Dáil debates

Thursday, 25 November 2021

Mother and Baby Institutions: Statements


5:40 pm

Photo of Patricia RyanPatricia Ryan (Kildare South, Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

Cuirim fáilte roimh an deis labhairt ar an ábhar seo. Is ábhar an-tábhachtach é.

I have had a number of engagements with the Minister on this issue and I believe he wants to do right by survivors, the victims of the terrible regime that was the mother and baby home system. I urge him to resist the conservative forces of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. It is not too late to do the right thing.

It grates on me to refer to those institutions as "homes", given the terrible things that happened in them. The State abdicated its responsibilities and turned a blind eye when the church stepped in. Do not get me wrong; I am not church bashing. Several denominations were involved and God knows what might have happened without them. Considering some of the things that did happen, it would be fair to say you would not treat a dog like that. There was little or no oversight, and the result has been the tales of pain and misery we have read in the report of the mother and baby homes commission.

I read a book last year entitled Down by Anna Liffeyby a man from Dublin called James Connolly. James’s mother died when he was three years old and he was cared for by his 13-year-old sister while his father worked to support the family. The day the “cruelty people”, as he calls them, entered the home while his father was out working was the end of their life as a family. He went to St. Mary’s Home in Drogheda, four of his sisters went to St. Martha's Industrial School in Monaghan, while his brother was sent to the Artane Industrial School. I was struck by one story in the book. As a four-year-old, James was led away to a big black car that was to tear him away from his family. On the way, he met the caretaker of the building, mopping and using Jeyes Fluid. He patted James on the head and wished him the best of luck. James turned 80 a few months ago and to this day, whenever he smells Jeyes Fluid, he is transported back to the landing of the tenement where he lived in Benburb Street. He recalls the trauma vividly from the age of four and it still hurts today. While not directly related to the mother and baby homes, I tell this story to show that trauma can stay with children from a very young age. Even the knowledge of how they and their mother were treated can have a profound effect on their mental health and outlook on life.

We must take account of this trauma and the Government must ensure that all survivors are included in the redress proposals. We must ensure the needs of survivors are respected in the Government's redress scheme. This includes urgently reviewing issues with the scheme that survivors have identified. These include aspects such as the time-based criteria, the exclusion of children who were boarded out from access to enhanced medical cards and the failure to include some institutions.

It is an absolute disgrace to try to exclude children who were boarded out, children like James Sugrue from County Kerry. I cried too when I heard his story. He told of how he was boarded out as free farm labour and of the abuse he suffered when he shared a bed for 11 years with an adult son of his foster parents. Unfortunately James's story was not an isolated incident. It is time to show respect for mother and baby home survivors and their families. They have been denied it for far too long. It is time to stand up for survivors and ensure that their needs are respected. Survivors barely came forward and told their stories because they wanted to see justice. However, many of them have been left feeling deeply frustrated and let down by the appalling way in which the redress scheme has been designed. The scheme is an insult to survivors and totally fails to consider their needs. Sinn Féin stands with the survivors and calls on the Government to change the redress scheme to be fairer to them. It is vital that the Government engages with survivors, not just as a box-ticking exercise but to listen genuinely to them and act urgently to meet their needs. The Government has treated them with complete contempt time and again and it is long overdue that they be respected and get what they deserve. I am begging the Minister to do something.


No comments

Log in or join to post a public comment.