Dáil debates

Thursday, 25 November 2021

Mother and Baby Institutions: Statements


5:50 pm

Photo of Niamh SmythNiamh Smyth (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

I thank Deputy Gino Kenny for sharing his very personal story with us this evening.

In the 11 months since the report of the commission of investigation was published the Minister advanced legislation to allow for the exhumation in June, introduced draft legislation to allow access to birth and early life information and to open the commission's archive to over 300 survivors. I acknowledge his commitment in his statement tonight to establishing a national memorial and records centre related to institutional trauma during the twentieth century as well as the creation of a children's fund to honour the memory of children who died in mother and baby homes by providing supports for children who experience disadvantage in the present day. I also welcome the Government's proposal for a mother and baby institutions payment scheme and action plan for survivors and former residents of mother and baby homes and county home institutions. The Minister has outlined that this would provide almost 34,000 former residents of institutions with a financial payment and that is to be acknowledged and welcomed.

It is important that the Government continues to act swiftly to progress the legislation underpinning the scheme and ensure that the application for former and vulnerable survivors is prioritised as my colleague, Deputy Murnane O'Connor, outlined earlier. I would be failing in my own duties as a public representative if I did not draw the Minister's attention to my shock on the exclusion of children who spent less than six months in the homes and those who were boarded out to foster homes. This is a real departure from what the commission of investigation has recommended. The mothers are not excluded so why are the children time-bound? This particular term of reference leaves behind a cohort who were equally traumatised, neglected and abused. Yes, the Minister is providing them with access to information, their birth names and birth mothers, but why are we excluding them from redress?

I want to tell the Minister about Eugene, a very kind, jolly man who carries no bitterness about his journey in life. He has a very similar story to tell as those some of my colleagues have described tonight. He too was born into a mother and baby home, a man who eventually found his birth mother but was further traumatised by the fact that after only two short meetings with her, she could not continue to meet him because of the pain it resurrected within herself from her own experience. Eugene is one of those people who will be excluded from the redress scheme. He has found himself being retraumatised because of that. In his own words, how can we say his pain does not match that of someone who does meet the criteria? How can we use time to measure his hurt? I ask the Minister to provide a pathway of redress for everyone who has suffered at the hands of church and State. We cannot say that on one hand we are accepting and acknowledging that people's rights were violated and on the other hand that we are going to exclude them from redress. I appeal to the Minister in whatever way he can not to exclude anyone.


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