The Final Report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes was published by the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth on Tuesday 12th January 2021.
The report covers the experiences of women and children who lived in 14 mother and baby homes and four county homes between 1922 and 1998 and the contents thereof make for difficult and often appalling reading. The Commission of Investigation has made a number of recommendations for action arising from the contents of the report, including a formal State apology, the establishment of a legal route for people born in the institutions to access information regarding their parentage, and the establishment of a redress scheme.
Legal recommendations of the Commission of Investigation
The Commission of Investigation advised that there should be a legal right for people born in Mother and Baby Homes to access their original birth certificate, as well as medical and adoption records, on the basis that a person’s right to their identity is an important human right. The Commission also noted that in creating such a right, the State would need to address the privacy rights of any birth mothers who would wish to object to their identity being revealed as part of this process without their consent.
Following the publication of the report, the Government committed to an “ex gratia restorative recognition scheme”, as recommended by the Commission of Investigation. The Commission proposed that the compensation models used in previous redress schemes, such as the Residential Institutions Redress Scheme, could be used as a basis for any scheme produced on foot of this report. In addition to any financial awards made under any proposed Scheme, the Commission has recommended that counselling supports and enhanced medical cards be awarded to former residents.
No terms have been drafted as of yet, however the Commission has recommended putting certain limitations on any redress scheme. Proposed limitations include the exclusion of applications for financial redress from women who entered Mother and Baby Homes after the introduction of the Unmarried Mother’s Allowance in 1973 and the exclusion of applications for redress from residents of 5 of the 18 homes examined in the report as children were not resident in those homes without their mothers.
While the Commission of Investigation has recommended a redress scheme modelled on the systems set up for survivors of the Magdalen Laundries and residential institutions, it’s unclear yet how any such scheme will operate with mounting pressure from survivors, politicians, human rights groups, and the general public.
Under the Residential Institutions Redress Scheme that operated in the 2000s, awards were made on a scale dependent on the level of abuse suffered by claimants in their respective institutions. Reports from psychiatrists and doctors were required as evidence of the impact claimants’ experiences in the various institutions had on them throughout their lives and the scheme included oral hearings. This could be replicated in the new proposed scheme.
The Taoiseach has promised a ‘comprehensive suite of measures’, of which we’ll know more in the coming days.
About the author: Mark Jones, Solicitor