Mother and baby homes report 'absolved both Church and State', says survivors group

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Mother and baby homes protest, © PA Archive/PA Images
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Muireann Duffy

The Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation Report has absolved both the Church and State of any systemic responsibility according to the Irish First Mothers group.

Today, the Government published the final report following an extensive investigation by the Mother and Baby Homes Commission.

The report details an oppressive and misogynistic culture of stigmatisation of unmarried mothers and their children for decades.

Irish Mothers First says the report "fails to find that mothers were coerced into giving up their children", saying it instead refers to some mother who claim they did not properly consent.

Commenting on the publication, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) said today must mark a pivotal and systemic change of approach by the State in how it treats survivors seeking justice and redress.

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The IHREC said the State's systemic approach cannot be to keep "challenging and chastening" those who suffered.

The devastating human rights violations that took place in Mother and Baby Homes have had profound consequences in the lives of generations of Irish women and children.

The group adds redress must be "adequate, effective and comprehensive", requiring not only restitution and compensation, but also "rehabilitation, satisfaction and guarantees of non-repetition".

Commenting today, IHREC chief commissioner, Sinéad Gibney said: "The devastating human rights violations that took place in Mother and Baby Homes have had profound consequences in the lives of generations of Irish women and children.

Read more: Key points from the report
Read more: Timeline of the commission's findings
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"It is a permanent stain on our society that because of a State culture of challenging and chastening those who sought justice, that many survivors died without ever receiving the dignity and recognition they demanded and deserved."

"Today we pay respect to survivors, those who have died, those who choose to remain silent and those who have fought for recognition, including Catherine Corless.

"The testimony published within this report from survivors will open a further window on the despair, trauma and neglect suffered," Ms Gibney added.

'They need to do something more'

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A woman adopted from a mother and baby home in Dublin has also called on the Government to investigate how details from the report were leaked to the media over the weekend, saying the Taoiseach's planned State apology in the Dáil tomorrow is not enough.

Speaking to RTÉ's Raidió na Gaeltacta today, Philomena Ní Churraoin said: "The Taoiseach is going to make an apology in the Dáil about what happened, but is that any use?

"I think they need to do something more. They should investigate how that report was leaked to the media.

"The State and the Catholic Church let all these people down. The Church should come out and apologise for sure. Indeed, they should have done it before now."

A group representing mother and baby home survivors also criticised the report, calling it "incomplete".

A statement from Adoption Rights Now, The Bethany Home Survivors, Beyond Adoption Ireland, Adopted Illegally Ireland and The Castlepollard Mother & Baby home group said survivors have "mixed feelings about the long overdue final report".

They said the report is "fundamentally incomplete as it ignores the larger issues of the forced separation of single mothers and their babies since the foundation of the state as a matter of official state policy".

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This Government and Commission has essentially thrown them under a bus and walked away.

Their statement adds: "Up to 15,000 people may have been illegally adopted by rogue adoption agencies who were allowed free rein back in the day and now have been given a free pass to escape their criminal behaviour.

"Every single day, illegally adopted people are giving medical professionals false, misleading and potentially lethal family medical histories. This Government and Commission has essentially thrown them under a bus and walked away.

"We must not overlook the fact that the Government and the Roman Catholic Church and Protestant churches ran the Homes together hand in glove.

"What they did represents a damming indictment of Church and State. They jointly bear legal responsibility for the ill-treatment and abuse and the gross breach of Human Rights that occurred."

The groups also called on the Government to honour the commitments to survivors.

Reparations

Amnesty International has also called for reparations for survivors of the mother and baby homes, and the launching of a criminal investigation following the report's publication.

The group said today's final report has revealed "an appalling litany of human rights abuses against women and children", adding: "This is just one step towards meeting the State's obligation to ensure truth, justice and reparations for what happened in these institutions".

Amnesty International said it was the State, not the wider society, that was primarily responsible for these systematic human rights abuses, saying there was still much to be done to address and understand the scale of abuses revealed by the Commission.

The Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI) welcomed the report, adding they look and forward to "engaging with the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration
and Youth and all stakeholders on the outcomes and recommendations".

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The Authority said this is a "difficult and significant milestone" in Ireland's history, saying the AAI is "committed to address all outcomes that concern adoption and adoption-related matters".

The Labour Party also welcomed the publication, but urged to Government to continue engaging with survivors.

Labour said survivors, legislators and the public must be given time to digest the report, and further investigation into forced separation of mothers and children is required.

A new webpage with information specifically for former residents of Mother and Baby Homes has been set up. Additional mental health supports provided by the HSE are also available to former residents. Details of these supports are available on www.yourmentalhealth.ie.

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