Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman has moved to widen access to a redress scheme for survivors of mother and baby homes beyond the terms recommended by the commission of investigation.
Women who spent less than six months in the homes and those resident after 1974 are likely to be included in the redress scheme when Mr O’Gorman seeks Cabinet approval for the plan in coming weeks.
With thousands of potential beneficiaries, officials are now working on the basis that the scheme will cost €700 million-€800 million.
Such estimates are below preliminary indications that up to €1 billion would be needed to provide even “modest redress” to survivors, but some senior Coalition figures believe the ultimate bill may yet come close to €900 million.
The push to broaden the scheme, confirmed by two Government sources, follows controversy over the findings of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes and its handling of survivors’ testimony, which led to demands for its report to be repudiated.
Ms Justice Yvonne Murphy, who chaired the inquiry, rejected such criticism.
In its January report, the commission said “women who spent lengthy periods (for example, in excess of six months) in mother and baby homes before 1974” should be considered for redress. Six months was suggested as the cut-off because it was the average length of time that women spent in homes in other countries.
The commission also said women who were in county homes, the Tuam home and those who worked outside the institutions without pay should be eligible.
Replying to a parliamentary question in July, Mr O’Gorman said proposals for a restorative recognition scheme would take account of the commission’s recommendations but were “not limited” to them.
“This scheme will include a financial payment and a form of enhanced medical card,” the Minister said then.
Although the Government has indicated it will seek a significant financial contribution from Catholic and Church of Ireland bodies that were involved in running homes, there will be no formal talks with church figures until the scheme is approved by the Cabinet.
Preparations for a redress programme have been under way for several months. At one point, however, the Attorney General raised legal concerns about the plan to include survivors not covered by the commission’s recommendations.
At issue, according to two sources, was concern that a move to widen access to redress could tie the hands of a future government if a similar scheme were recommended by any other commission of investigation.
The Minister said in July that the work of a group set up to develop a scheme was “effectively complete”. He hoped to open the scheme to applications “as soon as possible in 2022”. His office declined to comment on the preparations.