Government praised for decisive action

Support groups welcome decision to extend inquiry to all such institutions

“We very much welcome the decision by the Government to put in place a statutory investigation,” said Amnesty International Ireland executive director Colm O’Gorman. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

“We very much welcome the decision by the Government to put in place a statutory investigation,” said Amnesty International Ireland executive director Colm O’Gorman. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

Wed, Jun 11, 2014, 01:00

Support groups last night welcomed the Government’s decision to initiate a statutory Commission of Investigation into mother and baby homes across the State.

“We very much welcome the decision by the Government to put in place a statutory investigation into mother and baby homes,” said Amnesty International Ireland executive director Colm O’Gorman. “The decision to extend the investigation to all such institutions is especially welcome.

He noted the “timely nature” of the announcement and said: “Any protracted delay in putting in place an independent and effective investigation would have been a further disservice to the women who found themselves placed in these institutions.”

Timeliness

Susan Lohan, director of the Adoption Rights Alliance, also commented on the “timeliness” of the response. She said: “The timeliness and the scope are the most important things here. We mustn’t allow it to be dragged out.”

Children’s Rights Alliance chief executive Tanya Ward welcomed the decision as the “first step to establish the truth and deliver accountability for these mothers and their children”.

“We commend Minister [Charlie] Flanagan for taking decisive action. The Government has done the right thing. Establishing this commission is the only way to find out what really happened,” she said.

“Uncovering the dark history of how we treated unmarried mothers and their children is vital for us to truly acknowledge and understand our past,” she said. “This is the missing piece of the jigsaw.”

Answers

Ashley Balbirnie, chief executive of the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, said it was “time for answers” which the inquiry would hopefully provide.

“It is a sad, shameful discovery that almost 800 children have been failed so terribly and we fear these revelations are just the tip of the iceberg. We as a society are judged by how we treat children. We need to learn from the past and treat our children with the respect and dignity that is their right.”

Acting chairwoman of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Betty Purcell called for “a human rights and equality framework” for the inquiry. “We welcome the announcement of a Commission of Investigation, including the fact the inquiry will be on a statutory footing with the requisite powers to compel witnesses and documents,” she said.

Shortfall

“This was a shortfall of the Magdalene laundries interdepartmental committee chaired by Senator [Martin] McAleese and criticised by the UN Committee Against Torture,” she said.

“We await the inquiry’s terms of reference and further information on its composition, timelines and resourcing. It will be important that it has a human rights and equality framework in its design. We are ready to advise Government on this.”