Two seven-year-old girls have handed ministers a petition signed by 30,000 people demanding a judge lead the inquiry into church-run, state-sanctioned institutions for single mothers.
Dasha Klyaritskaya-Hilliard and her friend, Juliette Bruce Merzouk, from Dublin, took the message on behalf of people in more than a dozen countries who joined an online campaign urging the Government to escalate investigations.
Robin Hilliard, Dasha’s father, from Dalkey, Co Dublin, helped create the petition with a friend, Amanda Maloney, from Limerick, following revelations about the deaths of 796 infants at a mother and baby home in Tuam, Co Galway between 1925 and 1961.
“I’m old enough to remember the reputation of some of those places as a kid. And now that the thing has come out in the open it seems you have to wonder how was this allowed to happen and what on earth were people thinking,” he said.
The petition was handed in as the Government said it was considering calls for a judge to lead the inquiry into high mortality rates at so-called mother and baby homes over several decades of the last century, the burial practices at these sites and also secret and illegal adoptions and vaccine trials on children.
It is thought about 35,000 unmarried mothers spent time in at least 10 homes run by Catholic orders in Ireland. A number of others had connections to the Protestant faith.
The new inquiry will examine Tuam, and also the previously known and marked little angel plots at the Bessborough home in Co Cork, Castlepollard, Co Westmeath and at Sean Ross Abbey, Tipperary, the one-time home of Philomena Lee, whose quest to find her late son became the hit movie Philomena.
Infant mortality rates ranged from 30%-50% in some of the homes in the 1930s and 1940s.
Mr Hilliard’s daughter, and her classmate at Dalkey School Project, passed on the signatures to Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald and Children’s Minister Charlie Flanagan.
The girls also gave the ministers this statement: “We are giving you and the Government this petition, signed by 30,000 people from Ireland and around the world, so that we can understand why other children just like us were not treated with the love and respect that is the right of every child.”