People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett has told the Dáil he does not know how long he spent in a mother and baby home.
The Dún Laoghaire TD said the Government’s Mother and Baby Homes redress scheme was an “arbitrary scheme” that includes some and excludes others, and “has a league table with a price tag on it which commodifies your suffering”.
Mr Boyd Barrett was speaking during the report stage of the Mother and Baby Institutions Payment Scheme Bill 2022. The Bill is due to be passed in the Dáil on Wednesday night.
It provides for redress to all mothers and babies who spent “not less than” six months in institutions, and not to those children who were “boarded out”.
“I’m an adoptee, I was born in a mother and baby home, grew up in a mother and baby home,” Mr Boyd Barrett said.
“I was in a couple of them, I was sent off to England, ushered out of sight, child of a fallen woman, illegitimate child, that’s how mothers and the children were characterised and then brought back.
“I don’t even know how long I was in a mother and baby home, I don’t know and it’s irrelevant whether you were one week, one day, six months or two years because the central crime the Church and State committed was the primal wound of separating a mother from her child.
“From the minute that it happens, it has a lifelong effect on mother and child ... it is the primal wound that begins on day one.”
The People Before Profit TD said his “story turned out to be lucky” and he was eventually reunited with his mother and was adopted “by a wonderful family”.
Mr Boyd Barrett said others suffered terribly and were “shamed all their lives”, experiencing the stigma of illegitimacy.
“Everyone had a crime committed against them from day one when they were torn out of the arms of their mother or child torn out of their arms,” he added.
“The lives they would have lived were taken from them because of the twisted, perverted morality of Church and State that deemed some people legitimate and others illegitimate.”
Sinn Féin TD Kathleen Funchion said the scheme excludes about 40 per cent of survivors and that this was “very cynical” and “a cost-saving measure by the Government that can’t be dressed up in any other way”.
“It’s time to respect Mother and Baby Home survivors and their families. The scheme is an insult to survivors and totally fails to take into account their needs,” she said.
“This simply is not good enough. This Government has failed survivors time and time again. This has to stop. I know first-hand that survivors will be bitterly disappointed if this bill passes today. The Government must change the redress scheme to be fairer to them.”
Social Democrats TD Holly Cairns pointed to the United Nations Human Rights Committee which has called for the redress scheme to be extended.
“The denial of justice and disregard for survivors is startling,” she said. “The minister is directly responsible for crafting and leading this process, but every Government backbencher and independents who quietly vote with them share culpability for this injustice.”
Labour TD Seán Sherlock said the six-month rule was deeply unfair and if the Government did not amend this, it would have to address the issue in years to come.
Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Roderic O’Gorman said no one scheme could provide a response to the full range of individual experiences and pain suffered by survivors.
Mr O’Gorman said around 34,000 former residents and survivors will be eligible to apply for redress under the scheme, which is estimated to cost €800 million.