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"We're the ones who lived this our whole lives": Mother-and-baby home residents have some advice for the Government

Groups representing children born in the homes and women who gave birth in the institutions have been setting out their priorities for the investigation.

Tributes left at the 'angels plot' in Bessborough House in Cork.
Tributes left at the 'angels plot' in Bessborough House in Cork.
Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

ORGANISATIONS REPRESENTING CHILDREN born in mother-and-baby homes — as well as a group supporting women who gave birth in those institutions — have been setting out what they want to see included in the Commission of Investigation announced by the Government.

Children’s Minister Charlie Flanagan confirmed yesterday that a wide-ranging investigation is to take place “with full statutory powers to examine all matters pertaining to mother-and-baby homes throughout the state”.

The Taoiseach later confirmed in the Dáil that the Protestant-run Bethany Home, where 222 children died, will be included in the new inquiry, which is expected to be set up before the Oireachtas summer recess. There are also calls for the Magdalene Laundries to be included.

A number of groups, including the Bethany Homes Survivors, the Adoption Rights Alliance, Adoptions Rights Now and Irish First Mothers hosted a press conference in Dublin this evening, ahead of a second night of debate on the issue in the Dáil.

Memorials

ARN Chairman Paul Redmond, who was born in the St Peter’s Home in Castlepollard, Co Westmeath, called for funds to be made available immediately for memorials to the children who died in the homes.

“For example the Bethany Home survivors have already been given the funds for their own memorial,” Redmond said

“We’re calling for memorials for all the ‘angels plots’ at all the mother-and-baby homes. We believe that can be sorted out immediately without any further wrangling.

We’d also like if possible every single child buried in the mass graves to be named. Those records could actually be pulled up quite quickly in the next few weeks and handed over to survivors.

He stressed that there was broad agreement amongst all the groups represented at the event of the importance of consultation with survivors throughout the investigation process.

“We’re the ones who lived this our whole lives,” Redmond said.

We’re the ones who know all the issues involved, and we’ve been investigating this for so long ourselves.

He also raised the possibility that a judge be brought in from overseas to chair the investigation, which he said would be an “incredibly complex” one.

“Basically the entire thing needs to be inclusive not exclusive,” Redmond said.

It needs to be widened out if we’re finally to deal with how women and children were treated from the foundation of the state and why we were considered second class citizens.

Fintan Dunne of ‘First Mothers’, Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald, Susan Lohan of the Adoption Rights Alliance and Paul Redmond of ARN

Records

Susan Lohan of the Adoption Rights Alliance said she had been heartened by scenes of cross-party co-operation in the Dáíl on the issue over the last 24 hours, which she described as a “revelation”.

Under the banner of The Philomena Project, the ARA has been campaigning on behalf of Philomena Lee — whose search for her son was turned into an Oscar-nominated film — for the State to give adopted people and their families access to adoption records.

“There are 45,000 adopted people adopted from 1952 to date. We estimate there were 30,000 adopted from the formation of the state to 1952,” Lohan said.

“Many of those unfortunately will be dead and a cohort of the natural mothers will be dead now.

“But the numbers remaining are absolutely vast and the issues persist.

It might surprise people to know that we have no automatic right to our birth certs or adoption files or early-care records, which could reveal something as important as whether or not we were involved in a vaccination trial.

Criminal investigation

Fintan Dunne also spoke on behalf of the ‘First Mothers Group’ — a private Facebook group which he said provided a forum for “birth mothers to come together for mutual support and to coordinate their activities”. 

He said the Government should be careful not to limit the inquiry “in time or in scope” and called for the inclusion of a criminal probe.

Read: Give adopted people their records, says the real Philomena

Read: Commission of Investigation to examine mother and baby homes 

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