Prominent law firm joins call for quashing of Mother and Baby Homes commission report

Prominent law firm joins call for quashing of Mother and Baby Homes commission report

The Mother and Baby homes Commission of Investigation final report volumes 1 to 6 photographed at the Tuam Mother and Baby home site. Photo: Andy Newman

Pressure is continuing to mount for the final report of the Mother and Baby Home Commission of Investigation to be “quashed” or set aside, with a prominent legal firm representing survivors writing to the Children’s Minister.

KRW Law has joined a chorus of politicians, survivors, campaigners, and historians, who believe the final Mother and Baby Home Commission of Investigation report is flawed and should be set aside.

The calls come in the wake of comments by commission member Professor Mary Daly last week, who told an academic seminar that personal testimonies given to the confidential committee were not included in the final report as they were not legally tested or cross-checked.

Widespread criticism

The admission led to widespread criticism of the final report and calls for commission members to appear before an Oireachtas committee to answer questions on its work over the past five years.

This week Belfast-based legal firm KRW Law asked Minister O’Gorman to set aside the final report to make way for a new independent and human rights compliant investigation with victims and survivors at the centre.

It pointed out that the terms of reference and the methodology of the Commission’s work drew criticism from EU and international human rights organisations prior to the publication of the final report in January.

Professor Mary Daly says personal testimonies given to the confidential committee were not included in the final report as they were not legally tested or cross-checked.
Professor Mary Daly says personal testimonies given to the confidential committee were not included in the final report as they were not legally tested or cross-checked.

The legal firm said the investigation did not comply with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), in particular, Article 3, which prohibits torture, inhuman and degrading treatment.

It has raised its concerns over the investigation with the Irish government and Stormont Executive, as well as to the United Nations Committee against Torture (UNCAT), relevant UN Special Rapporteurs, the EU Parliament Petitions Committee, and the EU Human Rights Commissioner.

“Now it has become clear that the status of the report is untenable and it must be set aside and quashed by way of a judicial declaration,” Kevin Winters of KRW Law said.

The legal firm is representing several victims and survivors of the mother and baby homes, Magdalene laundries and industrial schools north and south of the border.

Last month the legal firm requested the International Criminal Court in the Hague to mount a preliminary investigation into whether institutional abuse exposed in recent state-commissioned reports and inquiries in Ireland and Northern Ireland amounted to “crimes against humanity”.

Separately the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) urged the government to “do right” by survivors even though the Commission report was “not fit for purpose”.

Grave errors

Despite “grave errors” by the Commission and government, the civil rights group said the government should implement a redress scheme, provide information to adoptees, and carry out criminal investigations where necessary.

ICCL said the proposed redress scheme is not dependent on any findings from the Commission and should progress as quickly as possible given the age profile of many survivors.

The government should also progress draft legislation, namely the Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill 2021 and the Institutional Burials Bill, to vindicate the right to information and the truth.

“It was disappointing that government ignored advice from the state human rights body that the Commission take a human rights approach. A review of why that and subsequent poor decisions were taken may be helpful but should not distract from the real and pressing rights obligations on the State now. Those include the right to information, to right to guarantee of non-repetition, and the right to compensation,” ICCL Executive Director Liam Herrick said.

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