LLM Students Create Website to Help Industrial and Reformatory School Survivors Access their Personal Records

May 28 2020 Posted: 10:25 IST

Students in the Human Rights Law Clinic at the Irish Centre for Human Rights have created a website to help former residents of Ireland’s industrial schools and reformatories to use the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to access their personal records that are now held by various state and charitable agencies. 

The website, www.mydatarights.ie, contains two written Information Guides which can be downloaded and used by anyone who was in an industrial or reformatory school. 

The first Guide helps former residents of the schools through the process of accessing their records using the GDPR. It also provides information for relatives of those who were formerly detained and are now deceased. In addition, it contains template letters of request. 

The second Guide helps people to navigate the website of the Data Protection Commission in order to register a complaint where they have encountered delays or difficulties in accessing their records. This Guide also contains the wording of potential arguments that can be made.

The My Data Rights project was created in collaboration with the voluntary groups, Justice for Magdalenes Research and Adoption Rights Alliance, under the supervision of Dr Maeve O’Rourke. It is not intended as legal advice but rather as public information. 

Speaking about the website's launch, LLM candidate and qualified solicitor, Cassie Roddy-Mullineaux, said: Data protection and the right of data access are fundamental rights protected under EU and Irish law. Unfortunately, survivors of ‘historical’ abuses in Ireland face many barriers when they attempt to access their information, including information which has been given to Commissions of Inquiry or Redress bodies. Through the My Data Rights Project, I hope we can empower survivors of 'historical' abuse in Ireland to use the GDPR to access their personal data.

 LLM Candidate, Mary Harney, who is herself a survivor of both a Mother and Baby Home and an Industrial School, said: "The Department of Education’s Retention of Records Bill, proposed in 2019, would have prohibited all access to every document contained in the archives of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, and the Residential Institutions Redress Board and its Review Committee for 75 years. A concerted campaign by lawyers, academics, former residents and advocates halted the progress of that Bill in November 2019. My hope now is that the My Data Rights project helps survivors to take control of their own records and testimony.

As I said to the Oireachtas Education Committee in November: When I testified before the Residential Institutions Redress Board I did so in good faith. I was not informed that my statement was to be sealed for 75 years. The Government’s Bill would create another generation of the disappeared of Ireland."