State may be forced to ‘fully investigate’ baby home deaths

The Government may be obliged to “fully investigate” the deaths of thousands of children who died in Ireland’s mother and baby homes under human rights law.

State may be forced to ‘fully investigate’ baby home deaths

It comes as the Mother and Baby Homes Commission has already said it will be “difficult to establish the facts” surrounding the burials of children who died in all of the homes it is investigating.

On Tuesday, the expert technical group advising the Government about managing the Tuam site outlined five options which the Government could pursue when managing the location. These range from doing no further investigative work to a full forensic excavation and analysis of all human remains.

However, that report also revealed Ireland may be bound by human rights law to investigate the deaths to the fullest degree possible.

“These include human rights issues around the right of an individual to a respectful and appropriate burial,” said the report.

“There is also the possibility that there may be an obligation under international human rights law, including under the European Convention on Human Rights, arising from the right to respect for family life. This could arguably entitle living family members to know the fate of their relatives. There is an obligation on the State, pursuant to the Irish Constitution (Bunreacht na hÉireann) and under human rights law, to fully investigate the deaths so as to vindicate the right to life of those concerned.”

As a result, Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone has asked Special Rapporteur on Child Protection, Professor Geoffrey Shannon, to examine these issues and to report to her on the matter.

If Prof Shannon finds that these rights exist, then it may influence which of the five options the Government chooses when dealing with the Tuam site, or indeed any of the other institutions where children are known to have died.

The Irish Examiner has previously revealed that death registers for two of Ireland’s largest mother and baby homes — Bessborough and Sean Ross Abbey— have been in the possession of the HSE and latterly Tusla since 2011. These registers contain the names of around 800 infants, their dates of birth and dates of death and causes of death.

A number of adoption rights groups and survivor groups have called for the fullest possible examination, not just of the Tuam site, but of all angel plots and sites of former mother and baby homes.

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