Inquiry may omit ‘tens of thousands’ of adoptions

Tens of thousands of people affected by the mother and baby homes scandal risk being excluded from a State investigation into the decades-long hidden crisis.

Inquiry may omit ‘tens of thousands’ of adoptions

Campaign groups for children and women involved in the linked mother and baby homes, Magdalene laundry, and illegal adoption controversies revealed the concern after the high-profile inquiry was launched yesterday.

Under terms of reference published by Children’s Minister Dr James Reilly, the Government will finally investigate how unmarried mothers and their babies were treated between 1922 and 1998 at 14 State-linked religious institutions.

The three-year inquiry — which has a €23.5m budget and could result in a multi- million euro redress scheme — will examine mother and baby homes, county homes, vaccine trials on children, and illegal adoptions where babies were trafficked abroad.

The investigation will also be allowed to compel anyone, including pharmaceutical firms, to give evidence and all available files, and take criminal action against anyone who refuses. In addition, it can exhume land if it believes babies’ bodies were dumped, similar to the recent Tuam scandal.

However, despite the measures — which are expected to be signed off by the Dáil and Seanad later this month — campaign groups have warned that gaps remain.

Adoption Rights Alliance spokesperson Susan Lohan told the Irish Examiner the inquiry would most likely fail to look at “tens of thousands” of illegal adoptions from State hospitals. Because the illegal adoptions aspect is focused solely on mother and baby homes, cases not linked to the facilities — such as where babies were taken directly from hospitals — will not be included.

A spokesperson for Dr Reilly said the June 2014 Dáil motion sought an investigation into mother and baby homes.

He stressed a “very expansive interpretation” has been taken and that the inquiry can investigate other areas if necessary.

However, Ms Lohan said this can only take place if they “stumble on evidence” linking the cases to mother and baby homes and “relies on getting the evidence from groups in the first place”.

While the Magdalene laundries issue is being examined within the context of how women entered and left mother and baby homes, Amnesty International chief executive Colm O’Gorman said this is not enough. He rejected Dr Reilly’s suggestion that the issue has been addressed by the 2013 McAleese report, saying it was “in no way effective”.

He said “to imagine for one moment that this review can address the issues at a systemic level and exclude the Magdalene laundries from it is a nonsense”.

Adoption Authority of Ireland chair Dr Geoffrey Shannon said the group “will not be slow” in providing information relating to possible criminal wrongdoing.

Separately, Terry Harrison, who has not seen her son, now 42, since he was “taken out of his cot” at Bessboro, said she hopes to one day “name and shame” those to blame.

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