Minister for Children says cost not an issue for mother and baby homes inquiry

James Reilly says commission will be ‘precise enough to allow it to complete its work in a timely and cost-effective way’

Minister for Children James Reilly said funds would be made available to Judge Yvonne Murphy to conduct the inquiry into mother and baby homes. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Minister for Children James Reilly said funds would be made available to Judge Yvonne Murphy to conduct the inquiry into mother and baby homes. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Thu, Jul 17, 2014, 01:11

Minister for Children James Reilly has said the Government is “determined” exchequer money should be prioritised towards services for people, rather than towards commissions of investigations.

However, Dr Reilly said Judge Yvonne Murphy, who has been appointed to chair the commission of investigation into mother and baby homes, would be provided with funds to carry out her work.

Dr Reilly said Judge Murphy had “considerable experience in this area”, but added: “When it comes to cost, the Government is determined that the money available should be put into services, not into running commissions.

“The Government is determined that this commission should be broad enough and inclusive enough to get us a thorough understanding of the issues but precise enough to allow it to complete its work in a timely and cost-effective way.”

Dr Reilly said “the funds will be made available” with Judge Murphy due to give the Government an estimated cost for the inquiry in the coming months.

While the exact terms of reference for the inquiry will not be finalised until the autumn, Dr Reilly said everything was “on the table”. It had been intended that the scope of the inquiry would be known by now, but Dr Reilly said the process was complex.

Latest investigation

The latest investigation was prompted by reports that 796 babies and children had died at the Tuam mother and baby home between 1925 and 1961 and Dr Reilly also published an interdepartmental report on the controversy yesterday.

The report lists nine mother and baby homes: Ard Mhuire, Dunboyne, Co Meath; Bessborough, Cork; Manor House, Castlepollard, Co Westmeath; Sean Ross Abbey, Roscrea, Co Tipperary; Bethany Home, Dublin; Pelletstown, Dublin; Tuam; Kilrush, Co Clare; and St Gerard’s, Mountjoy Square, Dublin.

The report noted there was considerable debate about mother and baby homes “as far back as the 1920s”.

It said any consideration of the treatment of unmarried mothers would identify gender discrimination as “being to the fore”, while social class would also be a feature.

Regarding the Tuam mother and baby home, it said gardaí found skeletal remains in an underground structure near the site in 1970. The report also said: “An important potential contribution of the commission would be to research a social history which provides an objective account, within the wider social context, of the role of the different types of institution and the records available to assist further research.”

Children not present It further noted that “calls have been made for the inclusion of settings where mothers were accommodated but where children were not present”.

“This includes Magdalene laundries. At least some of these calls extend beyond the issue of referral of mothers from mother and baby homes to these institutions.” Dr Reilly was asked about including other institutions, such as the Magdalenes, in the terms of reference for the new commission but said the Government would not make a decision on the terms until the autumn.

“If we make our terms of reference too broad we will end up with something that may last for many years and that is not what people want.”