Infant mortality rates, burial practices and the issue of forced labour in institutions need to be included in the forthcoming mother-and-baby home inquiry, the Government has been told.
Minister for Children James Reilly faces pressure to have an all-inclusive inquiry and yesterday accepted it would be counterproductive to exclude any group from the investigation. But any decision will depend on the possible costs and length of the probe, he told the Dáil.
Dr Reilly said the commission of investigation into mother-and-baby homes may examine the role the State and Church played and how homes were managed.
TDs debated the terms for the pending inquiry, which will now not be known until the autumn.
A report this week recommended its starting point should be the foundation of the State in 1922, when many homes opened, up until 1987 when the concept of ‘illegitimacy’ was abolished.
Dr Reilly said the research part of the inquiry could examine a wide range of institutions, including mother-and-baby homes, county homes, private nursing homes, homes for infants or children and Magdalene Laundries.
Patterns relating to the admission of unmarried mothers into these institutions and when and how they and children left, should be examined, he told TDs.
An interdepartmental group has singled out nine homes for the inquiry but 200 locations linked to issues have been identified from Department of Health records.
Sinn Féin’s Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said the group’s roadmap for the inquiry did not go far enough and could not be confined to nine mother-and-baby homes
It needed to include Magdalene Laundries, county homes, Protestant homes, the Cavan-Monaghan TD argued.
“The issue of adoptions, involving both Catholic and Protestant institutions, and of vaccination trials should also be included,” he added.
The inquiry should identify if institutions, corporations and state agencies were “culpable in any violations”.
Furthermore, it must establish whether institutional or state failings “were systemic”, said the TD.
The inquiry needed to look at how women were admitted to such institutions, mortality rates there, the issue of fostering and adoptions, vaccine trials, forced labour and whether conditions and practices in homes were cruel.
The burial practices of homes had to also be examined, it was added.
Independent TD Clare Daly said illegal adoptions needed to be investigated.
She and other TDs said they had issues with the appointment of Judge Yvonne Murphy as chair of the inquiry because of separate concerns about the judge’s advice to the Government on symphysiotomy cases.
Dr Reilly defended the judge but said he would consider calls to add an international figure on the inquiry panel.
The stories of mothers and children from the homes would be heard, he said.
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