The Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes Terms of Reference provided that it could make recommendations that it considered appropriate. The Commission says that the two main issues raised by former residents of the institutions that were investigated were as follows:-
- Perceived deficiencies in the information and tracing systems, and
- Redress for the wrongs done to them in the institutions and/or society generally.
The Commission made recommendations on these two main issues and some related matters.
Many of the former residents who attended at the Commission reported that they were critical of the information and tracing arrangements in place in Ireland, in particular of the Irish Child and family Agency/Tusla and its approach to providing information to adopted people.
The Commission noted that Tusla is not the problem, the current law in Ireland is.
In Ireland adopted people do not have a legal right to access their original birth certificate or information on their families of origin.
The Commission noted that successive Irish Governments have considered how to legislate for this matter since the 1990s but have failed as there are concerns that any legislation allowing for unrestricted access to birth information for adopted people would be unconstitutional insofar as it would undermine the right to privacy of the mother/families of origin.
The Commission recommended that adopted people should be given a legal right to access their birth certificate and associated birth information. The Commission noted that it is a basic human right to know your identity and that should only be denied in exceptional circumstances. This right should also allow adopted people to access medical information and adoption records that were created at the time of the adoption. The Commission noted that in granting this right to adopted people, a mechanism will have to be put in place to allow the birth mother to protect and argue for her right to privacy if she does not agree with this information being disclosed.
The Commission also recommended that a central repository be created to hold all the records of the institutions and the adoption societies to make sure all of the information is in one place.
The Commission has been asked by residents of the institutions to consider renaming “adoption” in these institutions as “forced adoption”. It said that it could not agree to this request as it found very little evidence that children were forcibly taken from their mothers and, after their legal introduction in 1953, adoptions were very popular because mothers who wanted to keep their child lacked the family and community support to do so, and women could leave the institutions sooner if the child was adopted.
The Commission recommended that there be some form of memorialisation but that ultimately this is a matter for the former residents. The Commission felt that local authorities should be in a position to fund local memorialisation projects and that if there is to be an all-Ireland memorial this should be discussed with the various groups representing the former residents before funding is made available for such a project.
The Commission suggested that the Irish Government might give consideration to establishing a specific fund for current disadvantaged children and perhaps naming it after the children who died in Tuam.
The Commission also suggested that a number of scholarships should be created for further research in memory of all the children who died in these institutions and that children from disadvantaged households should be given preference when awarding these scholarships.
The Commission found that some children born in these institutions were boarded out, some were treated well others were not. A small number inherited farms and property from foster parents and had to pay taxes that birth and/or adoptive children did not. The Commission is of the view that an ex-gratia payment could be made to compensate for this.
The Commission also made a number of recommendations on how the records of the Commission and the various stakeholders should be dealt with and the Commission encouraged the stakeholders to make more documentation publicly available and recommended that the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth appoint a qualified archivist to draft a guide to the records that are of interest to those who have either a personal or academic interest in the history of women and children in residential institutions.
The Commission made recommendations on the issue of redress which we will cover in a blog later this week.