Amnesty calls for ‘thorough’ mother and baby homes inquiry

Human rights group says Tuam case, disturbing as it is, should not be seen in isolation

Amnesty Internationl has called for an "urgent investigation" by the Government into "past child abuse in state-run and sponsored institutions" in Ireland.

Referring to recent revelations about the deaths of 796 children at the St Mary's mother and baby home in Tuam, Co Galway, Amnesty's Europe and Central Asia programme director John Dalhuisen said "this shocking case needs immediate attention and answers from the Irish Government. "

He said “a thorough investigation must be carried out into how these children died and if ill-treatment, neglect or other human rights abuses factored into their deaths. We also need to know why these children were not afforded the respect of a proper and dignified burial.”

The Government “must not view this and other cases as merely historic and beyond its human rights obligations,” he added.


Mr Dalhuisen said that as the Tuam home closed in 1961, “it is possible that some of the deaths occurred at a time when the European Convention on Human Rights was in force.

"Even before then, Ireland was aware of the internationally agreed norms expected of it in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights."

Colm O'Gorman, executive director of Amnesty International Ireland, said that "as disturbing as the 'Tuam babies' case is, it must not be viewed in isolation.

“The Irish authorities must look into possible allegations of ill-treatment of women and children in other so-called ‘mother and baby homes’ and other institutions run by the state or religious authorities - any further allegations of abuse must be met with independent and thorough investigations.”

Such investigaions must have “the necessary hallmarks of independence, effectiveness and transparency,” he said.

The Ryan Commission, which investigated abuses in residential institutions for children, “went a long way towards ensuring accountability for past human rights violations in religious-run institutions,” he said, but that its remit “did not extend to all such institutions or abuses.”

The Tuam case was “another example of why the Ryan Commission did not go far enough. It highlights the need for Ireland to deal comprehensively with its past, and, where, institutional human rights abuses are found, provide victims with truth, justice and reparation,” he said.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is Religious Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times