More than 30 people make criminal complaints about mother and baby homes in five days
Former residents urged to come forward if they were subject to or witnessed abuse
Baby shoes left by a mother and baby homes protest in Phoenix Park, Dublin. File photograph: Tom Honan
At least 33 people have made criminal complaints to gardaí relating to mother and baby homes in the past five days.
Last Thursday, the Garda made a public appeal for former residents of the institutions to come forward if they feel they were the subject of abuse or witnessed other criminal activity.
It made the appeal after concluding the report by the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes, which was released in January, did not contain enough detail on its own to mount a criminal investigation.
“The report is anonymised, and any proper investigation would not be possible without identification of individual parties affected by specific occurrences,” the Garda said.
According to figures provided to The Irish Times on Tuesday, 33 people have contacted a dedicated Garda phoneline and email address relating to the mother and baby homes since the appeal.
The true figure is likely to be higher as data on the number of reports made at local Garda stations is not yet available. The Garda renewed its appeal on Tuesday.
At the same time, Tusla asked women who were sent to homes after becoming pregnant as a result of sexual abuse to come forward, even if they do not feel comfortable making a formal criminal complaint to gardaí.
The commission’s report said it found no evidence of sexual abuse within the 14 institutions it examined. However, it detailed multiple instances of girls becoming pregnant while they were underage before being sent to the homes.
“In some cases, they became pregnant as a result of sexual abuse. This may mean that the person who caused them harm could have continued to abuse other children, and/or many be a risk to children today,” a joint statement from Tusla and the Garda said on Tuesday.
Tusla are primarily concerned with abuse which took place before women were sent to the homes and if abusers may still pose a risk to children. The Garda is concerned with potential crimes both before and during women’s time in the homes. Both agencies have pledged to work together to help victims.
The commission was established in 2015 to examine institutions, mostly run by religious orders, where unmarried women were sent if they became pregnant.
It found widespread mistreatment and an “appalling level of infant mortality”. It also found that medical experiments were conducted on infants without parental consent.
Tusla’s director of transformation and policy Cormac Quinlan said it is aware that some women may have child welfare concerns but do not want to make a complaint to the Garda.
“In these cases, we will listen, assist, advise, and act to keep children safe. We will also share reports of abuse with An Garda Síochána, as we are obliged to do.”
He said Tusla has a responsibility to keep children as safe as possible, including from people who have harmed children in the past.
Tusla can be contacted via the Freephone number 1800-805665, open from 10am to 4pm daily until Friday, May 14th.
The Garda has set up a dedicated email address, MotherandBabyHomes@garda.ie, as well as a confidential, 24/7 freephone line on 1800-555222. Reports can also be made at any Garda station.