The Commission has been tasked with examining the treatment of unmarried mothers and their babies between 1922 and 1998 in 14 Mother and Baby Homes, as well as “a representative sample of County Homes”.
The Commission has now settled on four County Homes for this sample — St Kevin’s Institution (Dublin Union), Stranorlar County Home, Co Donegal (St Joseph’s), Cork City County Home (St Finbarr’s) and Thomastown County Home, Co Kilkenny (St Columba’s).
The Commission said the four homes selected “best met the criteria” of serving a similar function to Mother and Baby Homes, “having regard to factors such as the number of relevant births, the duration of such operations, and the typical length of accommodation period of these mothers and children”.
However, with regard to people who lived or worked in Ireland’s approximately 27 other County Homes, the Commission said that, “at present”, it “does not intend to take evidence from people who were resident in other County Homes.”
Responding to the decision to include just four County Homes in the inquiry, Claire McGettrick, of the Adoption Rights Alliance and Justice For Magdalenes Research, said too many people were set to be excluded, as a result of the narrow list of institutions being examined.
“The current shortlist of institutions under examination will have to be added to, because the Irish people expect that the Commission to inquire into Mother and Baby Homes will address the matter in full and with all of the transparency required.
“Nobody wants this to be an issue that is only partially addressed and that will have to be revisited later, and, as it stands, the current, narrow list will not be able to include many people’s experiences,” she said.
Paul Redmond, of the Coalition of Mother and Baby Homes (CMABS), said the inquiry needs to listen to the testimonies of any County Home resident, regardless of where they were incarcerated.
“There is no hierarchy of pain in the real world. All survivors are equal. CMABS have strongly recommended to the Commission that they should expand their terms of reference to include all survivors, by following an identical procedure to that applied to the County Homes,” he said.
Kathy McMahon, of the Irish First Mothers group, said the focus should not just be on individual institutions.
“Pregnant women were victims of an embedded social poison of which County Homes were but one key example. We should be investigating processes — not just places,” she said.