Irish survivors of abuse will join international academics and activists in Boston today for a major conference on transitional justice.
The two-day conference is called Towards Transitional Justice: Recognition, Truth-telling, and Institutional Abuse in Ireland and is being organised by Boston College.
It comes just a week after Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone announced that there will be a full and forensic excavation and exhumation of the Tuam site. This will include individualisation and identification where possible. Ms Zappone will open the conference and give the keynote address.
‘Transitional justice’ is a framework that has been employed in many countries in an attempt to achieve peaceful democracy after widespread political repression and violence.
The organisers of this week’s conference have said that the principles of transitional justice have much to offer Ireland in terms of dealing with grave and systematic human rights violations since the country gained independence in 1922.
The conference is to discuss whether and how Ireland might adopt a transitional justice approach to dealing with its legacy of adoption and historical abuse.
Participants will discuss the key findings of the Clann Report published two weeks ago by Justice for Magdalenes Research, Adoption Rights Alliance, and global law firm Hogan Lovells. It draws on 77 witness statements, extracted from conversations with 164 people separated from their family members through forced, secret, and illegal adoptions and related historical abuses.
The model decided on by the Government in relation to Tuam is expected to serve as a template for the investigation of the deaths and burials of women and children in other institutional burial grounds around Ireland.
Ms Zappone has said the initial cost of the process was estimated at between €6m and €13m. She also confirmed that the Bon Secours Sisters, who ran the Tuam Home, had offered the State a contribution of €2.5m.
The Vatican has not yet responded to a Government request for a financial contribution to the cost of dealing with the remains at the Tuam site, but Ms Zappone has said she is “very certain” that it was paying attention to what was going on in Ireland at the moment.
She also said there may well be similar investigations carried out at other mother and baby home sites in light of what has been uncovered at Tuam.
The Irish Examiner has revealed that death registers for the Bessborough and Sean Ross Abbey mother and baby homes contain the full details of some 800 infants who died at these homes. The registers were handed over to the HSE in 2011. They are now in the possession of Tusla. The actual number of children who died at these homes has been estimated to be higher than what is recorded in the registers.