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Saturday 22 October 2016

Mother and Baby Homes inquiry 'does not want extra burden'

Published 22/07/2015 | 17:56

Chairman of the Bethany Survivors group Derek Leinster looks at the memorial at Mount Jerome Cemetery
Chairman of the Bethany Survivors group Derek Leinster looks at the memorial at Mount Jerome Cemetery

The judge-led inquiry into Mother and Baby Homes does not want to be burdened by including two more institutions in its investigations, a campaigner has claimed.

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Dr Niall Meehan, whose research helped uncover the scale of infant deaths at Dublin's Bethany Home, launched a withering attack on Judge Yvonne Murphy for failing to recommend the inclusion of the Westbank Orphanage in Wicklow and the Braemar Rescue Home for Protestant Girls in Cork.

He claimed he was told by a member of staff that the inquiry would be overburdened if it increased its workload at this stage.

At a memorial to remember the 220 babies rediscovered by him and survivor Derek Leinster in Mount Jerome Cemetery, Harold's Cross, Dublin, Mr Meehan called for renewed pressure on politicians and churches to have the inquiry extended.

"The dead children are witness to our determination. While the forgotten survivors assembled here and throughout the world hold these graves they will never be at peace," he said.

The Mother and Baby inquiry was set up after revelations last year about a mass grave at a Catholic run home for unmarried mothers in Tuam, Co Galway, where 796 infants died between 1925 and 1961.

Judge Murphy leads a team of three commissioners who are investigating what happened to more than 35,000 women and children - mostly placed in homes after being ostracised by their families - between 1922 to 1998.

The causes of deaths at the homes, burials, vaccine trials carried out on children, how residents ended up there, how they were treated and where they went afterwards will all form part of the mammoth inquiry.

Mr Meehan said it was open to the commission to ask the Government to alter the terms of reference now and include the Westbank and Braemar but he said without them and the recording of testimony from any survivors, then the inquiry will be incomplete.

"The excuse I was given was that it would be an additional burden. They have enough on their plate. There you have it. The included survivors are a burden to be carried by the commission, while those excluded will not be a burden on the state. This does not augur well," he said.

Former residents from some of the 14 homes have begun giving evidence in private.

It is expected a report on their experiences will be published in August next year along with a study of the social history of Mother and Baby Homes.

A spokeswoman for the commission rejected Mr Meehan's claims that its investigators felt they would be overburdened by seeking to include extra institutions.

"I don't know where that came from," she said.

"We are conscious of the existence of the Braemar Home and recognise that it was a pathway for babies - that is one thing we have to do, is to take a look at the pathways but we do not have the authority to extend the terms."

The spokeswoman added that the inquiry has a "huge job to do" but the option of recommending two other institutions be included remains open when any of its three reports are being filed.

Mr Meehan used the commemoration to attack the commission's continued refusal to recommend compensation to survivors.

A memorial stone marks the site in Mount Jerome where hundreds of babies lay for decades in unmarked graves until their discovery in 2010.

Among those who attended the service where Sinn Fein deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald and Reverend Stephen Farrell of the Zion Parish Church of Ireland in south Dublin and Bethany Home survivors Mr Leinster and James Fenning.

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