THE INVESTIGATION INTO mother-and-baby homes in the State must cover all the key issues.
That’s according to Sinn Féin Health and Children spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD, who was speaking tonight at the conclusion of the Sinn Féin Dáil debate on the homes.
“One of the lucky ones”
Over the past two nights, TDs spoke about their thoughts on the homes and the recent Tuam home discovery, during the debate. There was widespread shock and disgust at the treatment of children and mothers at the homes and by wider society.
Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett told the Dáil that he was born in a mother-and-baby scheme, and was “one of the lucky ones who escaped out of the mother-and-baby home”.
He was adopted out of the home, and said others “suffered a terrible fate”. He called the issue “an appalling stain on our history”.
Meanwhile, Deputy Mary Mitchell O’Connor questioned whether the women in the homes were “victims of paedophiles, victims of incest, or victims of feckless men”.
Terms of Reference
Ó Caoláin said it is essential now “that we set the proper and appropriate terms of reference for the Commission of Investigation”.
Its scope needs to be wide enough to cover all the key issues involved in the scandal of mother and baby homes. At the same time the terms of reference need to be clear and comprehensive, while making possible a timely conclusion to the work of the Investigation.
He believes the investigation must not focus only on the Bon Secours institution in Tuam but on all such mother and baby institutions that existed in this State in that era.
It is essential that there is a full examination of the regimes in those institutions – I will not call them homes. This must include the manner in which the women were treated –their accommodation, their food, their medical care or lack of it, the work the women were required to do.
He added that it must include also the manner in which the children were treated, as well as finding out why the infant and child mortality rates were so high in these places.
The Sinn Féin TD said that the Commission must also investigate the extent of neglect of the children, especially in terms of malnourishment; adoption practices; and experimentation on children.
“I believe we have, collectively, made progress this week, towards finding the truth,” he concluded.
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD said survivors and advocacy groups should be consulted on the terms of reference. Given the age of many of the survivors, he said that redress schemes, including counselling, should be put in place as quickly as possible.
He said the party believes that the Commission should be in place before the summer recess.