Dáil to debate call for truth commission on mother and baby homes

Sites should be ‘subject to injunction preventing structural change’ until final report


A call has been made for a truth commission to be set up to properly establish the facts about mother and baby homes.

Sinn Féin spokesman on children Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire has introduced a Private Members’ motion to be debated in the Dáil on Tuesday, calling for the establishment of a truth commission.

“The entire system, and the mistreatment of woman and children in whatever setting, needs to have a light shone on it.”

Mr Ó Laoghaire said there were numerous examples of successful truth commissions internationally. “We should take the best examples of these and apply the principles here in Ireland,” and he cited truth processes in Chile, South Africa, Canada and Australia.

The Cork South-Central TD said a commission with a wide ranging remit was the best way to finally establish the truth of what happened in these institutions.

Sinn Féin’s motion calls for a commission with international experts to be established, which would be developed in consultation with victims and survivors groups.

The commission would give survivors the option to give their testimony in a non-confrontational, non-adversarial manner and in either public or private as suited the individuals.

It would operate on a modular basis, in order to ensure that older survivors are among the first heard and would issue bimonthly interim reports.

The motion also calls for the hearings to include all Protestant mother and baby homes, such as Bethany and Westbank, and all other institutions.

And it states that as a matter of urgency, all mother and baby homes and county home sites should be “subject to an injunction preventing structural changes or interference to land where exhumations may be necessary until the final report of the truth commission is published”.

‘Utterly inadequate’

Mr Ó Laoghaire described attempts to establish truth and address who was responsible as “piecemeal, flawed and utterly inadequate”.

“The most recent action, the establishment of the Commission of Investigation in to Mother and Baby, under Judge Yvonne Murphy, was set up in the midst of widespread criticism that it’s terms of reference were utterly inadequate,” he said.

“The suffering and the mistreatment of children and mothers in these institutions is a matter of national shame and, in many respects, there are many questions unanswered and those responsible have yet to be brought to account.

“Those who suffered under the system but were not on the list of prescribed mother and baby homes were excluded. Survivors groups have also criticised the behind-closed-doors hearings and what they feel is a lack of transparency.”

A new model is required, he said. “A commission of investigation, or interdepartmental committee will simply not do.

“And it needs to explore the full story, and establish the truth of what happened, right across the system.”

Mr Ó Laoghaire said that although the experiences in mother and baby homes, Magdalene laundries, industrial schools and other institutions were varied, there had been a failure to recognise that the issues were linked.