Independent Inquiry to examine Mother and Baby homes in Northern Ireland

The Northern Ireland Executive announced yesterday that an independent investigation into mother and baby homes will be carried out.

The announcement has been made following yesterday’s publication of the research report on historical Mother and Baby Homes and Magdalene Laundries between 1922 and 1990.

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Report on Mother and Baby Homes in Northern Ireland likely to recommend full public inquiry

In February 2016, the then Northern Ireland Executive agreed to establish an inter-departmental working group to take forward work on Mother and Baby Homes and Magdalene Laundries and Historical Clerical Child Abuse, which fell outside the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry.

The Working Group was tasked with considering the evidence about the operation of Mother and Baby Homes and Magdalene Laundries and make recommendations to the Northern Ireland Executive on what action to take.

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Recommendations made in the final report of the Irish Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes

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.

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The who and what of the Irish Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes

As stated in our blog last week the Irish Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes was set up in 2015 following revelations about the deaths and burials of hundreds of children at one such former institution in Tuam, Co Galway.

The commission was charged with examining what happened to vulnerable women and children in mother and baby homes during the period 1922 to 1998, a span of 76 years. The final report, which had been with the Irish Government since late last year was published on the 12 January 2021.

The three members of the Commission were Ms. Justice Yvonne Murphy, Prof Mary Daly and Dr William Duncan. Ms. Justice Murphy had previously investigated the handling of clerical child sex abuse cases in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin and the Diocese of Cloyne in Cork. Prof Daly is President of the Royal Irish Academy and former professor of Irish history at UCD. Dr Duncan is a retired Professor of Law at Trinity College, Dublin, and is a former member of the Law Reform Commission.

The Commission investigated 18 institutions: 14 mother and baby homes and a sample of four county homes.

The mother and baby homes investigated were as follows:-

  • The Children’s Home at Tuam, Co Galway;
  • Ard Mhuire at Dunboyne, Co Meath;
  • Belmont on Belmont Avenue in Dublin;
  • Bessborough in Cork;
  • Bethany in Dublin;
  • Denny House in Dublin;
  • The Kilrush Home in Co Clare;
  • Manor House at Castlepollard, Co Westmeath;
  • Ms Carr’s at Northbrook Road in Dublin;
  • The Regina Coeli hostel on North Brusnwick Street in Dublin;
  • Seán Ross Abbey in Roscrea, Co Tipperary;
  • St Gerard’s on Mountjoy Square, Dublin;
  • Pelletstown/St Patrick’s on the Navan Road, Dublin, and
  • The Castle in Newtowncunningham, Co Donegal.

The four county homes investigated were as follows:-

  • St Kevin’s institution in Dublin,
  • Stranorlar County Home in Donegal,
  • Cork City County Home and
  • Thomastown County Home in Kilkenny.

It held 195 hearings which involved 64 former residents of the institutions, 30 advocacy groups and 16 sisters/members of religious congregations. In addition the Commission heard from experts, social workers, local authority officials, Government officials, people who worked in the homes and others who had experience of how the homes had been operated.

The most recent information to hand, which is from October, 2020 confirmed that the Commission had cost €11.5 million to date which seems a conservative amount as the Irish Government had allocated €23 million to cover the work of the Commission.

In a series of blogs over this coming week we are going to look at the findings of this Commission, the recommendations made by it (especially the recommendations on redress) and the reaction to the report from the Irish State, the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland and Survivors and Victims.


Written by James Chambers at BLM james.chamber@blmlaw.com

Irish Government to issue state apology and to publish final report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes and Other Related Matters

On Sunday this week the Irish Government confirmed that the Irish Prime Minister, Taoiseach Micheál Martin will issue a state apology to all victims and survivors of the mother and baby homes in the Dáil later this week, the apology is expected to be made tomorrow afternoon.

The Irish Cabinet met this morning to approve the final report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes and Other Related Matters.

The Commission is a judicial commission of investigation it was established in 2015 by an order of the Irish Government.

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