News Editorial

Friday 22 August 2014

Editorial: Time is of the essence in baby homes investigation

Published 11/06/2014 | 02:30

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Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Charlie Flanagan speaks to the media at Government Buildings, Dublin, at an announcement that a statutory inquiry is to be set up by the Irish Government into state sanctioned, religious-run institutions used to house pregnant mothers. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday June 10, 2014. See PA story IRISH Babies. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Minister for Children Charlie Flanagan. Photo: PA

The Minister for Children Charlie Flanagan has moved with commendable speed to establish a proper Commission of Investigation into mortality rates and related issues such as adoptions and vaccination trials at state-established mother and baby homes, which were largely staffed by orders of nuns and were in existence from the mid-1920s to the mid-1960s.

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This is a mammoth task and it now seems that tens of thousands of mothers and babies were confined to these homes. While it is important to shine a light on what is now called "a dark period" of our history, the commission may be able to take a more dispassionate view of what exactly happened at these homes, taking into account the circumstances of the time and the widespread political and social desire for such institutions.

Of course those of us lucky to live reasonably prosperous lives in the 21st Century can afford to look back with a certain amount of outrage at a moral and political solution adopted by the new state to what was perceived as the 'problem' of girls and women who became pregnant outside of marriage. While an investigation may show a very different picture of a very different time, it is still imperative that we find out why death rates and infant mortality were so high at these homes.

According to historian Ann Matthews, meticulous records were kept of the mothers and babies at all of these state-run homes. These are now held by the religious orders or the HSE and will be available to the Commission of Investigation. They should certainly provide a historical record as a basis for the inquiry. Taken with personal testimony from those still alive, the commission should be able to provide a comprehensive report of what went on and why 'official Ireland' went along with this solution. It is imperative that the commission begins its work as soon as possible and concludes it with as much speed as is humanly possible, given the scale of its task it will have to undertake.

Irish Independent

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