Dáil debates

Thursday, 18 November 2021

Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate

Residential Institutions

5:25 pm

Photo of Martin BrowneMartin Browne (Tipperary, Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

I am raising this issue on behalf of the survivors of mother and baby homes and county institutions across the country, who are outraged, deeply upset and insulted at the provisions made in the redress scheme that the Minister has published. To be frank, the redress scheme announced this week is an exercise in exclusion rather than compassion. I have been contacted by a number of survivors of Sean Ross Abbey who are more than just furious at the exclusion of infants who spent less than six months in a mother and baby home from accessing redress or an enhanced medical card. They are deeply upset and feel let down yet again. These emotions are being felt right across the country. Every time this Government claims to act compassionately towards the survivors of mother and baby homes it creates controversy, giving survivors more battles they have to fight and compounding the sense of exclusion they have felt for decades. For the life of me I cannot understand why people who, as infants, spent less than six months in mother and baby homes are excluded from accessing redress or an enhanced medical card. This six-month rule is completely arbitrary. I ask the Minister to outline to the survivors how that time period was decided upon and what factors were taken into account that resulted in the conclusion that the six-month exclusion point was appropriate. I would appreciate an answer to that.

Every minute spent in these hellholes was a minute too long. It only took the religious orders a moment to make the decision that would fundamentally affect the entire future of a young child and his or her mother by systematically and forcibly separating them. These children were betrayed from the start of their lives and they have been betrayed again this week. The Minister has said that infants who spent less than six months at one of these institutions would not have recollections of their time there. However, they live with this every day of their lives. To make it worse, they have had to spend much of their lives fighting for their right to be excluded no more. They are well aware of their time in these institutions.

There is no recognition in the redress scheme of the hurt or trauma experienced by children separated at birth from their mothers. That is an unfortunate fact. I was speaking to one such person this week, Teresa Collins. The Minister has spoken to her himself. She is a survivor of Sean Ross Abbey and is excluded from his scheme. This week, she feels abandoned by the State and like she is not being treated like a human being. That is how she described the attitude conveyed through the redress scheme. What does the Minister have to say to her and to the many others in similar situations?

I also ask him to justify his comment that as the commission did not focus on the boarded out phenomenon, as he put it, he was not in a position to compensate those people. Many of these children suffered horribly after being boarded out under the eye of the State. Just because the commission did not focus on it does not mean their experiences do not count. I also refer to the sliding scale of payments. This needs to be reviewed urgently as it creates a hierarchy of suffering, as do the six-month rule, the exclusion of boarded out children and the fact that this scheme is based on a commission report that has been widely rejected by survivors. This scheme is similar to the commission of investigation in that it is unfit to assist the people it impacts. The commission did little but give rise to a scandal and this scheme has a similar future.


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