Mother and baby homes' redress ruled out by Cabinet

Immediate redress for thousands of unaccompanied children who were in mother and baby homes has been rejected by the Government.

Mother and baby homes' redress ruled out by Cabinet

It comes as the second interim report of the Mother and Baby Homes Commission recommended an amnesty from prosecution for those involved in illegal adoptions may help “encourage those responsible to come forward”.

The commission also recommends the Government re-examines the exclusion of children who lived without their mothers in mother and baby and county homes from the 2002 Residential Institutions Redress Scheme. It also states the Government could consider “other redress options” for those involved.

As its work is not complete, the commission said it is not yet asserting that abuse took place in any of the institutions it is examining.

It confirmed that around 70,000 women “and a larger number of children” went through the 14 mother and baby homes and four county homes under investigation.

However, the Government has firmly ruled out any redress at this time, noting that previous redress schemes had been “extremely costly”.

Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone said: “The Government examined the matter very carefully. It is conscious that the commission has made no finding to date about abuse or neglect in these homes.

"To put in place a redress scheme now would risk pre-empting the findings and conclusions of the commission on the matter. The commission’s final report is due in February, at which time its conclusions on this and all matters regarding the treatment of former residents will be studied very carefully.”

She said her focus was on those who were unaccompanied as children in mother and baby homes to offer them services “in the area of health and wellbeing”.

She said her department was working with Tusla to support the provision of information to assist former residents who may wish to establish when they resided in a mother and baby home.

The commission said it is satisfied the 14 institutions it has been tasked with examining are “unquestionably’ the main such homes that existed during the 20th century, and does not currently recommend that any other institutions be investigated.

The report recognises that people whose births were falsely registered need to establish their identities. However, it recognises that the false registration of births is a very difficult issue to investigate because of a lack of accurate records.

Susan Lohan of the Adoption Rights Alliance said redress was not about money.

“Redress also comes in unfettered access to our records and our birth certs, not the limited version proposed in Minister Zappone’s draft information and tracing bill,” she said.

As a result, it is not seeking any changes to its terms of reference at this time but may recommend further investigations when its current examination is finished.

The Irish First Mothers group said it was “shocked” that the report failed to mention how mothers were treated in mother and baby homes. It said it planned to conduct its own public inquiry into mother and baby homes and practices of coercion in pregnancy.

Labour’s education spokeswoman, Joan Burton, said it was “inevitable” that some form of redress would be set up after the commission had completed its work.

Sinn Féin’s spokesman on children, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, said the outright dismissal of the redress recommendations was “insulting to survivors”.

“The second interim report has been on the minister’s desk for eight months and should have been released prior to today,” he said. “There is simply no justification for such a delay, and it caused survivors a great degree of concern, concern that is justified by today’s dreadful response by Government.”

Fianna Fáil’s spokeswoman on children, Anne Rabbitte, also hit out at the delay of the report, which was submitted to Ms Zappone on September 16, 2016.

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