TD tells Dáil about his mother’s experience in mother and baby home

‘It was extremely traumatic for my mother and my sister,’ says Gino Kenny

An opposition TD has spoken in the Dáil of his mother’s experience in a mother and baby home and how she did not see her daughter for 35 years.

People Before Profit TD Gino Kenny said his mother gave evidence to the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes.

“My mother spent a period of time in one of the institutions and it was extremely traumatic for my mother and my sister, who I would meet eventually over a period of time,” he said.

Her account of her experience “is quite harrowing. Her baby daughter was taken away from her and she did not see her for 35 years.

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“I will always remember to the day I die, when my mother found out that she was going to meet her daughter again. I’ll never forget it.

“My mother was crying and she was joyous . . . that eventually she was going to meet that daughter that was taken away from her.”

The Dublin South-West TD said “it was a very painful time in all our lives . . . meeting a person my mother thought was gone”.

Mr Kenny was speaking during a Dáil debate on the Government’s proposals to deal with Ireland’s legacy of mother and baby and county home institutions.

One of the main proposals is the redress scheme which will apply to all women who were in such institutions and children who spent more than six months in them. It is expected to include 34,000 people and enhanced medical cards will be provided to some 19,000 people.

Conclusions ‘ignored’

The measures are expected to cost €800 million but have been widely criticised as “arbitrary” in excluding children who spent less than six months in an institution.

Social Democrats TD Holly Cairns asked why the Government had a consultation process and “then ignored” its conclusions.

Independent TD Catherine Connolly claimed the scheme was perpetuating discrimination and "excluded 24,000 children simply to save money".

She said the interdepartmental group that developed the proposals had no human rights expertise and no understanding whatsoever of what it meant to survive a mother and baby home.

Mr Kenny said “there is so much pain” involved for so many as he appealed to Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman to reconsider the financial compensation package.

During the debate, Sinn Féin TD Patricia Ryan became emotional as she highlighted the experience of a boy whose family was broken up and he was sent to a home following his mother’s death when he was a small child.

The Kildare South TD referred to a book, Down by Anna Liffey, by James Connolly who was sent to St Mary’s home in Drogheda and separated from his five siblings.

Benburb Street tenement

Ms Ryan became upset as she spoke of the then four year old being led away to a big black car that was to “tear him away from his family” who lived in a tenement in Benburb Street. On his way out, he met the building caretaker who was mopping the floor and using Jeyes Fluid. “He patted James on the head and wished him the best of luck and to this day – James was 80 a few months ago – whenever he smells Jeyes Fluid he is transported back”.

“Though not directly related to mother and baby homes, I tell this story to show that the trauma can stay with children from a very young age” and “have a profound effect on their mental health and very outlook on life.

“We must take account of this and Government must ensure all survivors are included in redress proposals,” she said.

Mr O’Gorman told TDs the Government was “seeking to provide an enduring response to the priority needs of all concerned” and committed to delivering “an inclusive response to the extremely complex legacy that surrounds mother and baby institutions.

“No scheme could possibly account for everyone affected by the litany of shocking failures that have emerged and with which our country continues to grapple.”

The action plan “is all-inclusive, not only in terms of survivors and their families but the entire wider community and society.

“We believe the plan responds to the diverse needs of those affected by the legacy of mother and baby institutions and provides an opportunity for all of us to learn, through the words of survivors, what took place in these institutions.”

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is a parliamentary correspondent with The Irish Times