Survivor’s bid to quash mother and baby home finding on vaccine trials

Irish Independent

Shane Phelan

A prominent survivor has issued legal proceedings seeking to quash or correct findings made by the Mother and Baby Homes Commission in relation to vaccine trials.

Mari Steed (60), the US co-ordinator of the Adoption Rights Alliance, has taken issue with a finding that there was no evidence any child was harmed by the trials.

In High Court judicial review proceedings initiated on Thursday, she also complains about the adequacy of the commission’s investigation into the altering of the records of mothers whose children were subject to trials.

The case is being taken against the Minister for Children, Ireland and the Attorney General. The commission was dissolved in February.

Ms Steed’s legal action is the second to be filed by a prominent survivor in recent weeks.

Mary Harney (72) was given permission to bring judicial review proceedings last month challenging aspects of the report.

Several further lawsuits are planned by survivors amid unhappiness about conclusions reached by the commission.

A number of survivors say certain findings did not correlate with their lived experience. Others have complained accurate accounts of their testimony were not taken.

Ms Steed was born at the infamous Bessborough mother and baby home in Cork in 1960 and adopted by a family in the US.

She says that while at Bessborough she was one of 19 children subjected to a four-in-one Burroughs Wellcome vaccine trial for polio, diphtheria, whooping cough and tetanus in 1960 and 1961.

“Of course there was injury to these children,” she told the Irish Independent.

“I was being adjusted without any kind of consent from my mother. There was injury to my person.”

Ms Steed said there was no evidence of any kind of ­follow-up being done on children who were involved in the trials. “Nobody told my adoptive parents I had been loaded up with this stuff,” she said.

The commission said that while it was “abundantly clear” trials did not comply with regulatory and ethical standards, there was no evidence any child was harmed.

Ms Steed also maintains in her proceedings she and other survivors should have been allowed to comment on the commission’s draft report before the final report was published.

“We were not given a right to any further dialogue with the commission after the [draft] report was written,” she said.

Ms Steed is being represented in the proceedings by Dublin law firm KOD Lyons.

Ms Harney, an advocate for the rights of victims of historic human rights abuses in Irish institutions, was also born at Bessborough.

In her proceeding she claims her statutory rights were breached because she was not given an opportunity to make submissions on the draft report. Had she been given the opportunity, she would have asked the commission not to omit evidence she gave of abuse and neglect while boarded out between 1951 and 1954. Ms Harney is being ­represented by Abbey Law.

Several clients of another law firm, Coleman Legal Partners, have filed claims for damages against the State since the commission report was ­published in January.

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