Mother and baby homes survivors demand changes to ‘insulting’ scheme

Many object to exclusion of babies who were in homes for less than six months

The redress scheme for survivors of mother and baby homes is "insulting", "penny-pinching" and must be changed, survivors said during a protest outside Leinster House on Wednesday.

In particular, they said they object to the exclusion of babies in the homes for less than six months, including those who were ‘boarded out’.

Last month, Taoiseach Michael Martin insisted there would be no changes to the €800 million scheme despite a recent High Court ruling that eight survivors were treated unlawfully by the commission of investigation into the homes.

Maria Arbuckle (59) , who is originally from Derry flew over from her home in England, despite health issues, to be at the protest, saying "this fight is very important".


She was in care in St Joseph's training school in Middletown, Co Armagh when she got pregnant aged 17 in 1981. She was transferred to St Patrick's Guild mother and baby home in Dublin to have her son, now 40.

He was transferred back to Northern Ireland aged two weeks for adoption. While she will qualify for redress, he will not.

“This excuse that babies under six months won’t remember is a joke. Trauma happens to a baby from birth if they don’t have their mother, but the men making these decisions don’t understand that. It doesn’t matter if you have spent one day or one year in a mother and baby home. It’s trauma.”

Peter Mulryan (77), was born in Tuam mother and baby home and was boarded out aged four to an elderly woman who was unable to care for him, he says.


“It’s very insulting what they are trying to do,” he said. Children like him, whose mothers had been unmarried, were “nothing in society” he recalls.

“The priests wouldn’t let us serve at Mass because our mothers weren’t married. It was supposed to be a caring church. Society was the same.”

The redress scheme should be the State’s opportunity to “put right the cruelty, the lack of compassion”, Mr Mulryan said.

“This schemes shows they are not caring or trying to put things right. Our basic human rights are out the door. If a person was only a week in those institutions they should get the same amount [as someone there longer]. It’s so mean.”

Collette Shiels (62), who spent her first four months in Castlepollard mother and baby home, said she would "fight to the bitter end". She was protesting on behalf of her mother, Christina Burke, who died in a nursing home in September 2017.

“She went to the grave thinking she did wrong when all she did was have me. She never got over it.”

Ms Shiels said her own exclusion from the scheme was “grossly unfair”.

“I was adopted into a good family but I want equal rights. I am very hurt. I am proud I am her daughter. I will do this to the bitter end, until we get what we deserve. It is the principal of the thing. We are not taking this hurt any more.”

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times