The Order which ran the Bessborough Mother and Baby Home has claimed it was instructed in 2013 to destroy “all documents” it held in relation to vaccine trials carried out on children.
The Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary made the claim via its solicitors in a letter to Tusla in January 2015 of this year which has been released under Freedom of Information.It said the instruction was issued to them by the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (CICA) – which was examining the vaccine trials as part of a separate module until legal action halted the investigation.
It said the instruction was issued to them by the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (CICA) – which was examining the vaccine trials as part of a separate module until legal action halted the investigation.
In a statement, the CICA has said it issued “no such instruction” and nor would it do so.
The Order made the claim in response to a letter sent by Assistant Principal Social Worker Pearl Doyle in August 2014 asking a series of questions in relation to material transferred by the Order to Tusla in 2011. The letter was sent as the Government was proposing setting up an investigation into Mother and Baby Homes.
A total of 23 questions were posed concerning infant mortality, burials, financial records and vaccine records.
In relation to vaccine records, Ms Doyle asked the Order where the “complete” list of vaccine records are. She also asked how children were chosen, whether the consent of the mother was obtained and, if so, where these consent forms are.
Responding via its solicitors some five months later, the Order said it had been instructed to destroy “all documents” relating to vaccine trials on the advice of the CICA.
“The Congregation handed over all records held to the HSE. The Congregation were directed by the Commission of Inquiry into the Vaccine Trials in 2013 we believe to destroy all documents in their possession or under their control regarding the trials. That Commission may be in a position to assist you in this regard,” said the letter.
However, the CICA has confirmed it issued “no such instruction”.
“The Commission did not issue any instruction to destroy medical records nor would it do so. The Commission as part of its process of wind down requested the return, or in the alternative certified destruction, of all discovery material issued to the legal representatives of those who were participating and feeding into the investigation.”
“Equally any discovery material sent into the Commission was returned to its original source eg Health Board records supplied to the investigation team under discovery orders were returned to the HSE and material supplied under discovery by other various parties to the investigation were returned to them via their legal representatives,” said a statement.
Mari Steed of Adoption Rights Alliance, herself a victim of vaccine trials as a child at Bessborough, said the revelation was “gravely concerning” stating that if files were destroyed it warranted criminal investigation.
“This is gravely concerning for fellow victims who may not have been able to obtain their records or confirmation that they were part of a trial before they were destroyed. It is an outrage if vaccine records were destroyed and, in my view, this amounts to criminal obstruction of justice. It needs a thorough investigation by the relevant authorities and the Commission.”
Ms Steed, who was adopted to the USA, obtained records of her own participation in the 1960-61 Bessboro vaccine trials prior to 2000 and through a data protection request to GlaxoSmithKline.
The pharmaceutical giant also released a dossier indicating that it had been monitoring statements she had been making to the media on the vaccine trials going back almost a decade.