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'We were segregated in 'the reject ward'': Survivor describes experience of mixed-race children in mother and baby homes

An unpublished report has found that mixed-race children were routinely withheld for adoption and some children’s skin colour was listed as a “defect”.

File photo of Rosemary Adaser.
File photo of Rosemary Adaser.
Image: The Late Late Show, RTÉ

A MOTHER AND baby home survivor has said she and other mixed-race people were subjected to racist abuse and segregated from other people in the homes, describing their experiences as “unmitigated hell”.

Mixed-race children and mothers were subjected to “racial profiling” and stripped of their identities, according to an unpublished government report, details of which were first reported in the Sunday Independent yesterday.

The report by the Collaborative Forum on Mother and Baby Homes was given to outgoing Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone last year but it was not published following the advice of the Attorney General.

The report found that mixed-race children were routinely withheld for adoption and some children’s skin colour was listed as a “defect”. It stated that children with disabilities and those from the Travelling community were also described as defective and withheld from adoption.

Speaking on Morning Ireland today, a woman who grew up in industrial schools said, given the fact so many mixed-race people had similar experiences in the system, there seemed to be “a policy of segregation and racism directed at mixed-race Irish families”.

Rosemary Adaser, CEO of the Association of Mixed Race Irish (AMRI) and a member of the collaborative forum, said: “The treatment I received was almost identical to all mixed-race children in these institutions and the mixed-race mothers”, adding that it was the same all over Ireland.

‘Guarantee of whiteness’

The report compared segregation in mother and baby homes to Apartheid in South Africa, noting that mixed-race children “were eugenically rated for likely intelligence based in part on the nuns’ assessment of the intelligence of the natural mother and how ‘negroid’ the features of the infant were”.

“Our colour was listed on the defect section in our admission notes … We know we were segregated in what was known as the ‘reject ward’,” Adaser said.

She said mixed-race children were withheld from adoption, noting babies adopted from Ireland to countries such as the US “came with a guarantee of whiteness”.

“We were only every adopted on request, 90% of use were funnelled from the mother and baby homes into industrials schools,” Adaser said.

She has previously spoken out about the physical abuse she suffered during her time in industrial schools.

Adaser added that some individuals were not aware they were mixed-race until they were adults, as this fact was not listed on their documents or disclosed to them, saying people are “angry they were never told they were mixed-race”.

While the report’s recommendations were published last year, the report itself was not.

In a statement, Zappone said she had already expressed her disappointment that she could not publish the forum’s full report and said the document “cut across” the work of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes, which is due to publish its final report in June.

There were also concerns about publishing material that makes allegations against others “in the absence of fair procedures being afforded to the persons concerned”, the statement noted.

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Adaser said she is not sure if the forum’s report will be published, adding that she and other survivors are waiting to see what the new government, when it is formed, decides in relation to the matter.

She said it is “critical” the experiences of mixed-race people in mother and baby homes and industrial schools are heard, stating: “Lessons can and should be learned from our experience.”

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Órla Ryan

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