State to address High Court cases against mother and baby homes report

Government to outline opposition to cases including one taken by Philomena Lee

The Sean Ross Abbey in Roscrea, Tipperary, which was a mother and baby home operated by the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary from 1930 to 1970. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

The Sean Ross Abbey in Roscrea, Tipperary, which was a mother and baby home operated by the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary from 1930 to 1970. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

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The State is due to outline today the nature of its opposition to a series of pending High Court challenges against the report of the mother and baby homes commission.

A deadline of today was set for the State and Government to produce papers detailing the basis for its opposition to at least seven cases.

The cases, including one by retired nurse Philomena Lee, have been brought against the Minister for Children, the Government, Ireland and the Attorney General.

A number of sources said the question of who bears responsibility for the report may be addressed as a key issue in the High Court today, with the State arguing that such responsibility rested with the commission before its dissolution.

Another hearing to organise the schedule for the cases is set for next week.

The cases involve claims that the commission’s final report does not accurately reflect the applicants’ evidence to it and breaches their rights to fair procedures and natural and constitutional justice.

Some of the challenges are aimed at quashing parts of the final report.

Ms Lee, now aged 88 and living in England, claims the disputed sections do not accurately reflect her evidence to the commission and breach her fundamental rights.

Some survivors have said there are inaccuracies in the report when it comes to accounts that they gave their experiences.

Many have also said that they do not feel the final report reflects their lived experiences, pointing to certain findings in the report such as the finding that there was little evidence that children were forcibly removed from their mothers or that women in the institutions were generally doing the type of work they would have done at home.

The head of the commission, former judge Yvonne Murphy, last week turned down an invitation to appear before an Oireachtas committee. She sent a lengthy defence of the commission’s work to members of the committee.

In the letter, she said they “do not intend to participate in any process that could compromise the independent findings of the commission.

“The independence of the commission cannot simply be abandoned because its findings are not acceptable to some at a political level.”

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman urged her to reconsider, while Taoiseach Micheál Martin also said that a way should be found to answer outstanding questions.

Meanwhile, the Seanad was told yesterday the “massive” work of the commission “to uncover a huge scandal” has not been fairly or adequately acknowledged.

In a staunch defence of the three commissioners, Independent Senator Michael McDowell said their 3,000-page report was a substantial body of work.

The former tánaiste told the Upper House that “the commissioners have not got fair or adequate acknowledgement of the massive amount of work they did to uncover a huge scandal in the way Ireland dealt with its most vulnerable people in the past”.

Mr McDowell said the idea of the confidential committee, a less adversarial forum than the investigation committee, “was always to be one where a general report would be developed based on what people, who wanted to have their input, gave their particular experience and they “were given and many of them availed of a guarantee of confidentiality”.

He added that the more than 500 women who addressed the confidential committee were “given the privilege of having input into what would be a general report on their particular experiences without any obligation to be cross-examined or challenged or to stand up their events”.