Mother and baby homes: Call for UN to establish ‘wider independent investigation’

Irish Council for Civil Liberties seeks ‘comprehensive and generous’ compensation scheme for survivors

The United Nations (UN) has been asked to request that the Irish Government establish "a wider independent investigation" into Mother and Baby homes and forced adoptions during the 20th century.

In a letter to Fabian Salvioli – the special rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence – the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) has called for an investigation that should be "survivor-centred, guided by human right law and standards, comprehensive in its scope and powers and transparent".

The letter, which was sent to Mr Salvioli on Wednesday, sets out the ICCL’s “concerns” about the Government’s handling of “systemic institutional abuse allegations in mother and baby homes and its approach to institutional burial sites in Ireland” – in particular the former Bessborough Mother and Baby Home.

The Government established a Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes in 2015, and it issued its final report earlier this year.


The ICCL said its methodology and final report have been “heavily criticised by survivor groups and civil society”.

In a briefing note accompanying the letter, the ICCL said the State apology delivered by aoiseach Micheál Martin was an important step in acknowledging the suffering of survivors but “proper reparation includes a range of other actions, including financial redress”.

“Government should provide a comprehensive and generous compensation scheme without prohibitive administrative hurdles or an adversarial scheme,” it said.

A consultation process on the establishment of an ex-gratia restorative recognition scheme, which was one of the recommendations of the report, is open until the end of this month.

The ICCL has also asked the UN to ensure the Government prevents any private developments on former mother and baby homes sites, including Bessborough, before ensuring proper exhumations that lead to identification of remains, establishment of cause of death and dignified burials have taken place.

“This is a pressing issue given the current planning permission applications,” it said.

The group said the Institutional Burials Bill, which is currently going through the Oireachtas, is "flawed in a number of respects".

“First and foremost, it is absolutely vital that the cause of death is established,” it said. “The Bill in its current form appears to exclude the Coroner’s Act from applying to certain exhumations. Inquests are vital to ensure the cause of death can be established and the jurisdiction of the Coroner should not be excluded.”

The ICCL has recommended the Government either amends the bill so that it is in line with the UN framework for Transitional Justice, or that it scraps the bill and amends the Coroners Act to allow for excavations of mass burial sites associated with institutions.

The group has also called for the Government to prioritise legislative reform to give adopted people the right to access their birth certificates and other relevant documents “that can shed light on their personal identity and origins”.

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times