Government must continue engagement with survivors following welcome publication of Mother and Baby Homes Report

12 January 2021

Ivana Bacik

  • Survivors, legislators and the public must be given time to digest report 
  • Further investigation into forced separation needed 
  • Timeline on implementation of recommendations needed 
  • Government must provide supports to survivor groups Welcoming the publication today of the Report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes, Labour Spokesperson for Children, Disability, Equality & Integration, Senator Ivana Bacik, has expressed her sincere sympathies and best wishes to survivors and their families. 

Speaking this afternoon, she has emphasised the need for the Government to proceed carefully but decisively in consultation with survivors, whose voices must be paramount in developing official responses to the report’s findings and recommendations.

Senator Bacik said,

“I welcome the long-awaited publication of the report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes this afternoon. Today is a painful but cathartic day for survivors of Mother and Baby Homes and their families, as well as for Irish society at large. Ireland’s history of institutional abuse, particularly of women and children, is nothing short of horrific. This report exposes just some of that institutional and structural abuse. In particular, the report exposes the realities for so many women and children whose human rights were violated by State and church authorities in Mother and Baby Homes and County Homes across the country until as recently as 1998. 

“Now, careful consideration and reflection must be given to this 3,000 page report. A total of 56,000 mothers and 57,000 children passed through these homes during the decades examined. It is welcome that their experiences are outlined throughout the report. Now, the voices of survivors and their families must be amplified and listened to throughout this painful process. They must be central to the Government’s response to this shocking report.

“Indeed, I note that some survivor groups, including the Coalition of Mother and Baby Home Survivors, have already expressed disappointment with what they see as the incompleteness of the report, which does not engage with the more expansive issue of State-sponsored forced or coerced separation of mothers and babies. I echo the Irish Council for Civil Liberties’ call today for a separate investigation to examine the entire system of secret adoption and family separation, to add to our knowledge about this shameful history and to build on the findings made in today’s report about the 14 Mother and Baby Homes under investigation by the Commission.

“Looking to the fourteen pages of recommendations in the report, there is an evident and pressing need for the Government to develop a timeline for their implementation. In particular, the Government must engage with survivors and their families where points of contention arise, such as regarding which organisation should be responsible for information and tracing.

“The Government must demonstrate its commitment to doing right by those whose human rights were so severely abused in Mother and Baby homes by engaging with their representative groups throughout the formulation of the eight-point ‘Government Action Plan’, now that the report has been published. Ongoing and discursive engagement will be necessary in providing restitution to those who have suffered so much already. The Government response must not re-traumatise those affected.

“Following the passage of the Commission of Investigation (Mother and Baby Homes and certain related Matters) Records, and another Matter, Bill 2020, I called for increased supports for survivors and adopted people. Once sufficient time has been given to considering the contents of the Report, attention must turn to this important matter without delay. Moreover, survivors must be enabled to seek out information pertaining to them and their families; and must be provided with housing and long-term care supports where needed. In particular, we must move without delay to bring forward proper, robust and effective information and tracing legislation. 

“It is welcome that the Taoiseach will offer a State apology to survivors, but the timing of such an apology must be decided in consultation with survivors. In addition, an apology must be accompanied by tangible steps to provide redress and to hold those responsible accountable.

“Following the publication of this Report today, I am calling on Minister O’Gorman to ensure that it be given adequate time for debate within the Oireachtas and beyond.

“Finally, I want to pay special tribute and thanks to the historian Catherine Corless. The country owes her a great deal of gratitude for her determination to bring the truth to light. Without her, this shameful part of our history might still be ignored.

“I hope that we can work constructively from this point onwards to secure better outcomes for the many persons who have experienced institutional abuse in Ireland. Today’s report is an indictment of the State, the Church and of the society that allowed women and children to be treated like this for so many years.