Call for public inquiry into mother and baby homes first made three years ago

Adoption Rights Alliance sent submission to Frances Fitzgerald in 2011

France Fitzgerald: Minister got detailed submission in 2011. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

France Fitzgerald: Minister got detailed submission in 2011. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

Tue, Jun 10, 2014, 01:00

A call for a public inquiry into mother and baby homes was first made three years ago by the Adoption Rights Alliance.

The alliance, which was set up in 2009 to represent the estimated 50,000 Irish people who have been adopted, sent a detailed submission to the then Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald in 2011.

The 131-page submission, which has been seen by The Irish Times, called for an inquiry into the treatment of women and children in such homes.

Mari Steed, a member of the Adoption Rights Alliance, said successive governments had known about the issues surrounding mother and baby homes for decades, but chose not to investigate them.

“This should come as no surprise to anybody,” Ms Steed said.

Full inquiry

Yesterday, the alliance backed calls for a full independent inquiry saying previous attempts to investigate the homes by Justice Mary Laffoy under the original remit of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse had been abandoned by previous governments.

In its 2011 submission, the alliance recommended there should be an investigation into alleged illegal adoption practices and the vaccination of children in mother and baby homes. The investigation into vaccine trials that took place in mother and baby homes was abandoned in 2004 after a judicial challenge.

The alliance stated that these “children were treated as guinea pigs and left without justice and without answers”.

In addition, the alliance called for the State to introduce statutory rights for those allegedly secretly adopted from Ireland to the US, to include information and tracing rights as well as repatriation options for those who wished to avail of such a facility.

Tracing birth parents

The document contrasted the Government’s plans to issue a “certificate of Irishness” with the difficulties that Irish people who were adopted in the United States have in tracing their birth parents.

The document was formulated long before the present controversies over the Tuam babies or the film Philomena, which brought allegations of forced adoption in Irish mother and baby homes to a global audience.

The alliance said the women in the mother and baby homes were treated in a “sub- human fashion” and denied medical care or pain relief while giving birth.

“The women were forced to work long, arduous hours, sometimes carrying out humiliating, not to mention unnecessary, tasks.”

The alliance also recommended that the Irish State introduce measures to grant adopted people free access to all archives that may be of assistance to them in establishing their identities.