Mother-and-baby survivors want inquiry by international figure

Wide coalition of groups came together yesterday to highlight the injustices affecting them that needed to be addressed as a priority

 Adoption Rights Alliance spokeman Paul Redmond  at press conference in Dublin yesterday. He said the group had been “banging on the door of State and church for a long time and had been ignored”. He added only Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald and Independent socialist TD Clare Daly had taken up the cause.   Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Adoption Rights Alliance spokeman Paul Redmond at press conference in Dublin yesterday. He said the group had been “banging on the door of State and church for a long time and had been ignored”. He added only Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald and Independent socialist TD Clare Daly had taken up the cause. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Thu, Jun 12, 2014, 01:00

An alliance of mother- and-baby home survivors has called for a full statutory inquiry chaired by an international judicial figure into the running and practices of all those institutions.

A wide coalition of groups representing former residents, both those who were adopted and birth mothers, came together yesterday to highlight the injustices affecting them that needed to be addressed as a priority.

While some said that a full State apology should be issued immediately by Taoiseach Enda Kenny, one birth mother – speaking from the floor – said it was an empty gesture.

“His apology means nothing. We have seen him crying the Magdalene crocodile tears. We are different people altogether. We are not going down that road.”

The coalition of groups held a press conference in Dublin yesterday afternoon to coincide with the Dáil debate on a Sinn Féin motion calling for an immediate judicial inquiry.

With the Government committed to establishing a statutory commission of investigation, it is likely there will now be consensus across the political spectrum on how to proceed.

Speakers at the conference yesterday said they supported a full investigation into conditions and practices in mother-and-baby homes, the high mortality rates, forced adoptions, vaccine trials, burial and illegal adoptions.

Secret burials

Also present were survivors of Protestant-run homes – such as Bethany House in Dublin, the Church of Ireland Magdalen Home in Dublin; the Westbank Orphanage in Greystones; and Ovoca House in Wicklow – who told the conference that the same practices, abuses, secret burials, and neglect occurred in these homes and said that they should be included in the inquiry.

Survivors said finances should be made available for memorials at each home; that every child should be remembered; that survivors should be consulted and involved in every stage of the inquiry process; and the question of redress should be addressed.

The Adoption Rights Alliance also highlighted the continuing situation where those who were adopted have no right under law to access their records and face continuing discrimination because of their adopted status. They said that legislation should be brought forward – and the Constitution changed if necessary – to allow adoptees access to their birth information and biological family health history, as is the norm in many EU countries, including Britain.

Ignored

Paul Redmond said people had been “banging on the door of State and church for a long time and had been ignored”. He said that only Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald and Independent socialist TD Clare Daly had taken up the cause.

He said that a priority should be a memorial stone for every angel’s plot. “Every single child who is buried should be named. Records can be pulled up quite quickly and handed over to survivors.”

He said that full consultation with survivors was also necessary. He and legal adviser Maireád Healy said a full inquiry chaired by an international judicial figure was required. Later, Ms Healy and Susan Lohan, of the Adoption Rights Alliance, said the need to go outside Ireland for a chairman or chairwoman was necessary because then no suggestion of a vested or geographical interest could be made.

Clodagh Malone of Beyond Adoption said that survivors had been torn apart and splintered: “As a society we may think we are done with Ireland’s past but the past is certainly not done with us.”

Ms Lohan said some “apologists” claimed this was history, but it was not. She said 45,000 Irish children had been adopted since 1952, while up to 30,000 were adopted between the foundation of the State and 1952.

*This article was edited on June 17th