Mother and Baby Homes Commission: Who was on it and why was it set up?

Commission investigated 14 mother and baby homes and four sample county homes

The Regina Coeli home on Morningstar Avenue off North Brunswick Street in Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill / The Irish Times

The Regina Coeli home on Morningstar Avenue off North Brunswick Street in Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill / The Irish Times

 

The Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation was set up in 2015 following revelations about the deaths and burials of hundreds of children at one such former institution in Tuam, Co Galway.

Work by historian Catherine Corless in documenting the Tuam deaths created heightened public concern about the treatment of unmarried mothers and adoption practices in Ireland in previous decades.

The commission was charged with examining what happened to vulnerable women and children in mother and baby homes during the period 1922 to 1998.

Its final report – which runs to 3,000 pages – was submitted to the Government on October 30th, 2020 and published on Tuesday.

The three members of the commission were Ms Justice Yvonne Murphy, Prof Mary Daly and Dr William Duncan.

Ms Justice Murphy previously led the commission which investigated the handling of clerical child sex abuse cases in Dublin’s Catholic archdiocese and which later had its remit extended to include the Cloyne diocese in Cork.

Prof Daly is president of the Royal Irish Academy and former professor of Irish history at UCD. Dr Duncan was professor of law at Trinity College, Dublin, and was a member of the Law Reform Commission.

Barrister Ita Mangan, who also served with the commission which investigated Dublin’s archdiocese and Cloyne diocese, is director of the Mother and Baby Homes Commission.

The commission investigated 18 institutions: 14 mother and baby homes and a sample of four county homes.

The mother and baby homes were the Children’s Home at Tuam, Co Galway; Ard Mhuire at Dunboyne, Co Meath; Belmont on Belmont Avenue in Dublin; Bessborough in Cork; Bethany in Dublin; Denny House in Dublin; the Kilrush Home in Co Clare; Manor House at Castlepollard, Co Westmeath; Ms Carr’s at Northbrook Road in Dublin; the Regina Coeli hostel on North Brusnwick Street in Dublin; Seán Ross Abbey in Roscrea, Co Tipperary; St Gerard’s on Mountjoy Square, Dublin; Pelletstown/St Patrick’s on the Navan Road, Dublin, and the Castle in Newtowncunningham, Co Donegal.

The four county homes investigated were St Kevin’s institution in Dublin, Stranorlar county home in Donegal, Cork City county home and Thomastown county home in Kilkenny.

The commission dealt with more than 1.3 million documents, scanned from originals and held mainly by the Department of Health and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, as well as the institutions.

It held 195 hearings which involved 64 former residents of the institutions, 30 advocacy groups, 16 sisters/members of religious congregations, 14 experts, 22 social workers, 13 local authority officials, seven Government officials, six workers in the homes, three priests, three gardaí, 12 “others” which included people concerned about particular sites, some whose birth certificates had been falsified, and some who were aware of practices in certain institutions.

The Government had allocated €23 million for the commission’s work. At presentation of its report to the Government last October it had spent €11.5 million.