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Ethical Protocol

TRUTH RECOVERY STRATEGY: Mother and Baby Institutions and Magdalene Laundries in Northern Ireland

ETHICAL PROTOCOL

Introduction

This is a unique project established by the Northern Ireland Executive. An independent Panel has been appointed whose membership has the expertise necessary to work alongside survivors of Mother and Baby / Magdalene Laundry Institutions and their relatives to evaluate the suitability of different processes of investigation or inquiry and to recommend the process most appropriate to meet the needs and expectations of survivors and relatives.

The Panel members are Deirdre Mahon, Professor Phil Scraton and Dr Maeve O’Rourke Click Here to read about the Panel

The Research Assistant for Truth Recovery Panel members is Ms Darcy Rollins.

The Project Brief is available to view Here – Truth Recovery Design Project Brief > Truth Recovery Strategy.

Over the coming months, sessions will be held with survivors and their relatives (in groups or individually, in writing or verbally, whichever is preferred) to identify their priorities in order to design the form of investigation / inquiry that they consider will meet their needs and expectations. All listening sessions will be confidential – in other words, they will not be open to members of the public other than survivors and their relatives. The Panel has been tasked with making recommendations that will be made public; however, no individual’s personal information will be included in the Panel’s report and recommendations.

While some survivors and relatives have been involved in long-term campaigns to access truth and justice, others will be making contact about their experiences for the first time.

Those who contact the Panel seeking personal or family support will be referred to a specialist helpline established for this project and giving access to counselling services if appropriate.
Click here on the FAQ Section which has information about ‘What supports are available to me now?’

Ethical Standards

Principles

The Panel recognises that participation in this process is likely to cause hurt and upset to all who recount their experiences in making recommendations for a future investigation / inquiry. Therefore, the process will:

  • recognise and guard against the potential harm caused to survivors/ relatives through their participation in the process
  • acknowledge Panel members’ duty of care towards survivors/ relatives and collectively in group discussions involving survivors / relatives
  • ensure that involvement in the process is voluntary and consensual, affirming the right of participants to withdraw at any time
  • guarantee participants’ right to privacy in all written or verbal contributions, which will be anonymised
  • maintain confidentiality, particularly concerning publication of, or discussions about, the Panel’s work while it is in progress
  • support participants who request personal advice by referring them to the confidential counselling services attached to the Panel’s work
  • reflect the range of views expressed by participants that will inform the recommendations made to the Executive

Confidentiality

When people are consulted, particularly when disclosing personal information about their lives and their family relationships, it is essential that their confidentiality is protected. This means that they will not be publicly identified and the information they provide will be used only for the purposes of the Truth Recovery Design process. Personal information given on the Registration of Interest form and in interviews, group discussions or meetings, will be confidential and will not be shared by the Panel or its administrative support team without consent. The Panel will provide the option of meeting with other survivors in a group consultation, but this will operate only on a voluntary basis. Participants will be expected to respect the confidentiality of others.

Disclosure of criminal offences

An exception to the above guarantee of confidentiality is that, if you choose to name a specific individual who perpetrated abuse, the Panel will be duty-bound to report the information and your name and contact details to the police or other relevant authorities if (1) we believe there is a current child protection concern (in other words, that children may be suffering, or are likely to suffer, significant harm), (2) we believe that a person is at risk of serious harm, or (3) you disclose information about any person who was engaged in a criminal activity that might be expected to attract a custodial sentence of 5 years or more.

Gathering Information

The Panel and its administrative support team will seek participants’ consent before making notes of one-to-one interviews or group discussions. Participants may request a copy of the anonymised note of their discussion with the Panel at any time before the conclusion of the Panel’s work. 

Data Security

Personal data gathered from survivors and relatives during the process will be recorded and safely stored on password-protected and encrypted secure laptops and computers. Personal data submitted on paper will be kept secure by the Panel’s administrator, Marion Coyle. 

The Department of Health, as the Commissioner of the Panel’s work, has provided the secure laptops and computers which the Panel is using for this process. The Panel members and the Panel administrator alone will have access to this information system. The exception to this is that, in the event of a technological issue, a government technology expert may need to access the Panel’s information system but this will be permitted only to the extent strictly necessary and under strict confidentiality obligations. 

Personal data gathered in this process will be held only for the duration of the Panel’s work, which is due to finish at the end of September 2021. 

Before the Panel finishes its work, you will have the opportunity to request that your contact details are passed on to those appointed to develop the next stage of the investigation or inquiry. 

When the Panel has fully completed its work and delivered its report and recommendations to the Northern Ireland Executive via the Inter-departmental Working Group, all personal data gathered will be securely destroyed, unless you specifically request otherwise.

For more information about your rights as a data subject, please see the Panel’s Privacy Notice here Panel’s Privacy Notice

Stages in the Consultation Process

  1. Registration of Interest

Those contacting the Panel by mail, email or telephone will be asked to complete a Registration of Interest form. 

The Registration of Interest form asks for basic personal details, including the connection which the person has with the Mother and Baby or Magdalene Laundry institutions. The form also records the person’s contact details and any preferences they have regarding how they wish to be contacted. The form states that a Panel member will contact the person as soon as possible after the form is submitted to explain the process in more detail and invite their participation. 

All Registration of Interest forms will be kept confidential, in accordance with the Panel’s Privacy Notice and Ethical Protocol.

  1. Research 

The Panel intends to ensure that its facilitation of this process, its responses to survivors’ and relatives’ experiences and views, and its recommendations are based on international best practice. The Panel has considerable experience of the full range of investigations and inquiries that could be adopted to address the needs and demands of survivors and their relatives. An additional short period of research and consolidation of knowledge is required, however. The Panel welcomes written submissions from survivors and relatives, and from other individuals and organisations with relevant knowledge of investigation and inquiry processes. 

  1. Listening Sessions and Response Form

The Panel will create a written and video-recorded presentation outlining various options for an investigation / inquiry framework, and a list of key questions, to frame a series of listening sessions with survivors and relatives.

These listening sessions will take place in one-to-one format and in groups, depending on the participants’ preferences and the numbers of survivors and relatives who wish to partake. 

The Panel will also issue a Response Form which survivors and relatives can use to record their views and preferences (this form can be used by participants in addition to, or instead of, attending a listening session).

  1. Comments on draft summary of key findings from the listening phase

The Panel will draft a summary of key findings from the listening phase and will invite survivors and relatives to review this summary and make any further submissions that they wish.

  1. Final report and recommendations

Following this, the Panel will write a report with recommendations to the Northern Ireland Executive based to the best of the Panel’s ability on survivors’ and relatives’ contributions and containing a robust rationale for the recommended approach to investigation / inquiry.

The Panel does not envisage undertaking a process of seeking comments or edits on a draft of its final report and recommendations, due to the large number of survivors and relatives who are participating in the process and the tight timeframe for completion of this project. The Panel is aware that the strength of its recommendations will rely on support from survivors and relatives; therefore, the process of writing up the final report and recommendations will have survivors’ and relatives’ expressed needs and preferences as its paramount guiding concern.

CLICK Below to download the full Project Brief (PDF Format)