First and Deputy First Ministers urged to meet NI mother and baby home survivors

First and Deputy First Ministers urged to meet NI mother and baby home survivors

The former Marianvale mother and baby home in Newry. Picture: PA

Northern Ireland’s First and Deputy First Ministers have been urged to meet with survivors of mother and baby homes.

Amnesty wrote to Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill as the Stormont Executive is expected to receive a report on former institutions for women.

Research on homes compiled by academics will also come with an options paper for future steps. One option is believed to be calling a public inquiry.

A survivor of a mother and baby home in Newry has called for a public inquiry into the institutions which operated until the 1990s (Niall Carson/PA)

Amnesty says there were more than a dozen mother and baby home and Magdalene Laundry-type institutions in Northern Ireland, with the last one closing its doors as recently as 1990.

Some former residents of the homes, along with Amnesty, have been calling for a public inquiry since 2013.

A woman who was sent to Marianvale home in Newry after becoming pregnant at 17 described it as a “hellhole” and recounted a culture of shame and secrecy behind its doors.

She attributed depression, anxiety and physical symptoms she has suffered throughout her life to that experience and the forced secrecy around it.

Patrick Corrigan of Amnesty International UK (Liam McBurney/PA)

Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland programme director of Amnesty International, said he believes the report will “shed new light on the appalling extent and vast scale of the suffering experienced by generations of women and girls in these institutions”.

“Amnesty has received allegations of arbitrary detention, forced labour, ill-treatment, and the removal and forced adoption of babies,” he said.

“It’s time for ministers to listen to the survivors – both the women and girls forced into the homes and the children born there.

“The First and deputy First Minister must now meet with survivors, so that the Executive can start to address the irreparable damage done to so many young lives.”

An inter-departmental working group on mother and baby homes, Magdalene Laundries and historical clerical abuse was set up in 2016 to look into the homes which operated between 1922 and 1999.

These institutions were run across the region by both the Catholic orders and Protestant clergy.

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