Survivors fear Mother and Baby Homes Report will trivialise forced adoption trauma

Survivors fear Mother and Baby Homes Report will trivialise forced adoption trauma

Bed sheets with the names of hundreds of dead children draped on the gates of a mass burial site at Tuam, Co Galway. Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Institutional survivors fear the forthcoming Mother and Baby Homes Commission Report will “trivialise” the “trauma” of forced and illegal adoptions.

They say they are "angry and dismayed" over the leak of details of the report including that it includes a finding that around 9,000 of the 60,000 children born in the homes died.

It also appears to have found that neither the Catholic Church nor the State forced women into the homes and that allegations institutions were paid to arrange foreign adoptions are impossible to prove or disprove.

After the article appeared, Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman issued a statement to survivors saying it was always his intention they should be the first to hear of the main conclusions of the report.

He said he was “deeply angered to see details of the report leaked in a newspaper”, which he said was unacceptable and he apologised.

The report was published on Tuesday, after being approved by Cabinet.

Before its publication, the minister and Taoiseach Micheál Martin hosted a webinar with more than 400 invited survivors.

The 3,000-page report is "very shocking", the Children's Minister has said, and includes the testimonies of people who lived and worked in 14 mother and baby homes and four of the country’s county homes between 1922 and 1998.

In a lengthy statement, survivors said Sunday’s article appeared to highlight “the more trivial aspects of how mothers and their children were treated”.

That was, they said “focusing on mothers being forced to clean floors rather on the fact that their children were forcibly and illegally taken for the Irish adoption industry”.

The leaked segments suggested a trivialisation of the worst traumas endured by the mothers and their children, that of being permanently separated from each other.

They also noted that Mr O’Gorman has only communicated with them twice, and they were “to issue two apologies”.

The first of these was for “not consulting them over his rushed legislation around a digital archive in November 2020”.

And the second was about “the leaking of the report” before the survivors had a chance to see it.

Adoptions campaigner Susan Lohan said all survivors should be given unfettered access to their personal information.

Susan Lohan: All survivors should have unfettered access to their personal information.
Susan Lohan: All survivors should have unfettered access to their personal information.

They should also receive an enhanced medical card and be given access to comprehensive health screening, funded by the Irish State.

And she said there should be the establishment of regional and national memorial sites where annual memorial services for survivors could take place.

Ms Lohan said she and other members of the Mother and Babies Collaborative Forum, also want “effective consultation with survivors regarding legislation and compensation”.

Other survivors are also concerned about a lack of government or public recognition that the Commission report only covers some of the victims of “Ireland’s forced adoption industry”.

They are also concerned it excludes the thousands of mothers who gave birth in State Maternity Hospitals, private nursing homes whose children were also taken from them.

Ms Lohan said survivors like her fear the Commission will have ignored the main issues of "family destruction, social engineering, ethnic cleansing or trafficking that were at the core of the homes".

She noted that the report appears to have “instead focused on less serious issues such as poor diet, enforced labour".

Although these are serious issues if looked at in isolation, no survivor ever led with narratives of their daily routines over the loss of their mother or child. 

Senator Victor Boyhan who grew up in residential care said there have already been apologies from previous Taoisigh and the Government must now go further than a State apology.

"We absolutely need a commitment from the Government this week for practical support, and when I say practical supports, I am talking about healthcare, housing, medical cards, a State pension."

"I don't want people spilling tears on Tuesday or Wednesday. 

I want for the first time a recognition for the survivors who lived in institutions. I want them to be believed.

Asked about the leaking of information in the report, Mr Boyhan said: "I was angry, I was annoyed but I wasn't surprised, because so many times we've had promises of delivery of information or support in relation to this investigation and it hasn't happened and there has been so many setbacks for this particular investigation and so many extensions in time."

He said the most important thing now is that the issues are addressed for "once and for all" in the report and he hopes this will be the case.

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