MEPs to be lobbied on terms of reference for mother-and-baby homes commission

Inquiry should include all children ‘born out of wedlock since 1922 rather than institutions’

MEPs will be lobbied tomorrow in Brussels by groups seeking support for a broader remit in terms of reference for the mother-and-baby home commission of inquiry set up by the Government last May.

Chaired by Ms Justice Yvonne Murphy and set up following revelations about the home in Tuam, Co Galway, the commission's terms of reference are expected to be announced in the coming weeks by Minister for Children James Reilly.

From the outset, lobby groups have expressed anxiety that its terms of reference will be too narrow.

The delegation of 35 will be hosted by Ireland's four Sinn Féin MEPs – Lynn Boylan, Liadh Ní Riada and Matt Carthy in the Republic, and Martina Anderson in the North. Tomorrow they will meet interested MEPs and representatives of the European Commission and Amnesty International.


Groups represented will include Adoption Rights Alliance, the Coalition of Mother and Baby Home Survivors, Justice for Magdalenes Research, as well as Queen's University Belfast historian Seán Lucey.

Maeve O'Rourke of Justice for Magdalenes Research said it and the Adoption Rights Alliance wanted the commission "to focus on the issue of children born out of wedlock in Ireland since 1922, rather than institutions per se".

Both groups believe the issue gives rise to to six fields of inquiry: infant mortality rates; adoption practices; vaccine trials and medical experimentation; forced labour and incarceration of unmarried girls and women who gave birth to babies or were seen to be “at risk” of becoming mothers; conditions in the institutions, including neglect, denial of adequate medical care, and cruel punishment; and burials of unmarried mothers and their children.

The two groups also believe relevant issues should be examined within a human rights framework. Findings of fact should be reached and recommendations made regarding all potential violations of human rights.

Alliance co-founder Susan Lohan said at the weekend: "We would like to see a full investigation into everything that happened in every institution, be it a mother-and-baby home, county home or a State maternity hospital."

Clodagh Malone of the Coalition of Mother and Baby Home Survivors group said it was calling on the Government "to open all records from the original birth certificates".

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times