Mother-and-baby home survivors accuse Zappone over redress

Minister accused of trying to influence survivors not to push for compensation

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

Survivors of Ireland’s mother-and-baby homes have accused Minister for Children Katherine Zappone of trying to get them not to push for State compensation for their detention.

In a letter to survivors, Ms Zappone has invited survivors of institutions under investigation by the Commission on Mother and Baby Homes to meetings, beginning with one in Dublin on June 30th.

Saying that she has “reflected carefully” on the commission’s April 11th interim report, the Minister said she wants to get survivors’ views over the next two months.

The commission, chaired by Justice Yvonne Murphy, will publish its final report in February 2018.

The meetings, said Ms Zappone, would “explore if there are health and wellbeing services “that could be of value to those who lived for a time in a mother-and-baby home or county home as a child without their mother”.

However, the letters come on foot of a Government rejection of a recommendation in Justice Murphy’s report that survivors should get redress, as happened with those held in residential institutions.

The judge’s compensation recommendation delayed the publication of the report for several months, following strong opposition from the Department of Education, in particular.

Redress ‘not ruled out’

In the Dáil in April, Ms Zappone said redress was not ruled out, even though the Government had said the judge’s recommendation had raised “important financial and legal questions”.

Ms Zappone has appointed Jim Halley, an expert in mediation and arbitration, to facilitate the meetings with survivors around the State.

“I want to ensure that this initiative does not pre-empt or undermine the work of the commission,” Ms Zappone states in her letter. “I have in mind a process that will help us identify possible supports for unaccompanied residents, without prejudice to what the final conclusions or recommendations of the commission might be.”

Recipients are given 10 days to return an “expression of interest” form to attend the June 30th meeting.

Among these recipients is Tony Kelly (70), who was born in St Theresa’s mother-and-baby home in Blackrock, Co Dublin, and was in nine foster homes. He is also founder of the United Survivors group for former mother-and-baby home residents.

“What is the point of these meetings in the middle of Justice Murphy’s investigation? Are they trying to see how little they can get away with, to trap us into accepting no redress? They think they are going to play with our heads. We want redress just as Ms Murphy recommended.”

Sheila O’Byrne (60), whose son was taken from her a day after his birth in 1976 in St Patrick’s on the Navan Road, said she had not received an invitation letter, but would be “suspicious” of its purpose.