Timeframe and cost of inquiry undecided

The Government has been advised that at least nine institutions should be included in the mother-and-baby home investigation and that death rates there were "undesirably high".

But the terms, timeframe, and areas for investigation will not be known until the autumn at the earliest.

A report for Government has recommended a full historical survey of unmarried mothers and their children be carried out, including where and how they were treated and housed.

Children’s Minister James Reilly yesterday published the interdepartmental report which will inform the terms of reference for the commission of investigation.

The inquiry was announced after concerns were raised about a mass grave at the Bon Secours home in Tuam, Galway, where 800 children died over 36 years.

The report identified a core group of mother and baby homes, as part of its considerations for the inquiry. These include:

-Árd Mhuire, Dunboyne, Co Meath, (1955 to 1991).

-Bessborough, Cork, 1922 to not available.

-Manor House, Castle-pollard, Co Westmeath, 1935 to 1971.

-Seán Ross Abbey, Roscrea, Co Tipperary, 1930 to 1969.

-Bethany Home, Blackhall Place, then Orwell Rd, Dublin, 1921 to 1972.

-Pelletstown/St Patrick’s, Navan Rd, Dublin, not available to 1985.

-Tuam, Co Galway, 1925 to 1961.

-Kilrush, Co Clare, 1922 to 1936.

-St Gerard’s, Mountjoy Square, Dublin, 1933 to 1939.

The report noted research which found there were 90,000 illegitimate births in Ireland over 50 years. Mortality rates for illegitimate infants were nearly four times more than others.

An inquiry was likely to identify gender discrimination and social class issues going back decades, it said.

In Tuam, there was an average 22.2 deaths a year and 1,101 births over 36 years. ‘Debility from birth’ was the biggest cause of death, killing 24% of infants, followed by ‘respiratory diseases’ at 15%.

In all, nine homes operated over a 70-year period, up until 1991, where nearly 24,000 births took place.

It remains unclear if St Clare’s Stamullen, Meath, will be part of the final list.

The report said death rates in mother and baby homes were “undesirably high”. In Bessborough Home, Cork, it was one in two babies.

The report looked at the issue of adoptions and noted nearly 2,000 infants went to the US.

It recommended the issue of adoptions was best addressed through legislation.

Difficulties could also arise if the issue of vaccine trials was included in the inquiry because of previous court restrictions, it said. The report found evidence that 474 children’s remains were used for medical tests.

It recommended a sampling style inquiry given the scale of cases. Dr Reilly has asked Judge Yvonne Murphy to lead the inquiry.

But a decision on its terms is not expected from Cabinet now until at least September. The costs and length of the investigation remain undecided.

He said it remained to be seen which institutions were included in the inquiry.

Sinn Féin called for an all-inclusive inquiry which would also include the Magdalene laundries.

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