Tens of thousands of unmarried women and girls whose children are victims of serious human rights violations will be excluded from the upcoming mother and baby homes inquiry, it has been claimed.
The second Dáil debate on the terms of reference for the inquiry heard from both opposition and Government TDs, who called for the experience of all unmarried women and their children to be included in the terms of reference, rather than just those linked to the 14 named institutions.
Labour’s Anne Ferris became emotional when recounting her own experience as both an adopted person and a natural mother who had “her little girl taken from me”.
Ms Ferris said she could not vote in favour of the terms of reference as proposed by the Government, citing its prioritising certain institutions over others.
“There is no guarantee that a former child resident of an orphanage, or a mother who worked in a laundry under threat of hunger and violence, without pay, will get the opportunity to tell their story to anyone. This is not only deeply wrong, it is shortsighted,” she said.
Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald said there was a “stubborn refusal” to take the issue seriously by successive governments and described the terms of reference as a “missed opportunity”.
Tánaiste Joan Burton said that although the institution she was resident in before being herself adopted — Temple Hill — was excluded from the terms of reference, she was “confident that there will still be scope for stories from those institutions to be heard”.
Responding to calls for the terms to be widened, Children’s Minister James Reilly said the commission of inquiry could make any recommendations it considers appropriate in relation to matters that lie outside its specific remit.
However, he said the Government was satisfied that to characterise other institutions, such as orphanages, as mother and baby homes, would “dissipate the focus of the commission in a manner that would make an already mammoth task so dilute that the very answers we seek for those at the centre of this — mothers and babies — would be unachievable”.
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