Report on Northern Ireland's Mother and baby homes due to be published

Report on Northern Ireland's Mother and baby homes due to be published

A report into the operation of institutions for women and babies in Northern Ireland is due to be published. Picture: Niall Carson/PA

A report into mother-and-baby homes in Northern Ireland is due to be published today by the Stormont Executive.

Written by a group which the Northern Ireland Executive agreed in February 2016 to set up, it looked into the operation of about 12 mother-and-baby homes and four Magdalene Laundries from 1922-1999.

It was also tasked with looking into historical clerical child abuse which fell outside the remit of the Inquiry into Historical Institutional Abuse in Northern Ireland between 1922 and 1995, and which closed in June 2017.

Today’s report is expected to lift a lid on a little known period of Northern Ireland’s history.

While the numbers of unmarried mothers is believed be as many as 10,000, the infant mortality rates are not well known and today’s report is expected to deal with these.

It is also expected to reveal details of adoption practices and living conditions at the homes where girls as young as 13 were sent after becoming pregnant after being victims of rape or incest.

Details are also expected to be released about life in the Magdalene Laundries, which were in effect work houses and where survivors have said they were not paid for what was often exhausting work.

Amnesty International have been pressing for a public inquiry into the homes - which were run by both Protestant and Catholic clergy - since 2013.

Judith Gillespie, chairwoman of the inter-departmental working group on mother-and-baby homes in Northern Ireland, has said there were “a lot of complexities” in compiling the report.

Commissioned by the Department of Health in Northern Ireland, it was carried out by researchers from Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University.

Ministers are due to discuss whether or not there should be a public enquiry, according to a report on the BBC’s Today programme just after 6am.

Whether or not they go for a public enquiry there are certainly indications that a lung overdue wider investigation of some sort is expected to be announced today.

This might give an investigative body power to compel witnesses to make statements and produce documents.

Earlier this month, the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation found an "appalling level of infant mortality" here.

Up to 9,000 children died in the 14 mother and baby homes and four county homes between 1922 and 1998, by which most of them had closed.

About 56,000 so-called “fallen women” went through their doors, and around 57,000 children were born in them.

Widely criticised for not dealing in any great detail the issue of illegal or forced adoptions, the report led to an apology to survivors by Taoiseach Micheál Martin in the Dail.

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