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Tuesday 25 April 2017

More homes to face probe after 'chamber of horrors' find

Tributes at the site where remains were discovered. Photo: Ray Ryan
Tributes at the site where remains were discovered. Photo: Ray Ryan

Eilish O'Regan and Cormac McQuinn

A scoping exercise to examine if the Commission of Investigation into mother and baby homes should include more institutions was promised yesterday.

The Cabinet agreed that an exploratory exam should be carried out after calls for more county homes to be included in the investigation.

It followed the public outcry in the wake of the discovery of human remains at a former mother and baby home run by the Bons Secours sisters in Tuam, Co Galway.

The Government has made no decision as yet on the extent of the proposed scoping exercise.

But more details would be made public by Children's Minister Katherine Zappone after the St Patrick's weekend and it should last for around six weeks.

The Commission is currently charged with examining 14 mother and baby homes as well as a sample of four county homes where unmarried mothers may have been sent.

The Justice for Magdalenes group has claimed the "mistreatment and forced separation" of mothers and babies extended to the "hands of adoption agencies, national maternity hospitals, Magdalene laundries and many other institutions".

However, the group Irish First Mothers, which represents more than 60 women who were in mother and baby homes, said that it was against any extension of the remit of the Commission, which it felt would be unwise.

"The Commission is too close to completing its work and is already overburdened," it said.

"People who are affected and still living deserve the Commission to hit its February 2018 deadline," it added.

"We hope that the Commission can as much of its remaining work in public as practicable. Some members have offered public testimony."

A spokeswoman for the Commission said yesterday it would not comment on calls to expand its terms of reference.

Read more: Poignant video pays tribute to 796 babies who died in Tuam Mother and Baby home

It was also confirmed the Commission's proceedings will continue to be held behind closed doors for now.

This is despite demands that at least some of its hearings be carried out in public.

Asked about calls to have the proceedings in public the spokeswoman told the Irish Independent that there are no plans to do so at present.

She said the Commission of Investigations Act does allow for public hearings.

Meanwhile, discussions have taken place between the coroner in Co Galway and gardaí in the wake of the Tuam discovery.

The Commission referred the issue to the coroner but it is unclear what level of involvement the gardaí will have in examining the issues around the remains of children aged between two weeks and three years which date back to the last century.

Speaking in the Dáil, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the era of mother and baby homes was a "social and cultural sepulchre" or tomb.

He described the discovery of the remains of children in Tuam as a "chamber of horrors".

The Coalition of Mother And Baby Home Survivors said they were seeking a meeting with the Taoiseach.

Read more: 'Nuns forced me to change my baby's name so he'd be easier to sell' - Woman relives mother and baby home horror

Spokesperson Paul Redmond said they wanted him to meet with representatives of the survivor community to resolve the outstanding issues facing elderly, and dying Irish citizens, who have been through enough in their lives and who need acknowledgement and some substantive movement by the Government before it too late for them.

"Ireland needs to acknowledge the real scale of the horrors and the deaths of 6,000 children," he said.

Irish Independent

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