Dáil debates

Thursday, 25 November 2021

Mother and Baby Institutions: Statements


5:50 pm

Photo of Cormac DevlinCormac Devlin (Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

I welcome the opportunity to discuss the Government's proposed redress scheme for people who spent time in mother and baby homes. As the Taoiseach noted in his apology earlier this year, the State failed these women and children. It did not uphold its duty of care or the basic standards of humanity. An apology alone is not enough. There must be accountability, redress and justice for everyone who went through a mother and baby home. The Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, stated earlier this week that there are no easy answers when it comes to providing a remedy for the significant grief and anguish caused to the women and children who spent time in these institutions. No financial payment or service will ever take back the injustice, inhumanity and hurt suffered by these women and children after decades of failure.

It is almost a year since the report of the commission of investigation was published. It is still a matter of regret that the commission has refused to deal with legitimate queries from survivors, public representatives and the media. At the time of publication, the Government made commitments to respond to the needs and concerns of those who spent time in the institutions. Since then, legislation has been advanced to allow for the proper identification and burial of the babies at Tuam, to provide access to the birth and early-life information of people who were adopted and to open the commission’s archive to more than 300 survivors. Work is under way to establish a national memorial and records centre relating to institutional trauma and to create a children’s fund to honour the memory of the children who died in mother and baby homes by providing supports to children who experience disadvantage in the present day.

On 16 November, the Government approved proposals for a mother and baby institutions payment scheme and published an action plan for survivors and former residents of mother and baby and county home institutions. The scheme will provide approximately 34,000 former residents of the institutions with a financial payment and 19,000 with an enhanced medical card. The scope of the scheme goes well beyond the recommendations of the final commission report. The commission had set an arbitrary benchmark whereby a pregnant woman would have had to have been resident in an institution for six months before being eligible for redress. I am glad to see the Government rejected this recommendation and expanded the scheme to include all mothers who went through an institution. The scheme will also include children, both unaccompanied and accompanied, who spent more than six months in an institution.

There are very welcome aspects to the scheme. Survivors I spoke to wanted a scheme that was non-adversarial, simple and based on trust, a scheme that would accept their lived experience and deal with matters promptly without long delays. Many of them do not have time. It is important that we acknowledge both their sharing of their stories with the commission and the stories of hurt and pain shared this evening through colleagues.

Significant contributions to the scheme will be sought from relevant religious congregations. I hope they will move quickly to deal with their obligations.

It must be acknowledged that not everyone is satisfied with the composition of this scheme. The scheme does not deal with children who were boarded out. Some children who were boarded out spent more than six months in an institution and will be eligible for the scheme, but I ask the Minister to consider what can be done for the cohort who spent less than six months in an institution.

Overall, I welcome the Government’s commitment to continue to engage with the women and children who went through these institutions to meet their important needs, including through counselling for all survivors, access to information and records, memorialisation, financial payments, health supports and other key initiatives.


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