Wednesday 22 May 2019

National day to remember former residents of mother and baby homes recommended

The Government has announced a number of measures it is implementing following the report from the collaborative forum.

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone (Cate McCurry/PA)
Minister for Children Katherine Zappone (Cate McCurry/PA)

By Cate McCurry, Press Association

An annual national commemoration day to remember former residents of mother and baby institutions could be introduced in Ireland as part of a series of recommendations set out by a consultative group.

It comes as the Government announced a number of measures it is implementing following the report from the collaborative forum of mother and baby home survivors.

The Government is to develop a package of health and well-being measures which will be brought for approval in September.

There will also be changes to adoption legislation, a memorialisation programme and a research project on language and terminology.

Among the 44 recommendations is to erect a national monument in Phoenix Park to commemorate the mothers and children.

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone said the initiatives will make “real progress”.

Hundreds of women have been waiting for some 70 years for this day to have their voices heard Terri Harrison

Terri Harrison, who was a resident in the former mother and baby home at Bessborough in Cork, said the announcement has given her “great hope”.

“Hundreds of women have been waiting for some 70 years for this day to have their voices heard,” she added.

“I did not think I would live to see this day, ever.”

She was 18 years old when her son was adopted against her will when he was a few weeks old.

“This is a day for us. I believe this day has given us great hope,” she continued.

“We never survived, we are not survivors, we are surviving. We have learned coping skills and to live with our bereavement.

“When our children were taken from us we had to learn to live with that.”

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

A commission has been set up to investigate 14 mother and baby homes which operated between 1922 and 1998.

A number of members from the collaborative forum also spoke of the “great sense of frustration” following the Government’s decision to delay publishing the report in full for another year.

Samantha Long, chairwoman of the sub-committee on memorialisation, who was also adopted from St Patrick’s Mother and Baby Home in Dublin, said: “So much work has been put into this by so many and there’s a frustration that there may be a perception there is something to be hidden and that’s not the case.

“The minister (Ms Zappone) is acting on the Attorney General’s advice and we have no right to know exactly what that is but we hope that it will be published in early course because there is nothing to hide.

“There is a lot to be educated about and a lot of narratives do need to be heard.”

Ms Zappone said Minister for Health Simon Harris is to develop proposals for a package of health and well-being supports, including access to appropriate health and social care measures.

The minister has agreed to set up a working group with officials from her department to report back to Government by September.

Ms Zappone said: “In my own area, I am proposing to amend key provisions of the Adoption Bill to take account of issues raised by the forum.

“I am also developing a memorialisation programme and the commissioning of research on the use of language and terminology.”

The forum also recommended the establishment of an expert group to deliver an approved template of terms and language to be used to describe the treatment of mothers and children within the institutions.

It also recommended the inclusion of a module on Mother and Baby Homes in the National History Curriculum for schools.

Press Association

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