State concedes rights were breached in case over mother and baby homes report

ireland
State Concedes Rights Were Breached In Case Over Mother And Baby Homes Report State Concedes Rights Were Breached In Case Over Mother And Baby Homes Report
In a victory for Philomena Lee (pictured) and Mary Harney, the State acknowledged their rights were breached when they were not given a draft of the final report prior to its publication. Photo: PA Images.
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The State has acknowledged in the High Court that the rights of eight former residents of mother and baby homes were breached by the failure to provide them with a draft copy of the report by the Commission of Investigation into the homes prior to its publication.

The court had heard the actions of Philomena Lee and Mary Harney, who were chosen as test cases to address a core claim in eight similar actions.

The State has consented to a court declaration that the Commission breached its statutory duty under section 34 of the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004, by failing to provide each of the applicants, who are identifiable in the report, with a draft before the final report was submitted to the Minister for Children.

An acknowledgement by the Minister that each of the women do not accept that sections of the report serve as “true and full reflection” of the evidence given will be published alongside the report online and in the Oireachtas library.

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Michael Lynn SC, for the women, told the court on Friday that the State was also agreeing to pay the women’s legal fees.

The court had been due to hear further submissions from both parties before giving its judgment. Mr Justice Garrett Simons said it was always more satisfactory when an agreement could be reached between parties.

He noted the case had raised “very important and very significant issues”.

Test cases

The actions of former mother and baby home residents Ms Lee and Ms Harney were chosen as test cases to address a central claim made in nine separate but similar actions concerning the scope of section 34 of the Commission of Investigation Act.

Both Ms Lee and Ms Harney claimed in their actions they were readily identifiable within the final report, despite not being named, and submitted that this triggered a requirement under section 34 for them to be provided with a draft copy of the report so they could make submissions on it, including the treatment of their evidence.

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As the commission has been dissolved, the challenges were brought against the Minister for Children, the Government, Ireland and the Attorney General, who had initially denied their claims.

Responding to the settlement, chief commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) Sinéad Gibney said: “I pay credit to the strength and resilience of Mary and Philomena, and the many other survivors who are fighting to see their accounts accurately told, and to vindicate their right to truth and dignity.

“This case should never have needed to be taken. We must see a change not only to the political rhetoric but a systemic change in the State’s attitude and responsibility towards anyone who is a victim or survivor of State wrongdoing.”

This article was amended at 5.28pm on 17/12/21.

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