Stephen Kirwan, Solicitor

Stephen Kirwan of KOD Lyons Solicitors briefly analyses some of the recommendations of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes

The final report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes has been published on the Department of Children’s website.[1]

The investigation into Mother and Baby Homes began in 2015 with a relatively narrow remit initially. However, it ultimately culminated in a report running to almost 3,000 pages with some extremely harrowing findings in relation to the rates of infant mortality at the homes and the effect survivors at various institutions between 1922 and 1998.

At paragraph 13 of its recommendations the Commission note that redress in the form of counselling and enhanced medical cards should be made available to former residents of the institutions examined pursuant to the terms of the Health (Amendment) Act 1996.[2] The Commission further goes on to note that any decision on financial redress is ultimately “a matter for government”[3] and makes certain observations in respect of financial redress by reference to other redress schemes including to Magdalene Laundries and  the Residential Institutions Redress Scheme.[4] These include:

 

-Proposing to limit redress to those who spent periods of longer than 6 months in Mother and Baby Homes before 1974[5],

-Suggesting the provision of a limited scheme of redress for certain categories of survivors from Tuam Sean Ross and County Homes and who carried out unpaid ‘commercial work’ while in Mother and Baby Homes.[6]

-Recommending that a limited scheme of redress be provided for child residents of certain named institutions including Tuam, Bessborough, Castlepollard, Sean Ross, Bethany and Denny and County Homes[7]

 

While these observations are non-biding the suggested categories are extremely arbitrary and arguably fail to fully recognise the vast array of survivors effected by the operation of the Mother and Baby Homes.  This has obviously added to the anxiety of survivor groups who have quite rightly addressed their dismay with large aspects of the report itself. It is arguable too that by drawing the categories in such a narrow way fails to properly offer restorative justice to the many thousands of people who continue to be affected by the trauma inflicted them not only at the hands of the State but also at the hands of the religious orders.

Despite this a number of media reports have suggested that a new Inter-Departmental group entitled will be establish to fully consider the parameters of a financial redress scheme for survivors of mother-and-baby homes.[8] Other media reports further suggest that the group will be charged with producing proposals for a scheme which Minister for Children intends to bring before the Government prior to the April 30th this year.[9]

It is hoped that the redress scheme will prove to access to cover the widest category of survivors possible and will not be limited to financial redress only and will provide for the wider needs of all survivors.

It is also hoped that the Inter-Departmental group will be cognisant of the many difficulties experienced with other restorative justice schemes which have served to re-traumatise survivors. This includes, for example, designing a scheme which is flexible enough to take account of the fact that there may be a lack of records which inevitably may have been lost, falsified and potentially destroyed over time due to human error and accepting that other forms of evidence may be presented by survivors which should be considered ‘best evidence’. It also includes a de-emphasising of a forensic cross-examining survivors with a view to disproving their credibility but is instead conscious of the inherent fragilities of survivors memories due to the passage of time and the trauma of events.

Should anyone effected by the publication of the report wish to seek legal assistance please do not hesitate to contact Stephen Kirwan of KOD Lyons Solicitors at 01-6790780 or stephen.kirwan@kodlyons.ie

[1] gov.ie – Final Report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes (www.gov.ie)

[2] Ibid Recommendations- ‘Redress’ Paragraph 13

[3] Ibid Paragraph 14

[4] Ibid Paragaphs 16-33

[5] Ibid Paragraph 32

[6] Ibid Paragraph 31

[7] Ibis Paragraph 23

[8] Group to decide on redress scheme for survivors (rte.ie)

[9] Officials designing mother and baby homes redress will not want past to be repeated (irishtimes.com)