Irish Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes makes recommendations on redress

The Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes said that former residents of the institutions investigated by the Commission had raised the issue of redress with them. Former residents sought redress for what they considered to be the wrongs done to them in those institutions and/or by society generally.

The Commission, in making its recommendations, noted that:

  • redress can be in the form of enhanced services or financial payments and
  • Former residents of the institutions investigated felt that an apology would also be appropriate.

Enhanced services

The Commission said that counselling and enhanced medical cards should be made available to those former residents who need them.

Financial redress

The Commission was clear that any decision to provide financial redress is a matter for the Irish Government.

If redress is to be considered for former residents of mother and baby homes, the Commission said that the relevant comparable redress schemes are the Residential Institutions Redress Scheme (RIRS) and the Magdalen laundries scheme.

In the Commission’s second Interim Report in August, 2016 it reported that it felt that there were inconsistencies in the decisions made to include/exclude some institutions from the RIRS. In its final report the Commission remained of this view and said that the exclusion of children from the Children’s Home at Tuam from the RIRS as “most egregious” as it was a local authority home where “many children” stayed until they were seven years or older.”

The Commission noted that the criterion for the inclusion of an institution in the RIRS was “whether or not a public body had a regulatory or inspection function in respect of that institution.” and concludedthat it was “abundantly clear that all institutions investigated by the Commission meet this criterion.” The implication being that these institutions could have been included in the RIRS from the outset.

The Commission further noted that the RIRS applied to children under the age of 18 and therefore if the RIRS (which is still in existence) was extended to the institutions under the remit of the Commission a number of mothers would be eligible to apply to the RIRS for redress.

The Commission also thought that children who had spent time in the Children’s Home at Tuam, Bessborough in Cork, Castlepollard in Westmeath, Sean Ross in Tipperary, the Bethany and Denny homes in Dublin should all be eligible to apply to the RIRS for redress.

However, the Commission went on to remark that those children, some of whom had spent very short periods in the institutions, “would find it very difficult to establish they had been abused” for the purpose of having redress awarded to them under the RIRS.

Children who had spent time at Belmont, Miss Carr’s, the Castle and the Regina Coeli resided in these institutions with their mothers and so the Commission was of the view that the issue of financial redress did not arise for these children.

The Commission was however satisfied that all the former child residents in the four county homes it investigated, who were resident in those institutions without their mothers should also be eligible for any financial redress package announced by the Irish Government.

The Commission also commented on the women who were resident in the Magdalen laundries who received ex-gratia payments because they were considered to be incarcerated and were made to do commercial work for no pay. Although the women in the mother and baby homes were not in the exact same position, the Commission was satisfied that there were some similarities between the two groups and as such that it may be suitable to consider a similar ex-gratia type payment to the women in the mother and baby homes.

There was evidence that some of the women in these institutions had carried out unpaid work on behalf of the local authority or the institutions.  The Commission found that if this was the case that these women should be eligible to apply to the Magdalen laundry scheme.

The Commission concluded by saying that those women who spent lengthy periods (in excess of six months) in mother and baby homes should be considered for redress on the same basis as the Magdalen Laundry Scheme. The payment made related to the time spent in the institutions. The Commission settled on six months as the cut off period in terms of being eligible for this proposed redress as six months was the average length of time that women spent in mother and baby home outside of Ireland.

However, the Commission was clear that after the introduction of the Unmarried Mother’s Allowance in 1973 things changed and women had other options and as such those women who entered a mother and baby home after 1973 did not have a case for financial redress.

State apology

Since the publication of the final report the Irish Government has issued a State Apology.

On 13 January, the Irish Prime Minister, Taoiseach Michael Martin apologised on behalf of the State for the “profound generational wrong visited upon Irish mothers and their children” in mother and baby homes and county homes”. Mr. Martin said “the Irish State funded these institutions” and had authority for directing their operation. “This authority was not exerted, and the State’s duty of care was not upheld. The State failed you, the mothers and children, in these homes.”

The Roman Catholic Church in Ireland and those religious and other charitable organisations responsible for operating several mother and baby homes have also issued separate apologies.

It has also been confirmed at the end of last week that Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman has written to the primates of the Church of Ireland and the Roman Catholic Church, as well as to the religious congregations and the associated charities asking them to read the report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes and meet him to discuss their own apologies to victims, contributions to the redress fund and access to records for survivors.

Minister O’Gorman has given a commitment to bring forward proposals for a redress scheme by the end of April 2021.


Katrina Gray, Partner, BLM
katrina.gray@blmlaw.com

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