Call for UN role in mother-and-baby inquiry

The UN must be involved in any inquiry into Ireland’s mother-and-baby homes scandal, a rally in Cork was told yesterday.

Touched by the Tuam babies tragedy, mother- of-five Fiona O’Leary said she organised the event at City Hall in an effort to ramp up public pressure on the Government to establish a full and independent public inquiry.

“This is a human rights issue. I live in Ireland and I can’t sit back and ignore this kind of atrocity. It hurts,” she said.

“I didn’t want to do a vigil because I think we’ve done enough praying. We need to move forward and help these women get some kind of closure.

“The Irish are very complacent about things. We complain again, again and again but we don’t actually get out there and do things. But this is the beginning of something.”

She urged the 60 or so people who gathered outside City Hall, some clutching teddy bears, others holding placards calling for ‘justice for women’, to lobby TDs until a full public inquiry is established.

Rose Brian-Harrington, whose great-aunt, Esther Harrington, spent 70 years in religious-run institutions until her death in the Good Shepherd Convent in Cork in 1987, aged 83, said previous scandals in this country have proved that the State and the Church cannot be trusted to investigate themselves. “The UN must oversee this report to establish the full facts,” she said.

“We must also investigate land alongside every Church-owned site, orphanage, and industrial school. There are more bodies buried out there. If this kind of thing happened during war-time, it would be a war crime.”

Institutional abuse survivor Oliver Burke, chairman of Munster Survivors Support Services, said: “It is time to admit that this is Ireland’s holocaust. We need a full, independent public inquiry — not a whitewash.”

Sinn Féin TD Sandra McClellan, who raised the issue under Leader’s Questions in the Dáil on Thursday, said the Tuam babies grave scandal had sent shock waves around the world.

“We knew that this wasn’t an isolated case. It would have been replicated across other mother-and-baby homes around the country,” she said.

She said that, since the story broke, she has spoken to women trying to access their children, to children trying to access their parents, and has heard allegations of physical abuse in the homes, and concerns from people who were subject to vaccine trials in the homes.

The Government has said an interdepartmental group will look at the issue and report to the children’s minister before the end of this month, with plans to draft terms of reference for a commission of inquiry before the Dáil recess.

Fianna Fáil senator Averil Power said the Government must act now to give all adoptees a right to their birth certificates.

Ms Power, who was adopted from Dublin’s Temple Hill Mother and Baby Home, said conditions in the homes were only half the story. “The forced separation of thousands of mothers and babies was just as shameful and continues to cause immense pain to many people to this day,” she said.

“By denying adoptees access to their birth certs, the Irish State has robbed them of their identities.”

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