Campaigners have reacted angrily to Government documents highlighting concerns a broader redress scheme for survivors of mother and baby homes could bring “financial consequences” for the State.
The Adoption Rights Alliance (ARA) said the documents reflected broader, ongoing problems with official attitudes towards the historic treatment of children and families, and how to go about redressing it.
"I can't tell you how incensed I am at that," Susan Lohan, ARA co-founder, said of the documents released to The Irish Times which also show there were objections to the scheme covering people who spent less than six months in the homes as children because they would likely have gone on to live "comfortable and contented lives".
"In the 70 years in which 'legal' adoption existed in Ireland, not a single government adoption board, adoption authority, has ever undertaken any analysis of the long-term effects of Irish adoption on adopted people," she said. "It was a particularly grotesque model because there was little or no vetting of the adopted parents."
Another document noted that an expanded scheme, bringing more people into the eligibility net, had the potential to set a significant precedent for others “in society who may feel they are also entitled to some form of redress or recognition payment based on any length of residency or attendance in an institution or other setting”.
“The creation of such a precedent has far-reaching policy and financial consequences for the State.”
Claire McGettrick of Clann – a project studying the experiential history of unmarried mothers and their children in the 20th century – said too often the State’s response was set in an institutional context where for many the trauma was born of forced family separations.
Addressing the reference to such “financial consequences”, Ms McGettrick said “human rights violations are human rights violations and the State can’t be considering its pocket every time it’s caught out in not protecting human rights”.
She was also critical of the idea that qualification for the scheme would be cut off at a six-month minimum, noting many children adopted by families were abused in those settings.
“Not everyone went on to live a comfortable life,” she said. “Adoption is only a guarantee of a different life, not necessarily a better one.”
In November the Cabinet approved a scheme that would see all mothers who spent time in the institutions eligible for payments of €5,000-€65,000.
Ms Lohan said any attempt to reduce access to the scheme would be particularly concerning given the levels of money involved.
“The payments they are suggesting are so paltry,” she said. “On any day of the week you read about someone who, through their own carelessness, tripped and they have a small scar and they are getting payments of €50,000 plus. And yet the destruction to our families, and particularly for the mothers, [the] lifelong mental health costs, are enormous.”