Thursday 21 February 2019

Call for mother and baby home survivors to get redress before inquiry reports

Brendan Howlin has pointed out that, in the four years since the investigation has begun, some of the survivors have died.

Flowers left at the site of a mass grave for children who died in the Tuam mother and baby home, Galway, as the Irish Government has bowed to national and international pressure over the scandal of the death of 4,000 babies who were buried in unmarked, unconsecrated and mass graves at homes for unmarried mothers. (Niall Carson/PA wire)
Flowers left at the site of a mass grave for children who died in the Tuam mother and baby home, Galway, as the Irish Government has bowed to national and international pressure over the scandal of the death of 4,000 babies who were buried in unmarked, unconsecrated and mass graves at homes for unmarried mothers. (Niall Carson/PA wire)

By Rebecca Black, Press Association

Brendan Howlin has urged that survivors of mother and baby homes be provided with an official apology and redress.

The Labour leader made the call during Leaders’ Questions in the Dail on Tuesday after it emerged that an investigation into mother and baby homes will not report back for another year.

He urged the Taoiseach to “act now”, pointing out that many of the survivors of these institutions are elderly and several have died since the commission started its investigations four years ago.

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Survivors of institutional abuse (from left) Maria Byrne, Sylvia Whelan, and Margaret Davy Cunningham during a march and candlelit vigil from the Department of Children and Youth Affairs to the gates of Dail Eireann on Merrion Square, Dublin, in memory of the Tuam babies (Brian Lawless/PA wire)

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone confirmed that the Government had extended the deadline for the commission to deliver its final report by another year.

The delay came as new documentation was provided by the department of health.

Mr Howlin told the Dail: “The original Tuam babies inquiry was meant to last three years, then it was four, now we understand five.

“Those affected by this scandal are frustrated beyond words, many of those affected are elderly, some have died, they want closure so they can have some resolution to this aspect of their lives.”

He said an inquiry is needed but survivors need help now.

“The continued inquiry may be necessary, that doesn’t mean that those affected must wait another year for some resolution,” he said.

“Do we not have enough evidence now, Taoiseach, to show that there was wrongdoing?

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People gather to protest at the site of the former Tuam home for unmarried mothers in County Galway, where a mass grave of around 800 babies has recently been uncovered, while Pope Francis helds a mass in Dublin in August (PA Archive)

“So will the government agree to now provide redress for those affected.

“If we don’t act now, for some it will be too late, it is already too late for those survivors who have already passed away in the four years since the inquiry began.”

Mr Howlin also urged Leo Varadkar to issue an apology to mother and baby home survivors.

Mr Varadkar confirmed the commission is now due to submit its final report by 2020.

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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar during Leaders Questions in the Dail. (Oireachtas/PA wire)

He said that the commission will not be able to make findings of fact until its work is complete.

“There is new material which has been received which needs to be considered and more than 100,000 pages of documents so a lot of work still to be done by the commission, although they have reassured the minister and government that they can do it by February next year and they can do it within their existing budget,” he said.

The Coalition Of Mother And Baby Home Survivors estimate that around 35,000 women and girls went through nine mother and baby homes between 1904 and 1996.

One of the homes run operated in the Co Galway village of Tuam from 1925 to 1961.

The site is to be excavated in a bid to recover the remains of hundreds of babies believed to be buried in old sceptic tanks.

Last October the Government approved the forensic excavation of the site.

Mr Varadkar said a report on the burials will be ready on March 15.

He also revealed that work is under way looking at providing forms of health and well being support for survivors.

“That’s currently being examined by the minister and will be brought to government as soon as it is ready,” he added.

Mr Howlin again urged Mr Varadkar to act now.

The Taoiseach responded: “I don’t need to wait for the report to be published next year to offer my sorrow and regret and that of the government for what happened to women in mother and baby homes and the children who were born there.

“We as a government, and a state and a parliament are very sorry for all of that, and I know the taoiseach prior to me, Enda Kenny, made a similar statement in that regard in the past.

“But we do need to allow the commission of investigation to do its work, to do it properly, to study all the documents, have the hearings, to make findings of fact and I think that’s the point of setting up these commissions, is to allow them to do their work.”

Press Association

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