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'I'll protest until I die': Call for 'forgotten' boarded out children to be given redress

Survivors say they will keep protesting until the scheme is changed.

THE REDRESS SCHEME for survivors of mother and baby homes and county homes should be extended to include all people who spent time in one of the institutions, including people who were boarded out as children, some survivors have said.

Many children who were not adopted or sent to industrial schools in the 20th century were ‘boarded out’, a precursor to fostering.

People who were boarded out as children, as well as those who spent less than six months in an institution as a child, are excluded from the current redress scheme.

Survivors, relatives and campaigners held a protest outside Leinster House yesterday.

Speaking at the demonstration, James Sugrue said criticised how people like him are excluded from the current redress scheme.

When he was eight, James was boarded out to live on a farm with an elderly couple and their adult son in Kilgarvan, Co Kerry. His two brothers were also boarded out. James was abused as a child and had to undergo forced labour.

Addressing the crowd yesterday, James described hearing in November that boarded out children would be excluded from the redress scheme as a “bombshell”.

“That bombshell struck at the very heart of those survivors who time and time again have been forgotten in the various redress schemes.

“The Government noted that the Commission’s findings that children who were boarded out in some cases experienced some of the worst abuses and evidence relating to them was scant.

“The Mother and Baby Home Commission of Inquiry failed to address what steps it took, if any, to gather the views of those who were boarded out. Many victims wanted their voices to be heard, but were not given the opportunity to do so.”

James, who qualified as a solicitor when he was 50, said the State has breached the human rights of boarded out children under the European Convention Against Torture and the European Convention on Human Rights.

He said the redress scheme needs to be extended to all survivors including people who were boarded out as children. He also wants boarded out children to receive a State apology.

“We need immediate action to include all survivors, the State has the resources to put things right,” he said.

It is not beyond the Government’s remit to rectify the injustice of the current plan and replace it with one that meets the expectations of all survivors, especially the boarded out survivors – do not let them become the forgotten children.

When asked by The Journal how long he will continue to protest for the redress scheme to be changed, he said: “Until I die.”

‘Pathetic and shambolic’ 

Also speaking at the protest, survivor Maria Arbuckle said the current redress scheme is “pathetic”, “shambolic” and excludes thousands of people.

Maria was sent from Armagh to St Patrick’s institution in Dublin when she became pregnant at 18. She finally reconnected with her son Paul last year, just before this 40th birthday, as previously reported by The Journal.

She said the exclusion of boarded out children and people who spent less than six months in an institution as a child, such as her son, is “a joke”. Paul is now taking legal action against the State over this exclusion from the scheme.

“If you asked half the mothers, they can’t remember half their time in these places due to trauma. So why can’t children be the same? What has got to do with age?

“Maybe some of us should come and join you and care professionals and sit down and discuss how it affects both us and the children.”

Addressing the Taoiseach and Minister for Children directly, Maria said: “Mr [Micheál] Martin and Mr [Roderic] O’Gorman, I’ve never begged asked for anything in my life, but today I’m imploring you (to change the redress scheme).

Why don’t you stand up and show your predecessors and the upcoming generation that you are not afraid to make a difference to these women and children who have been wronged on every level by the State and Church?

“I’m not even asking for any of this on my behalf, as none of it is of any use to me. Even the paltry monetary offer, I would gladly say ‘keep mine’ on the condition that you include everybody in the redress scheme.”

David Kinsella, who was born in St Patrick’s mother and baby institution in Dublin, told the protest: “As we all know, mother and baby homes were Catholic-run and Church of Ireland and State-run institutions (in operation) since 1922.

“It’s now 2022 – 100 years of persecution against mothers and infants, simply because of two words compiled by Church and State: ‘unmarried’ and ‘illegitimate’.”

David said the current redress scheme is “despicable and miserly” and needs to be scrapped.

Anna Corrigan of the Tuam Babies Family Group also spoke at the demonstration. Her two brothers, John and William, were born in the Tuam mother and baby institution.

A death certificate was issued for John, but not William. She believes he may have been adopted illegally in the US.

Anna said more protests will be held until survivors and relatives get “truth, justice, accountability, prosecutions and restitution”.

Peter Mulryan, a survivor of Tuam, wants to know what happened to his younger sister. He is unsure if she died in the institution or was adopted.

“Where did she go? I don’t know. Was she sold off to America or is she in that septic tank is Tuam? We don’t know.”

Peter called for the human remains found at the Tuam site to be excavated urgently so they can be identified where possible.

“It needs to be done now. Not tomorrow, now. We need to stand shoulder to shoulder from now on and highlight the truth, once and for all.”

Legislation that would pave the way for sites such as the former mother and baby home in Tuam in Co Galway to be excavated is set to be published in February.

If the Certain Institutional Burials (Authorised Interventions) Bill passes through the Oireachtas as expected, the site of the former institution in Tuam may finally be excavated – five years after a “significant” quantity of human remains were found in a test excavation.

Another Bill that would give adopted people a legal right to their birth certs, medical history and early life information is being debated in the Dáil this week.

High Court case

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has previously ruled out reopening the redress scheme.

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The Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes acted unlawfully by denying fair procedure to the survivors, according to the outcome of a High Court case last month -  prompting fresh calls for the scheme to be reviewed.

In a significant victory for the survivors on 17 December, the State admitted that the women are indeed identifiable in the final report and should have been given a right to reply to the sections relevant to them prior to the report’s publication.

Philomena Lee and Mary Harney are two of eight survivors of the institutions who took issue with the Commission’s final report and overall findings.

The women’s legal action proceeded as two test cases that would set a precedent for any future cases. Today’s settlement also extends to the six other cases.

However, the Taoiseach in late December said it is “not for Government to repudiate the report”, and said there are no plans at present to reopen the redress scheme.

Speaking to reporters before Christmas, Martin said: “The context of the High Court, that was about giving people access to the personal testimonies or the commission’s report in respect of them being satisfied with how their testimony was treated.

“They weren’t given that access when they should have been given that access – that in itself doesn’t render the entire report itself flawed.

“In terms of the redress scheme, the redress scheme was not based on the commission report, it went beyond the commission, significantly beyond it in terms of some of the suggestions that were made by the commission.

“I would say it’s a very, very comprehensive redress scheme, it’s estimated to cost over €800 million.”

About the author:

Órla Ryan

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