Thursday, 25 November 2021
Mother and Baby Institutions: Statements
I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak on this issue. I am very proud to be part of Sinn Féin, which introduced a Private Members' motion on the issue earlier this week. That was in an attempt to improve the terms and conditions of the scheme.
How did we get here? I will never be able to fathom the conclusion that trauma lasting less than six months is undeserving of any financial redress under the scheme when all the empirical research, the academic expertise and the personal stories and testimonies state otherwise. The scheme has unfortunately created a hierarchy of trauma. It has reduced the suffering of mothers and babies down to an equation that completely denies the material fact that forced separation and institutional incarceration of one week, three months or even five months and 27 days could have a negative effect either on the baby ripped from their mother or on the mother robbed of her infant. Devaluing these experiences is inhumane.
In Clare, there was a nursery in Kilrush but the word "nursery" may have disguised the nature of that institution. It was the County Clare mother and baby home and it was open between 1922 and 1932. A total of 182 babies died in this home. I commend the great work done by Ms Rita McCarthy, who has provided a really comprehensive research and insight into the operation of this home. If it was not for her, we would not have this knowledge today. It was not run by the church but co-ordinated between the county council and the Department of Local Government and Public Health as it was then known.
One of the survivors celebrated his 90th birthday recently so it is clear that to have any form of justice delivered for this generation, a scheme is immediately required. I cannot help but notice how partial it is. What about adopted children? The adoptee community is crying out in anguish at its exclusion from the scheme. There is no formal recognition of their hurt or pain or mention of those who were fostered. Why was there any exclusion whatever if this was to be part of a process of healing?
On a final note, I found the Minister's comments on the rationale for excluding babies who had been in a home for less than six months particularly crushing. It was particularly ignorant and insensitive to say these babies will not remember that time and I found that appalling. I know there has been a backlash against this, so I wonder if the Minister will retract the dismissive comments he made last week.