Adoption campaigners have again expressed concerns that tens of thousands of people could be excluded from the mother and baby home inquiry.
Ahead of a Dáil debate on the terms of reference for the inquiry today, the Adoption Rights Alliance expressed fears that the investigation will be limited to only the practices and procedures of institutions, adoption agencies and individuals with a direct connection to a mother and baby home.
The group said that if the scope of the inquiry was not widened, tens of thousands of mothers who gave birth in State and private maternity homes but suffered the same fate of forced and illegal adoptions as those born in mother and baby homes would be excluded.
Under terms of reference, the inquiry will investigate how unmarried mothers and their babies were treated between 1922 and 1998 at 14 State-linked religious institutions.
The three-year inquiry — which has a €23.5m budget and may cost millions more in redress — will examine mother and baby homes, county homes, vaccine trials on children, and illegal adoptions where babies were trafficked abroad.
Susan Lohan of ARA said while the group welcomed the fact that the inquiry will investigate the issue of full and informed consent of natural mothers, as well as the placement of children in Ireland and abroad, it was critical that thousands of forced and illegal adoptions not connected to mother and baby homes be examined.
“The motion agreed by the Dáil on June 11 last year explicitly and only refers to mother and baby homes. We are calling on the Government to immediately amend Clause 1 of the terms of reference to include other institutions affecting unmarried mothers and their children born outside of wedlock.”
“We are concerned that despite the minister’s best intentions to broaden the scope of the investigation into the large group of private institutions, the commission could leave itself open to legal challenge from those institutions not defined in the schedule to the terms of reference,” she said.
The Coalition of Mother And Baby home Survivors broadly welcomed the terms and said they included the vast majority of its issues and concerns.
Meanwhile, archaeologist and anthropologist Toni Maguire, who discovered up to 11,000 unmarked graves in Miltown Cemetery, Belfast, said there was no specific detail as to how the issue of mass graves at Tuam and in other mother and baby home sites will be investigated.
“There is no specific detail within the terms of reference as to how the systematic investigation into the location of these graves will be carried out, no mention of the investigation into the potential for human remains in the tunnels under the building [in Tuam]; in fact reference to the recovery of any potential remains attached to the sites under investigation is conspicuous by its absence,” she said.
Ms Maguire said she sent a number of recommendations to the office of Children’s Minister James Reilly and offered to meet and inform him of what had been identified from a non-invasive survey of Bessborough, Sean Ross Abbey, and Tuam, but this offer was declined.
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