Babies scandal ‘an abomination’, says Kenny

Commission of investigation will look at all mother and baby homes including Bethany

Taoiseach Enda Kenny  said the Government was establishing the inquiry “with a sense of sadness but equally a sense of duty and resolve”. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the Government was establishing the inquiry “with a sense of sadness but equally a sense of duty and resolve”. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

 

The treatment of many unmarried women and their babies from the 1920s onwards was an “abomination”, Taoiseach Enda Kenny told the Dáil as he confirmed a Government investigation would take place into all mother and baby homes.

Mr Kenny said they were establishing the inquiry “with a sense of sadness but equally a sense of duty and resolve”.

He said it was about examining a period in Ireland when women, particularly young women, were silent and were silenced.

“It was an extraordinary time when Mná na hÉireann and poor women especially were held up to a particularly high and callous account,” Mr Kenny said.

“Their treatment and their babies’ was an abomination.”

Disturbing symbiosis

The inquiry would consider a time “when there was a disturbing symbiosis between church and State, where a sin became, if not quite a civil wrong, then certainly a civil offence.”

During Leaders’ Questions Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin called for a dedicated counselling service and helpline staffed with qualified personnel to be put in place immediately, warning it took two years to establish such a service when residential institutional abuse was revealed.

The Taoiseach said Minister for Children Charlie Flanagan, who had earlier announced the establishment of an inquiry, would take on board Mr Martin’s suggestions.

He added that the Minister would ensure full consultation with the Opposition about the investigation.

The Taoiseach told the House it was “not about apportioning blame at any one location”. “We can apologise to everybody but where does it end?”

When Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams pointed to his party’s repeated calls for the Protestant-run Bethany home in Rathgar Dublin to be included, Mr Kenny told him Archbishop of Dublin Michael Jackson had written to him and “the Bethany home has to be investigated”, like all homes.

The home, on Orwell Road in Rathgar, was not included in the investigation linked to the Magdalene laundries despite calls from survivors.

When Mr Adams asked about the detail of the inquiry the Taoiseach told him the investigation would be as comprehensive, thorough and appropriate as possible.

Litigious response

“What we do not want it a litigious response that results in an expensive assessment of facts and files already available in the public domain,” he said.

He added: “This is an issue for Ireland because if this is not handled properly then Ireland’s soul in many ways will, like the babies of so many of these mothers, lie in an unmarked grave”.

Later, Mr Flanagan told the Dáil he wanted to see the consider matters beyond child and infant mortality and burial.

“Questions remain unanswered about the nature of adoptions and vaccine trials. Significant legal difficulties have been identified in seeking answers to these questions in the past and it is my intention that the commission of investigation can make progress where past investigations have failed,” he said.

And the interdepartmental group he had established would complete its work by June 30th and this would inform the terms of reference for the inquiry.