Terms of reference for baby homes inquiry postponed

The outline and terms of reference for the investigation into the mother and baby homes will be delayed and now not finalised until the autumn at the earliest, it has been announced.

The Cabinet discussed ongoing work on the scope and work of the inquiry yesterday and agreed on a chairperson to head up the inquiry. This person will be announced today.

A 37-page report by an interdepartmental group to help the Government decide the terms will also be released today.

However, a Government spokesman last night confirmed that the terms for the mother and baby home investigation will now not be known until later in the year. The Coalition had said it wanted the terms decided before TDs head off on their summer break this week. TDs are also due to debate the issue in the Dáil tomorrow.

Today’s report will include details about establishing the facts around reports that up to 800 babies were buried in a mass grave at a former Bon Secours Sisters institution in Tuam, Co Galway.

It will also examine other mother and baby homes and is expected to refer to previous historical references and records relating to such institutions.

Charlie Flanagan, the previous minister for children, had said that the interdepartmental group’s work would inform the Government’s decisions on the terms of reference and composition of the Commission of Investigation. The group was asked to look at where records on homes were kept. Church leaders have said that they would cooperate with the inquiry into the mother and baby homes.

A Government spokesman confirmed that the commission’s terms would not be known until “later this year”.

The scope and scale of the inquiry was “not initially apparent”, he said.

There had also been calls to extend the investigation to include vaccine trials and infant mortality rates in institutions, he pointed out.

“There will be no undue delay,” it was added.

The Coalition of Mother and Baby Home Survivors who met with Flanagan just 24 hours before last week’s Cabinet reshuffle have said they are “optimistic” about Dr James Reilly, the former health minister, taking over the Department of Children. The group did say however, they were concerned that the switch was made so soon before the establishment of the inquiry.


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