Flanagan to tell Cabinet full inquiry on homes now likely

Preliminary briefing on high mortality rates, burial practices, forced adoptions

Minister for Children Charlie Flanagan ordered the preliminary exercise following disclosures that almost 800 infants and young children had died in the Bon Secours home. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Minister for Children Charlie Flanagan ordered the preliminary exercise following disclosures that almost 800 infants and young children had died in the Bon Secours home. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Tue, Jun 10, 2014, 08:07

Minister for Children Charlie Flanagan will today brief his Cabinet colleagues on progress in a scoping examination of high mortality rates, burial practices, forced adoptions and other issues in mother and baby homes in the State.

Mr Flanagan ordered the preliminary exercise following disclosures that almost 800 infants and young children had died in the Bon Secours home in Tuam between 1925 and 1961.

During the course of the update at today’s Cabinet meeting, Mr Flanagan is expected to tell ministerial colleagues that a full inquiry is likely to be held into the homes, a number of which continued into the 1970s and 1980s. State agencies are in the process of collecting information.

Inevitable

A source with knowledge of the process said last night that a full inquiry now seems all but inevitable, not only into the Tuam home but into all such homes throughout the State.

Later today in the Dáil, a Sinn Féin motion will call on the Government to initiate an independent judicial inquiry into the homes with immediate effect.

The private members’ motion, calling for the inquiry to be established before the Dáil summer recess, is expected to be supported by Fianna Fáil but a decision will not be made until the party’s frontbench meets today. A Government source said a counter motion would be tabled.

Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn yesterday said that he “broadly” supported comments made by Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin, who said it was important that any investigation into mother and baby homes was independent and separate from the Catholic church, the State or other organisations involved.

His Cabinet colleague Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar said he believed “a statutory inquiry may well be necessary”, but he said “a scoping exercise to figure out all the facts” should be carried out first as there were conflicting reports about the homes.

Pressure has been mounting on the Government to announce an independent inquiry since records uncovered by historian Catherine Corless showed almost 800 children died at a home in Tuam, Co Galway run by the Bon Secours order between 1925 and 1961 became publicised.

Historical review

An interdepartmental historical review of mother and baby homes has started and Mr Flanagan said its work should be completed by the end of the month. A Garda scoping exercise is also under way.

Two local TDs yesterday reiterated their support for an inquiry. Minister of State Ciarán Cannon (Fine Gael) said it was important to hold inquiries to give recognition and validation to those forgotten children and mothers. His Galway East colleague Colm Keaveney of Fianna Fáil said a full trawl was needed through all available databases, ledgers and records to establish the facts to the fullest extent.

Mr Quinn said an investigation into the homes could not be the same as those into child abuse such as the Ryan report, as the previous inquiries could gather testimony from survivors.

He said the facts about the homes should be brought together in a “coherent” form, as some of the headlines printed internationally were “quite horrendous and gave a very mistaken impression of what actually happened”. “I have read much of the stuff over the weekend that is now in the public domain and it is quite different to what in fact the banner headlines were suggesting when this story first broke.”