Dáil debates

Thursday, 25 November 2021

Mother and Baby Institutions: Statements


4:50 pm

Photo of Kathleen FunchionKathleen Funchion (Carlow-Kilkenny, Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Minister. I am glad we have the opportunity to discuss this again. It is helpful to have these statements after Tuesday. I will divide my contribution into three sections. The first is to refer to specific stories that people have brought to my attention since Tuesday. I am always surprised that every time this subject is raised, somebody new gets in contact with me. They are people who felt that they were somehow forgotten, so I will briefly mention them so they know that a tiny section of their stories was told on the record of the Dáil. After that, I have one or two questions I wish to put to the Minister. He will not have time to answer them this evening but perhaps he could take them on board.

The first person is Jim who is 54 years old and, by his own admission, has lived a decent life. He owns his home and had a good career. His health has not been great of late but he does not let that get him down. He was born in a county home and was immediately boarded out. He desperately wants to know more about his family. He wrote to thank me and others for standing up for people like him. He describes himself as marginalised.

Then there is Mary's mother who was sent to a mother and baby institution in London run by the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary in Cork. After Mary's birth, she and her mother were sent back to Ireland. Mary was sent on to St. Patrick's orphanage to be put up for adoption. She feels she has been ignored.

Patrick is a survivor who is excluded from the scheme. He wrote to thank me and others who have raised this issue. He said that listening to the situation brought him to tears.

Michael watched proceedings from America. He was born in Sean Ross Abbey mother and baby home and was then sent to Temple Hill. He got to meet his mother three and a half years ago and was heartbroken to learn about the brutal treatment she received in Sean Ross Abbey. He referred to her as his mother throughout. He said she diligently paid her supposed debt to the nuns. When Michael told her the date he had arrived in America she looked surprised. He later discovered she continued to pay this debt, as it was described, for many years after his adoption. He promised her at their last visit that he would never contact her children, as he was respecting her wishes in this regard. Even though he has written to her several times, he thinks now that she may have passed away as he has not received any response. He finished his email by saying that he was happy she went on to have a happy life. Again, he thanked me and others for speaking on his and his mother's behalf, people who do not speak up but silently carry this hidden sadness.

Mark was treated sadistically by the family to whom he was boarded out from a mother and baby institution. He will not qualify for the redress scheme.

A lady called Tricia told me her tragic story of forced adoption. She mourns the loss of a relationship with her mother and she mourns the horrific treatment her mother suffered in the mother and baby institution. The mother qualifies for €5,000 and Tricia does not qualify for anything. She feels that the dishonesty and cruelty of the nuns running these institutions on behalf of the State is sometimes too confronting to read.

She thanked us for recognising the trauma, which is still very real for her.

I want to briefly mention a lady who is in a very difficult situation. I will send the full details to the Minister afterwards. She was born in a mother and baby institution, was boarded out to a very abusive family, was removed and then ended up in an industrial school. She has had serious difficulties, has never been able to maintain employment and is in receipt of disability benefit. She has been on the housing list in Cork for 12 and a half years. She has received an eviction notice from a property she is renting through the housing assistance payment, HAP, scheme. This is through no fault of her own. As with many other people, she has received a notice to quit. She is having a very difficult time with Cork City Council. I think we can all agree how difficult it is to be on a housing waiting list for 12 and a half years, particularly for someone who has suffered so much trauma. Our Deputies and councillors in the area have obviously raised the issue. I will also send the details on to the Minister, given the situation.

It is very welcome that the motion on Tuesday night was accepted. However, I wonder if that means the Government will make changes. For example, will it include all institutions and will it include everybody, regardless of the timeframe? Will the enhanced medical card be for everybody, regardless of the timeframe? Does the Government expect these changes to be made during the pre-legislative scrutiny process? On Tuesday night, a number of Deputies spoke about the interim payments. Could interim payments be made while the legislation is making its passage through the Houses? I hope we will see some changes before the committee deals with pre-legislative scrutiny. The Government accepted our motion in good faith and it was very much appreciated. We hope that some of those changes will now be made. I would appreciate if the Minister could come back on some of those points later.


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