign of vested interests trying to make a commodity” from the Mother and Baby Home Commission.
Mr Collins said his reply was sparked by online abuse he and colleagues have received.
“I’ve never in my life been subjected to such an online hate campaign,” he said.
“I’ve been called a scumbag, a bastard, people have said: ‘I hope you die. I hope you get Covid – watch your back’.
“I really think that people who are directing this abuse at public reps should inform themselves and should consider what they’re saying.
“It’s unprecedented and it’s being politically orchestrated for political purposes, look at who is pushing this.”
When asked who was politically motivated, Mr Collins said the opposition “for both” to win votes and rile up the public against the government, and that people should study who are orchestrating the campaign.
“There’s a political agenda here, all these people are politically motivated, the opposition are exploiting the situation.”
For a flavour of the sort of things Government TDs have been saying about campaigners out of the glare of these public fora where they will be engaged with, here’s a redacted email from FF TD, Niall Collins which was sent on to me.
This is Simon Harris’ Junior Minister. pic.twitter.com/aK0bwVIO8l
— Simon McGarr (@Tupp_Ed) October 26, 2020
Social Democrat TD Gary Gannon, reacting to the email said: “It’s absolutely pathetic, a Trump level of willful ignorance being demonstrated by Fianna Fáil.
“They have misread the mood of the public and got it wrong, it’s an old style of politics to feel superior to the people you’re supposed to legislate on behalf of.
“Niall Collins and (Justice Minister) Helen McEntee need to come down off their high horse, the people orchestrating this campaign are human rights campaigners, these are not shadowy figures, we know their names.
“I was bought into this campaign years ago by (campaigner and solicitor) Maeve O’Rourke, and it was the greatest privilege of my life, there are no shadowy hands here.
“There are no political motivations and if you believe that, it’s pathetic.
“Their way of their politics is dying out, we’re not going away.
“We’re not going to accept the secrecy and the manner in which the parts of our dark history are being covered up.
“They can get in the sea as far as I’m concerned.”
The Bill was passed in the Dáil last week by 78 votes to 67, and by 22 votes to 16 in the Seanad and will oversee the transfer of a database of 60,000 adoption records compiled by the commission to Tusla, the Child and Family Agency.
The rest of the records are set to be sealed for 30 years, however, the Data Protection Commissioner has told the Examiner that this would be in breach of GDPR.
While many survivors say the sealing of the records is against their wishes and would deny them access to their own personal data.
As of Tuesday morning, an Uplift petition to “Repeal the Seal” had 177,295 signatures.