What is the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation?

Background: Remit includes investigating procedures in respect of children who died while in these institutions

The site at the Tuam mother and baby home, Galway. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

The site at the Tuam mother and baby home, Galway. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

Human remains of a significant number of babies and infants up to three years of age have been found on the site of the former mother and baby home in Tuam, Co Galway. This follows work by the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation which carried out planned excavations there.

What is the commission and what is its remit?

The Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation was established by the last government on February 17th 2015 and is chaired by Judge Yvonne Murphy.

It is directed to investigate and to make a report to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs in accordance with the provisions of Section 32 of the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004 (No. 23 of 2004).

The commission has been asked, among other things, to establish the circumstances and arrangements for the entry of single women into mother and baby homes and to establish the living conditions they experienced there.

It has also been asked to examine mortality amongst mothers and children residing in these institutions (to determine the general causes, circumstances, and rates of mortality) and to compare it to the literature on mortality amongst such other groups of women and children as might be relevant.

Burial arrangements

The commission is also investigating postmortem practices and procedures in respect of children or women who died while resident in these institutions, including the reporting of deaths, burial arrangements and the transfer of remains to educational institutions for the purpose of anatomical examination.

It is also looking into the extent of compliance with relevant regulatory and ethical standards of the time of “systemic” vaccine trials found by the commission to have been conducted on children resident in one or more of these institutions.

This includes vaccine trials conducted using vaccines manufactured by Burroughs Welcome in 1960/61, 1970 or 1973.

Survivors

A confidential committee, which meets survivor groups and those who worked in the homes, has been shaping the commission’s work.

More than 6,000 adoptions were recorded as having taken place in six mother and baby homes in the 23 years between 1950 and 1973, contemporaneous records show. The children went to a range of destinations including the US, Britain and Germany, as well as to homes across Ireland.

The records are contained in a file contained in the archives of the Department of Health titled Children and Mothers in Special Homes Annual Returns covering the 23 years between April 1st, 1950, and March 31st 1973.

Deaths

Between those years, an average of 63,000 births occurred in Ireland each year. The records also shed light on 518 deaths which occurred in five mother and baby homes (excluding Tuam) between April 1st, 1950, and March 31st, 1973. These deaths are over and above the 61 deaths which occurred in the children’s home in Tuam from April 1st, 1950, onwards.

In the years between 1965 and 1969, an average of 980 women and 1,050 children a year were admitted to such institutions, a figure which includes children born in the homes. The records show that all five institutions did accept private admissions but confirm that the vast majority of women and children in these homes were provided for by the State.

Figures released to The Irish Times show the costs of the Murphy inquiry were €1,485,676 in 2015 and were due to reach a further €2 million in 2016.

The majority of the monies has been spent on pay, with salary costs reaching €1.7million.