Dáil debates

Thursday, 25 November 2021

Mother and Baby Institutions: Statements


6:20 pm

Photo of Joan CollinsJoan Collins (Dublin South Central, Independents 4 Change) | Oireachtas source

I welcome that the Government did not oppose the cross-party motion last night. There is, however, no commitment in the Minister's speech to include all of those who are excluded: the children who spent less than six months in a mother and baby institution; the children who were boarded out; and the children and mothers who were in institutions not covered by the mother and baby homes commission. I support the calls here tonight about the interim payments. All survivors should get an enhanced medical card.

As we have all said our piece, it would be appropriate and I want to finish with an email from Alison, an adoptee from St. Patrick's Mother and Baby Home and to have it as the last voice to come in, in this part of the debate. I will use most of my time to read it into the Dáil record:

The Minister, by leaving out survivors who were in those homes for less than six months and those who were boarded out has caused severe trauma or re-trauma to all those concerned. He has completely ignored all advice and requests by adoptees to have an all-inclusive scheme of redress. It is an exclusionary and divisive redress scheme that has, yet again, ignored the trauma that many adoptees have suffered in both early life and, in most cases, trauma that continued into adulthood.

The violent separation that happened in those mother and baby homes leaves a deep and dark imprint on a baby that is there for all their lives regardless of their adoption. The signs of early trauma are there for all who care to read it but, Minister, you appear to have dismissed that and us as a result. It has caused us as a group to be sickened to our stomachs when we heard your speech on what is quite simply supposed to be one of the greatest days in history, when one of the biggest wrongs was righted with a monumental redress scheme but that is not what you have proposed, Minister. You have opted to exclude 24,000 of us, mostly adoptees.

It is quite simple when you look at how difficult it is today to adopt a child - in many cases five to ten years to get approval. Why? Because the prospective parents are vetted to a point that their every move is literally examined. They are taught how to deal with an adopted child. None of this happened in our time. We were put into families who, quite simply, were not equipped to deal with our needs. This compounded our trauma irrespective of whether they were good people or not. Due to the anxiety and suffering we experienced in that violent separation, we needed extra care. None of this has been acknowledged by putting in the six-month barrier to redress.

Did anybody care? No. [And she asks] Why? We were moneymaking businesses for the State and church and no one can deny that. Check the figures. This is why it makes me cry when I see the Minister’s monumental €800 million redress scheme. On the sweat and pain of our mothers and the sale of babies and the donations that flooded into the mother and baby homes from grateful parents, it is underestimated that the nuns made millions on us all yet no one has really highlighted that. It is estimated that the homes mentioned made the equivalent of €1 billion in today’s money. Where is that being talked about? What text has brought that to the public’s attention or survivors. You have to search. No one wants that to come to light. How is that possible that no one in government is talking about this in the redress scheme? Tell me why those that have illegally incarcerated women, forced them into slave labour - our mothers - and those having sold all of us adoptees because that is what it was, trafficking, why have those, the perpetrators, not been condemned to pay towards this redress scheme or condemned, full stop? Where are the human rights obligations being upheld in this redress scheme? By saying that the State is coming up with €800 million makes it look like the taxpayer will have to fund this scheme. Are we being deliberately pitting us against each other and pitting us against the taxpayer in case we again manage to get backing against this paltry redress scheme?

The Catholic Church's worth in Ireland today is underestimated at €20 billion. Where is their contribution instead of trying to save money on the 24,000 excluded? You had the time, the power and the leverage to get concrete sums from each part of the clergy involved. The Bon Secours alone are worth over €1 billion. To all of us, how would you like to spend your life from the time you turn 18 going to every agency concerned, begging for scraps of information about your own self, your own identity, your own medical records only to be turned away again and again and to be told after being on a list for ten years that you were mistaken, you were never on the official list and you must start over at the bottom of the ten year waiting list, to travel abroad after you have had your first child, desperate to get information, only to be refused over and over again?

The rejection itself is an abomination of what we went through with church and Government agencies. The time, the money spent, the absolute desperation, that you would never know who you are and what was wrong with you because that is how adoptees feel regardless of spending one week or six months.

We wondered what was wrong with us continuously throughout our lives. We suffer, all of us, with physical and mental health issues but the Minister has deflected all of this with “we are too young to remember”.

Your apology, Minister, comes too late and your redress scheme is a disgrace. Imagine finding out through the independent sources that the whole time you were searching for your mother, your history and you were told that there was nothing in your file and you find out that your mother had left letters for you on many occasions. But no, no, no, you were told there was nothing. I was 46 at this point and have been searching officially from the age of 18.

I will finish up by saying that Alison makes the point that she was advertised for sale in a newspaper:

As far as I am concerned the fact that I was advertised in a newspaper ultimately means that I was for sale. That is how I feel. You put housing and cars on sale in papers, not human beings...

Where is my redress? Where is the profit from selling me in a paper? Where did all that money go and why is it not being given back to us now in a proper redress scheme and in an enhanced medical card for all? When I say enhanced I do not mean the regular medical card, something that goes beyond that. This is quite simply wrong, defective and an insult to all those who have been left out. I beg you all to reconsider your positions on the six-month’s timeframe and those that were boarded out.

Alison, born in St. Patrick’s mother and baby home in 1971.

I am sorry as I know that I have gone over my time but the last point I want to make is that the key issue now is for the Minister to take a step back from his redress payment scheme and then to take a step forward to re-engage in a proper and full discussion with the survivors.


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