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Government will not oppose motion for review of redress scheme for Mother and Baby Home survivors

Survivors’ groups gathered at Leinster House today to call for the redress scheme to be amended to better meet the needs of survivors.

Updated Tue 8:40 PM

IMG_20211123_124754 Maria Arbuckle Source: Órla Ryan

THE GOVERNMENT WILL not oppose a motion in the Dáil that has called for a review to address problems raised with a proposed redress scheme for survivors of Mother and Baby Homes.

Many survivors and clinicians have in recent days criticised the recently-annouced scheme for the fact that people who were born in an institution but spent less than six months there have been excluded from claiming redress.

People have pointed out that the length of time they spent in an institution was irrelevant – whether it was one day or one year, they were still separated from their mother, often against her will. Children were generally adopted, sometimes illegally; boarded out; or sent to an industrial school.  

Sinn Féin TD Kathleen Funchion, who tabled the motion, said that she was urging all TDs to back her Private Members Bill for the government to urgently review the issues that survivors have identified within the scheme such as time-based criteria, the exclusion of children who were boarded out, access to the enhanced medical card and the failure to include some institutions.

It calls on the Government to seek immediate and substantive recourse from religious orders and pharmaceutical companies to contribute to the redress scheme

“The scheme is an insult to survivors and totally fails to take into account their needs. This isn’t good enough. This Government has failed survivors time and time again. This has to stop,” said Funchion.

Minister Roderic O’Gorman, who is responsible for the scheme, said the Government would not oppose the motion.

It was debated in the Dáil this evening and will be voted on in another sitting.

Speaking in the Dáil, Social Democrats TD Holly Cairns said that “the scale of what went on in these institutions is staggering, horrifying”.

“Forced adoptions, falsified records, vaccine trials, medical experiments, missing children, mass graves, the forced separation of families, the casual obliteration of histories,” Cairns said.

“Survivors deserve justice, the public are behind them, and the government still isn’t listening. Despite what the minister claims, this clearly is not a survivor-centred scheme, nor is it based on transitional justice,” she said.

“Forced family separation is one of the worst human rights violations. The state and religious orders intentionally separated mothers and babies, stigmatised them and denied them the means to find each other.

“This is a lived and very real trauma which is obviously not bound by a minimum time in an institution.

“Someone born in a mother and baby home could have spent a week in their but a lifetime searching for their family. Under this scheme, they are not entitled to redress.

Addressing Minister Roderic O’Gorman, People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said: “Look, Minister, you’re going to have to revisit this. I’m just telling you now, you’re going to have to revisit it.”

Boyd Barrett said that “arbitrary time periods or tables of compensation linked to time periods are offensive and they completely fail to take into account the reality of coerced, forced separation of mothers from children”.

“[I] myself was born in a Mother and Baby Home where I don’t even know how long I was in – two Mother and Baby Homes, in fact, from what I understand of how long I was in them, and I’m sure a lot of people don’t know,” the TD said.

The impact could be horrendous if you were one day [or] it could be somewhat lesser if you were six months, depending on the outcome. But in every case, the primal wound of children being separated from their mothers and mothers being separated from the children is a crime that was committed by the Church and State against mothers and children, tens and tens of thousands of them.

“So, to create arbitrary thresholds that you reach where the State considers you worthy of redress is absolutely offensive.”

Survivors’ groups gathered outside Leinster House calling for the redress scheme to be amended to better meet the needs of survivors, describing it as a “travesty of justice”. 

Majella Connolly, an adoptee from the St Patrick’s Mother and Baby Home in Dublin, was among protesters outside Leinster House this afternoon.

She said the first thing to give survivors redress would be “to give us our human rights: our right to identity, our birth certs and medical history – all uncensored”.

“You can trace the full history of the cheapest packed of mince more easily than we can trace our own personal history.”

She said the redress scheme announced by Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman last Tuesday was trying to divide survivors by creating a “hierarchy of suffering, with all mothers getting something and most adoptees getting nothing”.

Connolly said the Government had reduced suffering to the length of time spent in a mother and baby home, ignoring “the long-term impact this has on mother and adoptees and birth mothers”.

She urged O’Gorman to sit down with organisations representing survivors to “fix this”.

‘Travesty of justice’ 

Anna Corrigan, whose mother had two babies in the Tuam mother and baby home, described the redress scheme as an “absolute travesty of justice”.

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IMG_20211123_121948 Anna Corrigan Source: Órla Ryan

“We’ve been through five ministers and this is the best they can come up with, together with their civil servants.

“How could anybody come up with this package? The maximum payment of 10 years plus is €65,000. There is nobody I know that spent that amount of time and a mother and baby. On average women spend one to two years, maybe three.

“Children spent three to six years … so nobody is going to reach this max of €65,000 that has been cited so regularly in the newspapers.”

Maria Arbuckle, who was sent from Armagh to St Patrick’s institution in Dublin when she became pregnant at 18, flew in from England to attend today’s demonstration

She said the redress scheme is only about time and money, saying “there’s nothing about paying trauma”.

She said Northern Ireland had handled survivors or Mother and Baby Homes “ten times better than the south ever has”.

The NI Executive accepted all the recommendations made by an expert panel last month, with a public inquiry announced to investigate mother and baby homes, Magdalene laundries and workhouses in the region.

With reporting from Órla Ryan and Lauren Boland

About the author:

Adam Daly

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