Northern Ireland mother and baby homes: Expert panel recommends public inquiry

In October 2021 an expert panel recommended the establishment of a public inquiry to investigate the conditions and practices in mother and baby homes, Magdalene laundries and workhouses in Northern Ireland.

The members of the expert panel, which was called the Truth Recovery Design Team are:

  • Deirdre Mahon – a qualified and experienced social worker/youth and community worker
  • Phil Scraton – professor emeritus in the School of Law, Queen’s University Belfast
  • Dr Maeve O’Rourke – lecturer in human rights at the Irish Centre for Human Rights, National University of Ireland Galway, and barrister

The panel was commissioned by the Stormont Executive to work with victims and survivors to design the format of the investigation which Ministers committed to following the publication of academic research into experiences at mother and baby and homes and Magdalene laundries earlier this year.

The Stormont-commissioned panel have also recommended the setting up of a non-statutory independent panel that would run in parallel to the inquiry and allow the women and girls who were sent to the institutions to give testimony in a less adversarial format than an inquiry hearing.

The experts have also said that redress payments should be paid to survivors at the outset of the twin-track process.

The panel recommended that legislation should also be passed to ensure access to the records of the institutions under scrutiny.

The panel advocated that the creation of a dedicated permanent archive of historical institutional and adoption records which the panel said should operate alongside “a similar archive already promised by the Government of Ireland.”

The panel also recommended “all state, religious and other institutions, agencies, organisations and individuals complicit in the processes of institutionalisation and forced labour, family separation and adoption to act without delay in issuing unqualified apologies.”

Earlier this year a major academic research report was published outlining the scale of mistreatment endured by thousands of women and girls. The research carried out by Queen’s University and Ulster University found that more than 14,000 girls and women went through the doors of mother and baby homes, Magdalene laundries and other institutions between 1922 and 1990.

The recommendations made by the panel have now been considered and actioned by the Stormont Executive and we will cover this in a separate blog later this week.

Caroline Farrell, Paralegal, BLM

The National Association for People Abused in Childhood is a national charity offering support to adult survivors of all types of childhood abuse, including physical, emotional, sexual and neglect. As well as advocating on behalf of survivors in the media and elsewhere, NAPAC also trains professionals who have frequent contact with survivors of child abuse as part of their working environment. If you have been affected by the issues raised in today’s blog, or would like additional support, please use the links above.

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