Around 175 women who gave birth in mother and baby homes, and children who resided in the homes, are considering seeking damages from the State, according to a solicitor they are consulting.
Seven cases were lodged on Thursday and Friday on behalf of women who gave birth in St Patrick’s home on the Navan Road, Dublin, and Árd Mhuire, in Dunboyne, Co Meath.
As well as the State, the women are suing the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul (the Navan Road home), and the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, who ran Árd Mhuire, according to Norman Spicer of Coleman Legal Partners, Dublin.
“At this stage the proceedings are being initiated primarily out of concerns raised in the recommendations by the Commission [of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes] namely, to exclude large cohorts of the community including all mothers who went into these institutions after 1974 ,” Mr Spicer said.
The commission has said it does not believe that women who went into the homes after 1973, when the unmarried mother’s allowance was introduced, should be entitled to financial redress.
“We remain steadfast in our view on behalf of our clients that the extremely restrictive recommendations from the commission on redress as proposed, are utterly unacceptable,” Mr Spicer said.
A spokesman for the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman, said an interdepartmental committee working on a redress scheme is to report by the end of April.
The group will “take on board the recommendations of the commission but is not bound by them”, he said. A decision as to who will qualify for redress has yet to be made.
“Should the Government propose a scheme that includes our clients we will review this carefully and take our clients’ instructions,” Mr Spicer said.
He said his firm is already in discussion with approximately 175 people and continues to receive “new instructions to issue proceedings in this regard on a daily basis”.
In its final report, published in January, the commission said redress can be financial or in the form of enhanced services, and recommended that services such as counselling should be provided to those who needed them.
It said it could be argued that financial redress for past wrongs “involves the present generation paying for the wrongs of earlier generations and it could be argued that this is unfair”.
However, some groups had received financial redress and the State had an obligation “not to discriminate between people in similar situations”.
The relevant schemes to be considered, it said, were the 2002 Residential Institutions Redress Scheme, for children, and the 2013 Magdalene laundries scheme, for women.
To be entitled to redress under the institutional redress scheme, former residents had to show they had suffered abuse that resulted in injury, the commission noted.
It said the evidence of abuse in the homes, including emotional abuse, was “minor” in comparison with that documented in relation to children in residential institutions.
The women who were in the homes were not in the same situation as women in Magdalene laundries, though some categories of women carried out “commercial work” for which they were not paid, the commission said.
The women were not incarcerated “in the strict meaning of the word but, in the earliest years at least” thought they were.
“The introduction of the unmarried mother’s allowance in 1973 changed that. The commission considers that women who entered mother and baby homes after 1973 do not have a case for financial redress.”