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Tuesday 5 December 2023 Dublin: 4°C Kathleen Funchion (file photo)

6-month rule and legal waiver must be scrapped from Mother & Baby Home redress plan, committee says

The Children’s Committee also said the relevant religious congregations “must contribute significant finances to fund the scheme”.

THE OIREACHTAS CHILDREN’S Committee has recommended that the Government scrap the six-month time limit in its planned redress scheme for survivors of mother and baby homes and county homes.

Under the current proposals, all mothers who spent time in an institution are eligible to apply for redress, but a person who spent time in an institution as a child is only eligible if they spent at least six months there.

The six-month rule was widely criticised when the details of the scheme were announced last November – with experts saying it did not consider “the impact of early trauma“.

In a significant development, the Committee has now formally intervened and called for the six-month rule to be scrapped.

David Kinsella, a survivor of St Patrick’s Mother and Baby Home in Dublin and long-time campaigner, told The Journal he is “delighted” with the news and “hopes the Government will listen”.

The recommendation is one of several made in the Committee’s report on Pre-legislative Scrutiny of the Mother and Baby Institutions Payment Scheme Bill 2022, which was published today.

The Committee’s report notes: “The six-month residency requirement for children must be removed. Anyone who was resident in one of the institutions should be entitled to a payment, regardless of time spent therein.”

Other recommendations include extending the scheme to include people who were boarded out (a precursor to fostering) and scrapping plans to make survivors sign a legal waiver saying they won’t pursue legal action against the State.

The report also recommends that the amount of money due to be paid to survivors should be increased and that there should be no cut-off date or limited time period for the scheme’s duration.

A spokesperson for the Department of Children told The Journal that Minister O’Gorman has received the Committee’s report and “he is very grateful to the members for giving the draft legislation their careful attention”.

“As drafting of the Bill is currently ongoing, the Committee’s recommendations will be carefully considered as part of that process,” they noted.

Contributions from religious orders

The Committee’s report also states that the relevant religious congregations and organisations “must contribute significant finances to fund the scheme”.

The Department’s spokesperson said that after the Government approved the proposals for the Redress Scheme on 16 November 2021, O’Gorman “commenced meetings on an individual basis with the six Religious Congregations and one lay Catholic organisation involved with the institutions”.

“A meeting has also taken place with the Church of Ireland. The purpose of these meetings was to outline the details of the proposed Payment Scheme and to discuss how the Congregation or organisation intended to contribute to the cost of the Payment Scheme.

“While the negotiations are ongoing they are being treated as confidential. Accordingly, it would not be appropriate to say anything further on the matter at this time. A full report on the outcome of discussions will be provided to Government when the process is concluded,” they stated.

Speaking today, Kathleen Funchion, Chairperson of the Committee, said that when preparing the report she and her colleagues “endeavoured to have the voices of those directly affected heard, first and foremost”.

“At the same time, the Committee is mindful that survivors and their advocates have been forced to tell their stories again and again, in various forums and over many years, often to be met with inaction.”

The Sinn Féin TD added: “As a Committee we have made recommendations that, if implemented, can provide a framework for real and meaningful action now. We urge the Minister and those involved in the implementation of the legislation to give the testimony from survivors and relevant experts contained in the report serious consideration and to implement our recommendations.”

The Government has previously ruled out making changes to the redress scheme – saying it will cost about €800 million and cover up to 34,000 survivors. The Bill is expected to pass in the Oireachtas later this year, but amendments may be made to the legislation before this happens.

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