November has been a busy time for Governments North and South of the Irish Border.
Details of the proposed redress scheme for Mother and Baby Homes in the Republic of Ireland were announced on 16 November and on the previous day the 15 November, the Stormont Executive announced that a STATUTORY public inquiry will be held in Northern Ireland to investigate mother and baby homes, Magdalene laundries and workhouses there.
All of the recommendations made by the expert panel which we discussed in our blog have been accepted by the Stormont Executive.
Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said “The publication of the report [last month] represents a major step forward for victims and survivors. I’m therefore pleased to inform members that the Executive accepts all of the recommendations in the panel’s report.”
The Stormont Executive have made it clear that they will not delay in introducing the necessary legislation to establish the public inquiry and associated redress scheme.
Deputy First Minister O’Neill confirmed that discussions would take place with HMRC and the Treasury to ensure redress payments would not be means-tested and that welfare benefits are not affected.
As set out in our earlier blog, the expert panel recommended the establishment of a public inquiry and a non-statutory independent panel to allow those who were sent to the institutions, and their families, to give testimony in a less adversarial format. All institutions involved in the running of Mother and Baby Homes, including religious institutions, will be expected to cooperate from with the independent panel once it is established and if they choose not to engage with that independent panel they will be compelled to do so by the full statutory inquiry.
Commentators on the subject say that the statutory inquiry to be established by legislation, must have powers to compel witnesses and documentation and go on to say that urgent engagement is needed with the Irish Government to ensure that this can be done on a cross-border basis, as many of the relevant institutions and records are based in the Republic of Ireland, beyond the reach of Northern Ireland Assembly legislation.
The implementation of the recommendations will involve a number of different departments and public bodies. The programme of work will be led by The Executive Office.
A copy of the deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill’s full statement to the Assembly on the way forward is available here.
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.