Survivors of Magdalene Laundries and Mother and Baby Homes in the North are being encouraged to come forward and share their experience with a working group investigating the institutions.
Academics from Queen’s University in Belfast and Ulster University will spend a year examining the institutions’ operation between 1922 and 1999. They will interview former residents and comb government and institutional records.
It is claimed that, as recently as the 1980s, new-born babies were being forcibly taken from their mothers and given up for adoption by nuns in the North’s laundries, women forced into homes in Belfast and Newry after becoming pregnant.
A working group overseeing the review is chaired by Norah Gibbons but campaigners have called for a full public inquiry.
“It is essential that we develop a strong evidence base about the operation of these institutions in the last century,” said Ms Gibbons.
“The research will not only look at historical records. Critically, it will also involve listening to and collating the accounts of women who resided in mother and baby homes or worked in Magdalene laundries.”
Her inter-departmental group was established at the end of February last year following a request from Stormont ministers to investigate historical abuse at the homes.
Eunan Duffy, who was born in the Marian Vale mother and baby home said a full public inquiry is needed immediately.
“There are people dying off on a regular basis waiting for justice in whatever form that comes,” he said. “All this is doing is kicking the can down the road.”
The publication of the McAleese Report into the Magdalene Laundries in Ireland 2013 resulted in a State apology by Enda Kenny in 2013. However, the report and the subsequent redress scheme have since come in for severe criticism.
An investigation of the redress scheme by the Office of the Ombudsman, published in November, found the Department of Justice failed to examine all available evidence when it wrongly refused some Magdalene laundry survivors access to redress payments.
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