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File photo Shutterstock/Evgeny Atamanenko
THE MORNING LEAD

'I spent 1,300 days there and I get nothing': Mother and Baby Home survivors consider legal action

Thousands of people are excluded from the Government’s redress scheme.

A WOMAN WHO was born in a mother and baby home in county Meath has criticised the fact certain institutions are excluded from the Government’s redress scheme, describing it as “being victimised all over again”.

The woman was born in Ard Mhuire mother and baby institution in Dunboyne, before being transferred to St Joseph’s baby home in Stamullen. She spent over three years there in the early 1970s.

The Government’s long-awaited redress scheme finally opened for applications last month. However, thousands of people are excluded from the scheme including those who spent less than six months in an institution as a child.

Certain institutions, like St Joseph’s, are not covered by the scheme.

The woman is considering legal action over her exclusion from the scheme and has engaged a solicitor to take on her case.

The Journal is aware of a number of other survivors who are also considering legal action.

In July 2022 the Oireachtas Children’s Committee recommended that St Joseph’s be added to the list of institutions covered by the redress scheme. However, it was ultimately not included.

Over 1,300 days

The woman in question is not entitled to any redress because she only spent a few weeks in Ard Mhuire before being transferred to St Joseph’s.

“I spent over 1,300 days in different institutions, but I’m not entitled to anything. It’s a kick in the gut. It’s like being victimised all over again,” she told The Journal.

The woman said she is angry at the “picking and choosing” by the Government in terms of not including all recommended institutions in the redress scheme.

“I don’t understand why certain institutions were left out.

It’s not about the money, it was never about the money. It’s about the acknowledgement and saying ‘hands up, it was wrong’.

The woman said her mother had “no choice” but to put her in an institution because she had no support from her family and faced huge stigma for having a baby out of wedlock in the early 1970s.

Her mother visited her regularly when she was in St Joseph’s and was able to bring her home a few months before her fourth birthday. The woman said her mother came under “immense pressure” to sign adoption papers but refused.

“It is a battle she fought time and time again, but she stuck to her guns.”

‘No evidence that more institutions should be added’

A spokesperson for the Department of Children, which is overseeing the redress scheme, said St Joseph’s was not included as it was a “children’s residential home” and “did not function as an institution providing ante and post-natal facilities”.

They noted that, as set out in section 49 of the redress legislation, certain institutions may be added to the scheme “should new information emerge”.

This new information would have to confirm that an institution was “established for the purpose of providing pregnancy related and infant care services and the placement of children for the purposes of adoption or care arrangements, and in respect of which a public body had a regulatory or inspection function”.

“The Department has no evidence that any other institutions should be added to the Scheme,” the spokesperson added.

Around 34,000 people are eligible to apply for redress under the scheme, which is estimated will cost around €800 million. However, some 24,000 survivors are excluded from the scheme.

Compensation for mothers starts at €5,000 and increases based on the duration of their stay and whether or not they engaged in ‘commercial work’.

TDs last year labelled the redress scheme “morally obnoxious” and “callous” because it excludes people who spent less than six months in an institution as a child.

The scheme also does not specifically cater to people who were boarded out as children, a precursor to fostering; people who were subjected to vaccine trials; and people who experienced racism or other discrimination in the system.

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