Tuesday, 23 November 2021
Mother and Baby Homes Redress Scheme: Motion [Private Members]
That Dáil Éireann:
acknowledges: —that the State failed the women and children who were in Ireland’s Mother and Baby Homes and County Homes institutions;
—that women and their children were unlawfully separated during their time in these institutions;
—that women and their children were unlawfully separated during their time in institutions not investigated by the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes and certain related Matters;
—that women and their children were unlawfully separated in non-institutionalised settings, including through adoption agencies and private facilitators;
—the Taoiseach’s acceptance of the lack of respect for the fundamental dignity and rights of mothers and children who spent time in these institutions and that the State did not uphold its duty of care to them;
—that the Taoiseach’s apology in January did not acknowledge the full extent of the human rights violations experienced by people affected by this issue;
—that the State has failed to acknowledge the full extent of unlawful and forced family separation; and
—that the final report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes and certain related Matters is currently being challenged in the High Court;
—the personal trauma and human rights abuse of forced family separation;
—that the harms associated with forced family separation are not dependent on length of stay in a Mother and Baby Home or similar institution;
—that the harms associated with forced family separation are not dependent on spending time in an institution; and
—that the exclusion of people who were in these institutions for a period less than six months, people who were boarded out, people who were in institutions not falling under the remit of the Commission of Investigation, and people who experienced forced family separation but were not institutionalised is inequitable and unjust;
commends the survivors, mothers, adopted people, their families, and the families of the children who died in these institutions for sharing their lived experiences and trauma, and those who have advocated on their behalf; and
calls on the Government to:
—seek immediate and substantive recourse from religious orders and pharmaceutical companies to contribute to the State’s redress scheme;
—use OAK’s ‘Report of the findings of the Consultation with Survivors of Mother and Baby Homes and County Homes’ as a basis for amending the proposed redress scheme;
—engage immediately with the victims and survivors’ organisations and those directly affected by the scandal of Mother and Baby Homes and County Homes institutions; and
—urgently review, in consultation with these groups, the following matters:
—the time-based criteria;
—the exclusion of children who were boarded out from the redress scheme;
—access to the enhanced medical card;
—proposed payment rates;
—the failure to include all Mother and Baby Homes, County Homes, institutions, agencies and individuals involved in forced family separation;
—the legal waiver attached to the scheme; and
—amend the scheme accordingly to meet the needs of the survivors." I wish to share time with colleagues. I will take the first seven minutes.
I am pleased to get the opportunity to raise this issue and speak on the redress scheme. I clearly remember the first woman who confided in me about her time in a mother and baby institution. It was about ten years ago, and I was a member of Kilkenny Borough Council at the time. This lady had come to me for advice on a different matter, but she ended up telling me her story. I still remember her sadness, partly because so few in her life knew about it. It has stayed with me to this day. I always felt very glad that she felt she could share her story with me. Since that time, I have had the privilege of meeting and speaking with so many women who were forced into mother and baby institutions and many children, now adults, who were born into an institution. Some have found their child or mother, but so many are still looking and still holding out hope, sometimes up to 50 years later, that they will be reunited.
On many occasions within this Chamber and throughout debates on this issue I have heard people refer to this period as being a dark time in our history. I have always struggled with this description, as while it certainly was a dark time – there is no disputing that – trying to confine it completely to history misses the serious intergenerational trauma still felt today by so many. While the State continues to deny justice both to the women sent to these State-run institutions and to the children born there, it remains very much part of our present.
In 2007, I was 25 when I had my first son, Emmet. I was not married at this time. If it had been 1967, 1977 or even 1987, I wonder if I would have found myself in a mother and baby institution. Would Emmet have even been taken away from me? I find this really difficult even to think about. I remember how incredibly nerve-wracking the whole labour and birth process was. I had great support and encouragement by my side. I had great medical help, in particular from the midwife. I always remember she stayed on with me when her shift ended. What exactly must this have been like for women alone, scared, in fact, terrified, who were met not only with little or no medical help but no encouragement, kindness, support or even a reassuring smile?
Tonight, as we discuss this, I am thinking of the woman I met who was raped at 15. She did not know what pregnancy was or what was happening to her body. I am thinking about the woman who had a partner. When she discovered she was pregnant, they planned to get married, but she was taken away late one evening.
She was told that she was going on a drive to visit a relative and then she was driven to Bessborough. Her son was taken from her when he was born a few months later. I am thinking about the woman who told me she tried desperately to get her baby back from the nuns. Eventually, she was told he had been adopted to a county that was far away from where she was located in the south-east. Thirty years later, when she tracked down her child, it turned out the story had been total lies. In fact, her son had spent the first eight months of his life less than a mile from her home. I am thinking about the man in his 60s who I met and who had spent decades looking for his mother. Thankfully, he did find her but he only had two meetings with her before she passed away. When he eventually received his file after she had passed away, it was filled with countless letters begging to know where her son was. I am thinking of the woman who is still looking for her daughter born 42 years ago in Bessborough, and of so many others.
Imagine, after all of that, to learn that you might be excluded from the scheme because the institution you were sent to is not included. Imagine you only spent the first three months of your life there, not the first six months. Imagine you are left with certain medical conditions as a result of your time in one of the institutions but you were only there for five months, not six months, so you do not qualify for the enhanced medical card. I know a number of women who are left incontinent due to the circumstances of their childbirth and who were left traumatised and unable to form significant relationships going forward because of their embarrassment and shame on that issue. They should not have to come and tell us such personal stories but they do. However, one of those women did not spend six months in an institution, so she will not be entitled to the enhanced medical card. Another lady spent five months and 20 days, to be exact, in an institution and nearly lost her leg due to sepsis brought on by the horrific treatment during her labour but, again, she falls outside the criteria. Imagine you were boarded out or nursed out, treated like a slave and, in many of these situations, physically and sexually abused but you do not qualify for the scheme.
There is no price that can be put on any of this but what the State can do is listen to survivors and their families, look at the OAK report commissioned by the Minister and use that as a starting point. People engaged with this process in good faith, again reliving their stories, which was not easy, and now it seems it was for nothing. Nobody should be excluded from the scheme. It should cover 100% of survivors. The religious institutions and the pharmaceutical companies also need to be held to account for their role in this. They often profited at the expense of children and women and they must also pay. Survivors and their families are tired of apologies with no action.
I understand the Minister is not the person responsible for the commission of investigation and, in fact, he inherited this from predecessors who I believe were happy to kick it down the road to his door. However, he is now in a position where he can, for the first time, on behalf of the State, ensure the right thing is done and that survivors are actually listened to and their wishes respected. He can ensure nobody is left out of this scheme. I fully believe he would have the support of each and every one of the Deputies in the Dáil to do this. This Thirty-third Dáil must finally be the one that ensures justice is done by every single woman and child who had to pass through those horrific institutions.
I tried over the last few days to think of new words somehow to crack through the State's deep-seated denial and awful treatment of the mother and baby homes survivors – women, girls and children who suffered horrific abuse and human rights violations in these religious prisons, one in my own constituency of Meath West, Castlepollard mother and baby home. I do not have words strong enough to split the State’s cruel and coercive attitude of disrespect towards survivors. It is an attitude beyond any language I know. It stands in stark contrast to the human dignity of the survivors and their families. These women have been to hell and back. If it was not for their courage and bravery, the shameful legacy of the mother and baby homes would have remained shrouded in secrecy, swept under the carpet. There would have been no commission of investigation, no State apology, no redress scheme. The survivors had to push the State every inch of this tortuous journey. They had to chip away at a wall of silence.
The redress scheme published last week is an insult to the survivors. It is an extension of the flood of disrespect that these women and their families have waded through for decades. It is shameful that the Government has brought forward a scheme that creates a hierarchy of victims by taking the view that some mothers and their children suffered less than others. It is cruel to deny compensation and medical supports to some survivors simply because they were taken from their mothers or left the institution before six months. Not only is it callous, it flies in the face of modern clinical evidence regarding the traumatic impact of forced separation on babies of that age. The idea that it did not affect them because they were under six months is not only morally repugnant, but it is also nonsense in a scientific sense. It is wrong that the Minister would seek to justify this botched scheme in this way. This needs to be rectified. No matter how long people spent in these places, no matter what age they were when they left, they suffered greatly and they carry the trauma and the pain with them to this day.
Religious institutions are responsible for that pain and trauma too and they must contribute to the scheme. The State cannot allow them to wipe their hands.
The timing of the scheme is also disrespectful. The Minister announced the scheme in the full knowledge that, in the very same week, survivors were in the High Court challenging the report of the commission, the report on whose recommendations the scheme is based, recommendations which survivors described as whitewashing of their abuse, especially the contention that no forced separation took place. This scheme continues the disrespect demonstrated in attempts to seal survivors’ records, in the leaking of the commission's report to the media before survivors had a chance to see it and in the destroying of survivors’ evidence given to the commission. What is so fundamentally wrong with the State in 2021 that it would seek to prolong rather than help to ease the trauma of these women? This exposes again the deep and dark psyche of the State that puts its claustrophobic interest above those citizens brutalised in its name – women, girls and children who cry out for justice, for dignity and for basic humanity, while the State pushes back against those cries at each and every turn.
Survivors do not want this botched report. They want an equal scheme in which everyone’s hurt and trauma is recognised. They are not willing to leave behind anyone who spent a single breathing moment incarcerated in those wretched places. That is an integrity, a strength and a compassion to which we should all aspire and Ireland would be a better place if we did. I ask the Minister finally to listen to the survivors and to deliver a scheme that matches the gravity of their experiences, a scheme that is fair, just and equal for all.
The redress scheme needs to be reviewed as a matter of urgency and proper consultation with organisations representing survivors of institutions which oversaw the forced separation of mothers and babies needs to take place immediately. All of those affected need to be treated equally and fairly, regardless of age when separated, whether they were boarded out, what institution they were in or, indeed, how long they spent there. The State has failed women and it has failed the children who were forcibly removed from their mothers. It does not matter what age the person was when they were actually removed from their family; it has had an impact on them. For this redress scheme to exclude children under six months of age is inequitable.
I have heard from many of the survivors of these institutions, including the ones named under the scheme and those who are not, and their stories are heartbreaking. Again, it does not matter what age they were as they have been very much affected throughout their lives. Many survivors will tell us that they may have been adopted by a perfectly lovely family who gave them a good upbringing, but that does not take away the different feelings of separation, sense of loss, the feeling of not being wanted or not knowing who they are or why they were adopted. There has been research that would indicate that children of less than six months of age are affected by separation and, indeed, only people who have been adopted can understand the concept of not having a sense of belonging or knowing exactly who they are.
I cannot understand why children who were boarded out are not included in this redress scheme. Many of those children were nothing short of slaves and were often terribly treated. It was common for farming families to have a boy or a number of boys on the farm to work. While some may have been treated fairly well, many were not and once they reached the age of 14, they left this country forever, and who would blame them? They felt unwanted then and they feel unwanted now after they have been ignored again. There is a need to include everyone in this scheme, no matter what age they were or what institution they were in.
Religious orders and pharmaceutical companies need to finance the redress scheme or to at least contribute to it. Substantive recourse from these bodies needs to be insisted on immediately.
I am a member of the Joint Committee on Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth and we heard the heartbreaking testimonies of those affected by the mother and baby homes there. The last time I spoke on this I read testimonies that survivors made to the commission of investigation and I will read testimonies again tonight because it is important to hear these women's' voices. One woman spoke about the conditions her mother endured while giving birth and stated her mother "was tied to the bed and when she couldn't push, one of the nuns sat on her chest to make her". On the immoral and evil practice of forced adoption, one person stated her son:
was wrenched from my breast by one of the nuns whilst I was feeding him and taken away for adoption. ... At no time did I give my consent to my son's adoption.
Another mother spoke about the death of her child:
I do not even know whether he was buried in a coffin. ... There was never even a kind or sympathetic [word] spoken to me.
The psychological impact on mothers has been enormous. A mother said:
The nuns at Bessborough made my life hell and changed my life forever. I could not get over what happened to me. I think I am still in shock, still traumatised. My time at Bessborough was a horrific, horrible experience. ... I think I will die with the pain and trauma that this has caused me during this time.
The reality is that if any of these survivors spent less than six months in a mother and baby institution, they would not be eligible for full redress. This has to be changed for a myriad of reasons. These stories are horrific, harrowing and heartbreaking and it is emotional to read them out on behalf of these women. As these women and children already have been abused by the State, let us not abuse them again.
The State's response to the suffering of its citizens in these institutions is best described as too little and too late. We were far too late in stopping these practices in these mother and baby homes and we were far too late in setting up the commission of investigation, the final report of which was best described by my party colleague as a miscarriage of truth. It has been too little in terms of the amount of redress and the number of people it is proposed to include in the scheme. This Government has failed at every turn when it comes to the survivors of these penal-like institutions and now they will be failed again.
Why must it always be like this? I will make reference to a different case involving sexual abuse in day schools. I explained to various Ministers for Education and for Education and Skills over the years the case of sexual abuse in Creagh Lane school in Limerick. At the time, those Ministers seemed upset and promised to act. Their failure to act leads me to believe that any fair solutions they had were torpedoed by officials in their Department. I ask the Minister if the same thing happened to him. When Louise O'Keeffe won her case in Europe, it took years for the survivors to be included in redress. The brave men in Creagh Lane school had to protest in Brussels and at the gates of the Dáil to achieve fairness. Will the survivors of the mother and baby homes need to do the same? I hope to God they will not.
At every point in the mother and baby homes process, the Government has placed obstacles before survivors. The final report underplayed the actions of those institutions. The stark reality of what happened is that these women were interned and their children were kidnapped and now we are expected to accept there will be a hierarchy of survivors. We are expected to accept that those boarded-out children are to be excluded and to accept a redress scheme that is based on a commission report that is itself extremely flawed. It cannot be accepted and will not be accepted by the survivors I have spoken to. What can be accepted is a commitment to remove the time-based redress criteria and a commitment that those who were boarded out will be included in the scheme. What can be accepted is fairness for all the survivors. The responsibility and shame is with the organisations that ran those homes of hardship.
Deputies from all parties read the accounts of the survivors last year. Many of us were emotional when we spoke about the horrendous wrongs that were done to the women and children of those homes. I appeal to those on the Government benches to be sympathetic to the needs of all the survivors. I ask them to support this motion and together we can, at the very least, ease some of their pain in this regard.
Throughout my discussions with the Minister, he always has seemed to genuinely care about the survivors and to want to do the right thing by them. I will not deny that but unfortunately, it seems as though he is being prevented by his Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael colleagues in government from doing the right thing. Those parties have a desperate track record on this issue and they are stuck up to their necks in it. It is not just them but it is also the religious institutions, the embassies and the justice system. They were all responsible for keeping these hellholes open and for putting families through what happened.
We are effectively talking about human trafficking and I have said that in this House before, yet a six-month exclusion is being put in place by the Government, which denies 41% of people who were in these homes from getting redress. Let us make no mistake; these homes and institutions were a moneymaking machine for an awful lot of people down through the decades and now we are denying families and individuals. I said to the Minister the other day that all most of the survivors want is recognition but we are even denying them that. Children who were boarded out were brought up already. They must be included and there must be more consultation with the religious orders as they have a responsibility. The pharmaceutical companies also have a responsibility in these issues.
Women who went through these institutions and others like them, such as Sean Ross Abbey and the county homes in Thurles and Cashel in my constituency, deserve to be heard and listened to. I am asking the Minister to do the right thing and to review the whole redress scheme immediately because it is not wanted and it is not even making the survivors happy. It is just adding more hurt on top of the hurt that has gone on for decades. I hate to say this but I am asking the Minister to stand up to those in Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael who were stuck up to their necks in this throughout the decades. That seems to be the only way the survivors will get what they deserve at this stage. I am pleading with the Minister, on behalf of the survivors who have been in contact with me and everyone in this House, to do the right thing by them.
I welcome the opportunity to address the issues raised in this motion. We are all united in our belief that the State must take responsibility for the indisputable wrongs that were visited on women and children who spent time in these institutions. As the Taoiseach stated in his apology earlier this year, "The State failed you - the mothers and children in these homes." It would be difficult to find a family in Ireland whose lives the legacy of mother and baby institutions has not touched. It weighs heavily on individuals and on us as a country.
Since coming into office, I have met many survivors. I have listened to their stories and I know that for each survivor of these institutions the experience has had a unique and deeply personal impact. There are no easy answers when it comes to trying to remedy the huge grief and anguish that survivors have experienced. I know there is no sum of money or action that can adequately atone for the vast harm, the lasting trauma, and the impact mother and baby institutions have had on each individual who passed through their doors. My engagement has also shown that redress for survivors is a broad concept.
What I have found throughout the last 18 months is that Government is an imperfect vehicle for the restitution of past wrongs. It can move slowly, often out of necessity, to deliberate, but at a time when those affected have already waited for far too long. When the commission's report was published in January, I made it clear that this work was a priority for the Government. In the 11 months since, we have: advanced legislation to allow for exhumation at Tuam; introduced draft legislation to allow access to birth and early life information; and opened the commission's archive to survivors. Throughout all of this I have sought to work constructively with Deputies and Senators from all sides. Previously, I have accepted Private Members' Bills where the intention of that legislation reflected the Government's and I have worked with the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth to progress legislation. Given the sensitivity of these issues, I have aimed to seek consensus over division and to allow for these issues to be fully debated. It is on this basis, that the Government will not oppose the motion brought forward by Sinn Féin and supported by some other parties this evening. We will be bringing forward legislation in the new year to support the establishment of a payment scheme and during that time, Deputies will have the opportunity to bring forward specific proposals with their views on that scheme.
In January of this year, when the commission's report was published, there was significant criticism within this House and outside, of the categories suggested to be eligible for payment in that report.
Although not part of its terms of reference, the commission recommended the following three categories for consideration: people who were resident as unaccompanied children in a mother and baby or county institution; pregnant women who entered mother and baby or county institutions before 1974 and who spent six months in such institutions; and women who undertook commercial work without pay in county homes, in the Tuam mother and baby home or outside a mother and baby institution where they were resident.
If a six-month residency condition was applied to the categories identified by the commission, it is estimated that 6,500 people would have been eligible for a financial payment and the cost of providing this payment and the enhanced medical card would have been €400 million. Concerns about the use of those criteria were a central theme in the debates that we have had in this House and in many of the parliamentary questions that Deputies have submitted to me.
The interdepartmental group, established to bring proposals on a scheme to Government, made broader recommendations. It recommended that all those who spent more than six months in an institution as mothers or children would qualify for a financial payment and an enhanced medical card. This would have increased the number eligible for benefits under the scheme to 19,000 individuals and would have cost €673 million. However, in the decision the Government took last week, the Government went significantly further.
Having considered the interdepartmental group's report, and noting the feedback from the consultation process, the Government has brought forward a scheme which will provide financial payments to an estimated 34,000 people and enhanced medical cards to an estimated 19,000 people. The value of this scheme is €800 million. It will be the largest scheme of its kind in the history of the State in terms of the number of beneficiaries.
In bringing forward this scheme, the Government is responding to the concerns about the categories that have been raised since the commission's report. It will include all mothers, including those who entered an institution after 1974 and who spent any period of time in one of these institutions.
It will also include children, both unaccompanied and accompanied, who spent six months or more in an institution. This expansion recognises that a strong case was made that there was little distinction in reality between being an unaccompanied or an accompanied child in one of the institutions.
For children who spent short periods of time in an institution during their infancy, and recognising the diverse understanding of redress, the Government's action plan provides a response to their needs in the birth information and tracing Bill. The legislation will provide guaranteed access to an unredacted birth certificate, as well as wider birth and early life information for those who have questions in relation to their origins. This is the overwhelming priority need which has been expressed by people who, as children, were adopted or otherwise separated from their birth family.
It is also important to emphasise that for all survivors and former residents of mother and baby and county home institutions, counselling support is available under the National Counselling Service. It is free of charge, includes out-of-hours support and survivors are entitled to priority access.
Through the consultation process survivors made it very clear that they want a scheme that is non-adversarial, simple and based on trust. Survivors did not want a scheme that would require evidence of the harm done to them. The requirement for a low burden of proof was also a key issue raised. This is what the mother and baby institutions payment scheme seeks to deliver.
It was concluded that providing a general payment based on time spent, with no requirement to bring forward any evidence of abuse or harm, was the best way to ensure that this scheme causes no further trauma or harm. The simplicity of the scheme will also allow it to be established and for payments to be made more quickly.
In terms of next steps, I want to confirm that I will be seeking significant contributions from the relevant religious congregations towards the cost of the scheme. I wrote initially to the religious authorities involved in the operation of the relevant institutions in January, when the commission's report was published. When bringing proposals for this scheme to Cabinet I contacted them again, signalling I intended to bring forward this scheme imminently and seeking a meeting to discuss their contribution to the cost of the scheme. I am due to meet several of the congregations in the coming weeks.
Beyond the matter of the congregations' contribution, I want to assure survivors that everything in our power will be done to get the scheme up and running swiftly and that the scheme will be designed so that the applications from older and vulnerable survivors will be prioritised.
Due to the magnitude of the scheme, legislation is required to establish it. My officials are preparing a general scheme of a Bill as a matter of urgency and I have confirmed with my Cabinet colleagues that I will look for priority drafting of the Bill when the general scheme comes to Government.
The mother and baby payment scheme, providing 34,000 survivors with financial payments and 19,000 survivors with an enhanced medical card, is just one element of the Government's comprehensive response to the legacy of mother and baby institutions.
I have spoken already of the legislation to allow for the remains in Tuam to be exhumed, identified and reburied, of the birth information and tracing legislation giving a legal right to an unredacted birth certificate, and of access to the commission's archive which has already been taken up by 300 survivors. We are also progressing commitments on a national memorial and records centre, which will appropriately memorialise and inform on Ireland's history of institutional abuse.
We are also progressing health research with former residents, the introduction of the history of this period into the secondary curriculum through the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, NCCA, research scholarships on childhood disadvantage, and an examination of the terminology and language we use when discussing these issues.
All 22 actions, each of which represents a particular facet of the State's response and each of which represents elements of the State's redress to individual survivors and to survivors as a group, continue to be advanced by my Department and across Government.
I thank the Deputies for their contributions to this debate. Most importantly, I, again, pay tribute to the resilience, courage, engagement and patience of survivors, their families and advocates. As a Government, we will continue to work at responding to the legacy of mother and baby institutions.
I wish to share time with Deputies Buckley, Mythen, Munster and Ellis.
I want to tell the Minister and Minister of State about two boys from Kerry, James and Michael. They were left to the mercy of this State and suffered a horrendous childhood. They were boarded out from the county home in Killarney, County Kerry. James was eight and a half and Michael was seven. The State had a duty of care to these little children but sent them to work in servitude and enforced labour. "You are here to work," they were told.
The shameful story is of James and Michael Sugrue. They were sent to a house which had no lighting and no heating. They were not properly fed and having authorised their boarding out, there were no adequate inspections provided by the State.
James, who is now 70, told me, again today, he was physically and sexually abused over many years. He was failed by the social workers who were supposed to protect him and when his education finished, his school and his council declined him a grant for further education on the basis that there would be no additional benefit to him. James went to Hammersmith and later made a life for himself in London, and has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Michael was not so fortunate. Growing up, he had been beaten many, many times, and stripped and beaten in public with a stick on one occasion. He suffered with addiction and mental health and was found dead alone in Crystal Palace in 1993. This left a void in James's life which can never be replaced.
Later in life, compounding this injustice, James was forgotten by every redress scheme. He was not recognised. He was denied a full Garda investigation. At every hand's turn, the State told him that there was nothing it could do.
Why, having listened to James, is the Minister, Deputy O'Gorman, continuing to ignore him? Offering counselling to a man at this stage of his life, he says, is an insult. Give them the comfort of redress, please. For once, in this State, let them be included, or will the Minister be like Michael's neighbour who said to James after his funeral that he was sorry about his brother, they heard his screams but they did nothing. That is the only apology that they have ever received.
I welcome the fact the Government will not oppose the motion tonight. The Minister, Deputy O'Gorman, has heard the statements from the Deputies here tonight. They are true and we have all known people who have been directly affected. Obviously, the Minister has been in direct contact with people. However, when you listen to witness statements and to a woman saying how she breastfed her child while facing a wall and for her to have that child torn from her breast and for it to have taken nearly 45 years to see him, tell me that is not traumatic.
The State, the Church, pharmaceutical companies, the legal profession and undertakers were mentioned. We are not finished with this at all yet. People are coming forward all the time. I would ask for the utmost urgency in trying to get some kind of redress.
Many people have told me survivors are very anxious to get advanced medical cards. They are getting old and frail. The cost of dental work and other medical procedures is extremely expensive. They are only looking for a bit of quality of life. They have gone through their suffering. They are going through the pain now. Yes, many of them wanted just to tell their stories. They were not looking for a pat on the back but they needed to off-load. Yet, here were are again. Listening to other speakers earlier, I thought, my God, we have had many dark times in our history but this is something that we should be really ashamed of because we let our own people down. We let mothers, children and grandparents down. If we cannot stand up today and admit that if it was a collective thing, we should be all in it together and sort it out. We have a responsibility to do that and I ask that be done urgently.
The facts have been laid bare of the scandal of the mother and baby homes. The survivors had to fight every inch to even be heard, let alone be recognised. Now they face another botched scheme. No disrespect is intended. It was designed, no doubt, by people who never had anyone belonging to them in these institutions or who knew anyone who endured the hardships they suffered. It is in this context that the people of Ireland are outraged at the latest attempt to bring forward a very flawed and diluted mother and baby institution payment scheme. It is a scheme that will prevent hundreds of survivors from obtaining enhanced medical cards because the period spent in the institution was less than six months. It is a scheme which to all intents created a hierarchy of suffering and pain, differentiating and categorising each survivor as though one person's pain and suffering was not the same as anyone who stepped over those notorious thresholds. It is a scheme which excluded innocent children, especially those who were boarded out and those who spent less than six months in these cold, oppressive and callous institutions, which represents about 6% in total. The scheme must be redesigned. We, as a nation, must do far more for the survivors of these oppressive, inhumane institutions who treated mothers and babies like chattel. We call on the Government to listen to the ordinary decent people who want this sorted out in the dignified and honourable way.
Speaking of honour, it would be remiss of us not to mention Catherine Corless and her relentless fortitude in her search for justice for the babies and mothers who perished in Tuam. The Taoiseach, in his apology, said the shame is not theirs but ours. It was our shame that we did not show them the respect and compassion that we as a country owe them. Then let us do exactly that and rethink and redesign the scheme for the memory of all the lost babies and all the survivors of the mother and baby homes. Let us do this in the spirit of a nation that really cares and cherishes all the children of the nation equally.
I suppose the question everyone across the State wants an answer to is why the Government has decided that there should be a hierarchy on suffering. Who made that decision? Children who were boarded out, many used as slaves and many abused, have been excluded along with children who were less than six months in these appalling institutions. A number of homes and institutions and all the survivors who spent time in them have been excluded. That means they cannot access the enhanced medical card or the financial redress but much worse than that, it means that the State does not recognise what happened to them. That is the biggest insult of all. The scheme has created an appalling hierarchy of victims and a clumsy hierarchy of suffering that does not reflect the experiences that survivors have had. Yet the Minister said he listened to survivors. It needs to be rectified immediately before more hurt and trauma is inflicted by the State on survivors. Let us remember that the State is responsible for the harm that was done and it must take responsibility for that. The time limits that exclude survivors must be removed. The institutions and children who were boarded out must be included. The religious orders and the pharmaceutical companies must also step up and take responsibility for what they did. The Minister said that he has been in negotiations with them but he must ensure that it happens.
All these abuses have life-long effects on people. Survivors, after all this time, are still being excluded. There is one opportunity to address it. It has to be addressed. Let the Government do the right thing in the name of God, after decades of survivors' campaigning for redress and justice. Just this once, will the Government surprise us and do the right thing by these people who were let down by the State?
It is impossible to calculate the trauma experienced by those who resided in many of the mother and baby homes across the country. To understand the emotional, psychological and physical distress the survivors still experience is something that can only be comprehended by those who lived through the awful experience. We can only attempt to grasp their suffering by listening to their testimonies. It is clear from the many stories these survivors tell that they still manifest the pain of their traumatic past each and every day. Every day the survivors face new challenges. As they get older, they face the additional challenges of declining health, retirement or losing their spouse. These are things that may negatively impact on their already fragile psychological states. Many exhibit symptoms of post traumatic stress. While their experiences may not have prevented their ability to adapt to daily life, for many living a normal life as best as they can will involve repressing many of these traumatic memories so that they can focus on building a life. For others, the trauma and stress of their experience has left a permanent mark which has continued to influence their lives. The Government could have resolved this because it is the right thing to do. Recently, the Taoiseach told the Dáil that not everybody would be satisfied with the entirety of the redress scheme. He needs to understand that it is not simply a question of whether or not someone is satisfied with the proposed scheme but that the scheme is causing unnecessary distress to survivors. In fact, it is retraumatising the survivors who have been excluded from the scheme and will only continue the pain and hurt that they have felt all their lives. The Government must look again at this flawed scheme to ensure that no survivor is excluded.
I welcome the opportunity to debate this motion so ably proposed by Deputy Funchion. My Labour Party colleagues and I were happy to co-sign the motion to render it more of a truly cross-party motion. I welcome the Minister's announcement that the Government will not oppose it and I look forward to further constructive engagement on the legislation the Minister descried that will be introduced in the new year that will form the basis of the scheme. It is a genuine attempt to work to strengthen and improve the redress scheme. It is appropriate that we would all work on a cross-party, collaborative basis and I think survivors would want that. Many of us have received emails from and have been contacted by survivors who have eloquently conveyed their feelings and experiences. We have all heard the very powerful voices of survivors.
I want to pay tribute to the incredible women like Catherine Corless, former Tánaiste, Joan Burton, the late Christine Buckley, Rose and Mags McKinney, Susan Lohan, Anne O'Meara, Samantha Long and all those who used their voices so bravely in pursuing justice and who have spoken out about the injustices that they experienced. We owe them a collaborative approach to ensure that their trauma does not become a political football and that we can move forward in a non-adversarial fashion.
I want to express my sympathies, and those of my Labour Party colleagues, to all those who experienced suffering and distress in the mother and baby, county and Bethany homes. Since its publication in January, the report of the commission has generated intense debate which has been both painful and cathartic for survivors as well as for our society more generally. It has built on the reports of other shameful institutional practices in our State like the Ryan commission report, the Murphy report and so many reports that exposed the abuses to which women and children in particular endured in so many institutions over a relatively short time. Our history of institutional abuse is horrific. We have incarcerated people, women and children, in particular, for far too long.
The witness evidence in the report really exposed the violations of human rights of so many. We know a total of 56,000 mothers and 57,000 children passed through the institutions in the decades examined. Thousands more were residents in other institutions outside the terms of reference of the commission. A shocking mortality rate for infants was exposed in the report and 9,000 infants and babies in the homes covered by the report died before their first birthday. That is a really shocking rate of 15% or one in seven. Within the confidential committee section in particular, we learned of the true extent of abuse, both physical and psychological, suffered by survivors. There was also the widespread practice of forced labour and the extensive practice of coerced or forced adoption. We are all conscious that, as the Minister acknowledged, there can be no quantification of the distress and trauma caused. It is very difficult, indeed probably impossible, to place any sort of price on what is owed to survivors by the State, religious orders and all those complicit, including pharmaceutical companies. That is something I want to refer to.
In my previous life as a barrister I had the privilege of representing survivors of abuse before the Residential Institutions Redress Board, so I have experience of working within one of those redress schemes. I learned from so many of the terrible harms they had suffered in those institutions but I also witnessed the flaws in that system and I think we clearly learned from that scheme. It essentially institutionalised a hierarchy of suffering in that it required survivors to provide evidence of harm and abuse suffered in institutions in order to achieve a certain level of compensation. Appearing before the board was a very difficult and very traumatic process for those survivors who did so. Many of them told me they felt it was pitting survivors against each other, so that was a really retraumatising impact. It was obviously devised with the best of intentions but we see how difficult it is to develop an effective, robust compensation scheme.
Learning from that, there are many aspects of this redress scheme that are very welcome and that are clearly a great improvement. The scale of this scheme is hugely welcome, with 34,000 survivors eligible for financial payments and 19,000 eligible for an enhanced medical card. It is to be non-adversarial and that is very welcome. It is to be accessible and there is no requirement submit evidence of abuse or harm caused, and again that is really welcome. There is no requirement of silence, as I understand it, and that again is very welcome because that was a really unfortunate facet of the previous scheme.
Those are all the welcome aspects but of course there are also critiques that have been expressed in recent days. They are very valid ones because there are still a number of people who will be excluded. While it is great women survivors who live abroad will qualify, as well as those who spent less than six months in the institutions, we still see a distinction where children who spent less than six months will be ineligible for payment, as will children who were boarded out, unless they spent their first six months in an institution. Women who spent less than six months in an institution have been excluded from the enhanced medical card scheme and that is really regrettable, especially as many of those women will have arrived at the institutions in late stages of pregnancy. We have heard from many who suffered physical harm and medical harm as a result of incarceration. Indeed, back on 24 February this Dáil passed an amendment from my colleague, Deputy Sherlock, to give an entitlement to a medical card to all former residents of mother and baby and county homes. I ask that the Minister consider giving effect to that intention of the Dáil as expressed following a very constructive debate that day. That is something others have also sought and it is called for in the motion.
Many survivors have also expressed concern about the timeline for redress and concerns that if the scheme does not open until late 2022 then payments may not be expected until 2023. I ask that the Minister might examine the feasibility of a programme of interim payments to survivors, as was done in the North. I am aware he said he will prioritise older and vulnerable survivors but there is that other mechanism of an interim payment scheme and it might well meet some needs of survivors.
I also want to address the point the Minister raised in his speech of who pays for the scheme and the role of the religious orders. The executive summary of the commission’s report was widely criticised for spreading blame perhaps too broadly beyond State and church and saying responsibility rests mainly with fathers and immediate families. We need to re-emphasise the causative role of both State and church authorities. We know how powerful the church was for so many of the decades in which these institutions prevailed and we know the church was also, through its teaching of ethical and moral dogma, directly responsible for generating the moral context within which shame and secrecy prevailed for so many who were incarcerated in the homes. Not until the Labour Party's Frank Cluskey introduced what was called then the unmarried mothers allowance in 1973 did the State take any responsibility for women who had been so shamefully neglected for so many decades. Not until 1987 did we finally pass laws to abolish the status of illegitimacy. State and church thus bear huge responsibility for the suffering of women in these institutions. Indeed, it was not just the Catholic Church. We know Protestant churches also had a role in incarceration. We are conscious also that obstructiveness was displayed by some of the orders involved during the compilation of the report and that has certainly been made public.
Therefore, we need to see a much greater role for the religious orders in bearing the financial cost of redress. I again refer to the residential institutions redress scheme and the well-known failure of church and religious orders to pay what was their fair share of redress, leaving the State to bear the disproportionate cost of the scheme. The reasons for that have been well-aired in this House and elsewhere. We in the Labour Party have called for religious institutions to make a fair and proportionate contribution to this redress and the Minister has stated his intention that they would do so. If they do not, we have committed to drafting legislation to compel them to make a contribution. I hope it will not come to that because, again, I think we have learned from the experiences of the past.
We need to look at the role of private capital in the system of abuse. In chapter 34 of the commission’s report the issue of vaccine trials was discussed in great detail. It is really disappointing to learn pharmaceutical companies involved in those trials apparently do not see it as necessary to make a financial contribution. I ask the Minister that we look again at that.
We must acknowledge that there are many other measures that are crucial for survivors. This includes the adoption (information and tracing) Bill 2021 our committee is currently reviewing and, of course, a comprehensive review of adoption practices in this country, which we think should be done to ensure we are truly dealing with the legacy of the past. We must look at issues around illegal adoptions, in particular, forced and coerced adoptions and falsified birth certificates. We need to work constructively with the Minister and we certainly intend to do so to ensure the strengthening of this redress scheme, but also that these other measures that are so sorely needed by survivors are put in place. I look forward to doing so and I am glad that we will not see a vote on the motion, which has cross-party support.
Every time I stand up in this House to talk about mother and baby homes I feel the weight of it. It is always hard to know where to begin when talking about something that has caused generations of trauma for so many people. It is difficult to convey the hurt, the bewilderment and the sheer rage that no one is actually being held accountable for these crimes and it does not look like anyone ever will be.
The scale of what went on in these institutions is staggering. It is horrifying. There were forced adoptions, falsified records, vaccine trials, medical experiments, missing children, mass graves, the forced separation of families and the casual obliteration of histories. Survivors deserve justice. The public are behind them. The Government still is not listening.
Despite what the Minister claims, this clearly is not a survivor-centred scheme, nor is it based on transitional justice. The headline-grabbing figures might look impressive at first glance but the real story lies in the details, which include time limits, the signing away of litigation rights and the disregarding of very many survivors' trauma. Regrettably, none of this is surprising. After all, this Government resisted attempts to give survivors access to their personal records, continues to deny the GDPR, and refused to extend the commission of investigation to allow greater accountability. All of this compounds the abuse suffered by thousands of individuals and their families from the State-administered and church-run system that incarcerated single mothers, victims of rape, and children. The redress scheme needs considerable reform. If the Minister is sincere about his intention to listen to survivors, he needs to start acting like it.
I am going to use my time to highlight some of the deficiencies of the scheme but there are many others I will not have time to address. The Government needs to listen to the survivors groups, not to a deeply inadequate commission's report and not to attempts by the Department to limit the rights of survivors. The main defect is the highly insulting requirement for individuals to have spent six months as a child in a mother and baby institution.
Forced family separation is one of the worst human rights violations. The State and religious orders intentionally separated mothers and babies, stigmatised them and denied them the means to find each other. This is a lived and very real trauma, which is not bound by a minimum time in an institution. Someone born in a mother and baby home could have spent a week there, but a lifetime searching for his or her family. Under this scheme, that person is not entitled to redress.
Survivors have expressed their devastation at this cruel stipulation. Clinicians and medics have shown that the six-month requisite has no basis in evidence and shows no understanding of trauma. The letter to the Minister from over 30 experts stated that childhood trauma has the greatest impact early in childhood. These experts pointed out that there is no threshold of time linked to this trauma and, as a result, “having an arbitrary period of 6 months’ exposure is simply that, arbitrary". This arbitrary time restriction needs to go. Any and all children who were subjected to this cruel system deserve acknowledgement and redress. That is the absolute bare minimum.
The second issue relates to the provision that those who received redress in respect of time in mother and baby homes under the residential institutions redress scheme cannot access this scheme. This limitation is symptomatic of the absence of any understanding of trauma and a pervasive civil servant mindset that is more concerned with balance sheets than justice. The language used in the Government’s proposal gives a sense of the cold, unsympathetic language used. It states: "The intention is to prevent double-counting by making a second payment in respect of the same institutional experience." In other words, how dare survivors seek more redress? Why can they not be happy with the little they were given?
This language is condescending and paternalistic. It makes another appearance in the third matter I will raise, that of the legal waiver. A survivor of a mother and baby home who wants to avail of this scheme must sign away his or her rights to take this matter to court. In essence, the Government is proposing a legal gagging order on survivors. In other words, survivors are being told to take the official apology, and as little as €5,000, to sign away their rights to any legal recourse. Not only is this deeply troubling in principle, the proposed scheme’s language reveals the patronising attitude of the Government, which acknowledges that:
applicants may be disappointed at the inclusion of a waiver in the Scheme, and some may interpret it as representing a failure to take responsibility or ... be truly accountable. This is not the case.
Why is this not the case? The Taoiseach apologised. In other words, sign away your rights and be happy with an inadequate apology. The Government goes on to explain how survivors should accept redress as it will spare them burdensome court procedures and the risk of incurring high legal fees. It does not take a legal expert to read between the lines here. If survivors do not sign the waiver, their other option will be an adversarial court case because the State will oppose them.
The Government seems to have no appreciation of the anger among survivors and the general public. People are simply not going to stand for this redress scheme. Not only is there a complete lack of understanding and empathy for survivors, but no lessons have been learned, for example, from the ongoing mass rejection of the CervicalCheck scheme. The same will happen with this redress scheme unless major deficiencies are rectified. Survivors will rightly reject it and they will be supported by society. Limitations, caveats and waivers were found in previous redress schemes for survivors of institutional and clerical abuse and Magdalen laundries. The difference now is that we will not stand for it. In the past week, we have got a sense of the anger and frustration at this scheme. The opposition to its flawed elements will only increase when it comes to the legislation.
If the Minister will not make the necessary changes because it is the right thing to do, perhaps he will do so in response to the waves of public pressure that are on the way. We saw it last year with the public outcry concerning the archive of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes. Society has changed. People are incredibly angry at the abuses perpetrated by this State and religious organisations. Furthermore, they are shocked at the treatment of survivors and this anger will not abate.
The next issue is the Minister's reference to the birth information and tracing Bill as being part of the Government’s response. During pre-legislative scrutiny of this Bill, we heard from survivor groups, human rights advocates and experts, and data rights experts who pointed out multiple issues with the legislation. It places barriers on access to birth records, limits early life and care information and denies siblings and other relatives access. The legislation needs significant changes if it is to come anywhere near what the Minister is claiming it does.
Where is the accountability? Ultimately, nobody is being held to account for the worst abuses perpetrated by this State against its citizens, including vulnerable young women, people with special needs, victims of rape and incest and members of ethnic minorities. Why are existing laws against incarceration, forced labour or human trafficking not being applied? Why is there one rule for church and State and another for everybody else? Why has the coroner not investigated the unnatural deaths that occurred in these institutions? We know there are mass graves and we know that crimes occurred. Instead of responding by seeking justice and accountability, the Government’s burials Bill limits the powers of the coroner to investigate. You could not make it up.
Disgracefully, the outline of the scheme informs us that the Minister has written to the religious congregations seeking to "meet with them in order to discuss how they might contribute to the Scheme." This is cap-in-hand stuff. It is 2021, not 1950. Where are the demands for justice? Where are the attempts to seize the proceeds of illegalities? These orders profited from these systems. Not only did they receive State payments; they participated in forced labour, human trafficking and the sale of babies for money. Many of the people who committed these heinous crimes are now deceased but not all, and the orders still have assets from the money made off the backs of young mothers, children and babies. Where is the scheme to seize those assets for survivors?
I do not have the time to raise other deficiencies, such as the overall inadequacies of the financial amounts and the limiting of the scheme to certain institutions, but these will also need to be addressed. While the scheme in its current form has many insulting and callous flaws, it is not a done deal. The Government still has time to do the right thing and put in place a scheme that is survivor centred and based on transitional justice. There is still time to do the right thing by survivors but the Government should know that if it does not, survivors will not stand for it and nor will any of us.
I move amendment No. 1:
To delete all words after "Dáil Éireann" and substitute the following:
— that the State failed the women and children who were in Ireland's Mother and Baby Homes and County Homes institutions;
— that women and their children were separated through coercion and/or force, often unlawfully, during their time in these institutions;
— that women and their children were separated through coercion and/or force, often unlawfully, during their time in institutions not investigated by the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes and certain related Matters;
— that women and their children were separated through coercion and/or force, often unlawfully, in non-institutionalised settings, including through adoption agencies, maternity hospitals and private facilitators;
— the role religious authorities, social workers and private individuals played in non-institutionalised settings, where women and their children were separated through coercion and/or force, often unlawfully;
— the Taoiseach's acceptance of the lack of respect for the fundamental dignity and rights of mothers and children who spent time in these institutions and that the State did not uphold its duty of care to them;
— that the Taoiseach's apology in January did not acknowledge the full extent of the human rights violations experienced by people affected by this issue, and the long-term effects of these violations on their lives;
— that the Taoiseach's apology in January did not acknowledge the full extent of the human rights violations experienced by people affected by this issue;
— that the State has failed to acknowledge the full extent of unlawful and forced family separation; and
— that the final report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes and certain related Matters, which is currently being challenged in the High Court, failed utterly to respect, acknowledge, or give adequate weight to the personal testimonies of survivors;
— the personal trauma and human rights abuse of coercion of a mother to relinquish her baby and of forced family separation;
— that the harms associated with forced family separation are not dependent on length of stay in a Mother and Baby Home or similar institution;
— that the harms associated with forced family separation are not dependent on spending time in an institution;
— that the exclusion of people who were in these institutions for a period less than six months, people who were boarded out, placed at nurse, people who were in institutions not falling under the remit of the Commission of Investigation, and people who experienced forced family separation but were not institutionalised is inequitable, unjust, and contrary to the survivor feedback received by OAK;
— the primal wound of separating babies from their mothers, by coercion and/or force, often unlawfully, at any age; and
— that all babies, regardless of age, experienced trauma due to being deprived of their mother's care, often being left unsupervised, neglected and/or malnourished;
commends the survivors, mothers, adopted people, their families, and the families of the children who died in these institutions for sharing their lived experiences and trauma, and those who have advocated on their behalf; and
calls on the Government to:
— demand immediate and substantive recourse from religious authorities (both Catholic and Protestant) and pharmaceutical companies to contribute to the State's redress scheme and, if necessary, expropriate their assets to achieve this;
— use OAK's 'Report of the findings of the Consultation with Survivors of Mother and Baby Homes and County Homes' as a basis for amending the proposed redress scheme;
— engage immediately with the victims and survivors' organisations and those directly affected by the scandal of Mother and Baby Home and County Home institutions;
— urgently review, in consultation with these groups, the following matters: — the time-based criteria;
— the exclusion of children who were boarded out/placed at nurse from the redress scheme;
— access to the enhanced medical card;
— proposed payment rates;
— the failure to include all Mother and Baby Homes, County Homes, institutions, agencies and individuals involved in forced family separation;
— the legal waiver attached to the scheme; and
— amend the scheme accordingly to meet the needs of those survivors; — repudiate the final report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes and certain related Matters and cease contesting cases that are being taken by survivors;
— ensure that applications for redress payments for older survivors, who are pensioners, be opened from next January 2022 rather than the end of 2022;
— investigate records and burial sites of homes (including Tuam) where babies and children have been documented as deceased but where there are no burial records;
— provide all adoptees, boarded out and placed at nurse people with their full medical history as a priority;
— make a State apology to adopted, boarded out and placed at nurse people who were placed in abusive families and households; and
— preserve the oral confidential committee tapes and written Commission of Investigation testimonies in consultation with the survivors."
I thank Sinn Féin and the other signatories to the motion. We agree with everything that is in it and thank them for bringing it forward. It has only just become apparent to me that the changes we submitted in our amendment were purely additions. We did not propose to delete the motion. I want to make that clear. That line has been added by the Bills Office. We sent in additions, with a couple of changes, but nothing substantial. They were all additions to what was there because we agree with everything in the main motion. I just want to make that clear. The idea was it should not be a choice between the motion and the amendment. The Bills Office have done it that way and I do not understand why.
I will set that aside because the more important point is the message that gets across to the Government on this matter. I am telling the Minister now that he will have to revisit this. Arbitrary time periods, or tables of compensation linked to time periods, are offensive. They completely fail to take into account the reality of coerced, forced separation of mothers from children. The trauma, suffering, impact and lifelong and varying consequences are unique to every single case. There should be no attempt to try to link those consequences to arbitrary time periods in an institution, or to a table with amounts of money linked to time periods, and it is offensive to do so.
I ask the Minister to think about it. It is shocking and he will have to revisit it.
I was born in a mother and baby home and from what I understand, I was in two mother and baby homes. I do not know how long I was in them and I am sure many others do not know how long they were in them either. The impact could be horrendous if you were in a home for one day and it could be somewhat less if you were in one for six months, depending on the outcome. However, in every case, the primal wound of children being separated from their mothers and mothers being separated from their children is a crime that was committed by the church and State against tens of thousands of mothers and children.
To create arbitrary thresholds that you reach, where the State considers you worthy of redress, is absolutely offensive. I know the Minister did not mean to be offensive, but the problem with this whole sorry saga, which is about the crimes of the church and the State against mothers and children and their then trying to cover their backs and limit the damage, is that he has ended up compounding the hurt, insult, abuse and trauma perpetrated against mothers and children and retraumatising the victims. It is obnoxious. I know the Minister did not mean to be obnoxious, but that is the net result.
This compounds what was done with the commission of investigation report in which the testimonies of the survivors were relegated to being relatively unimportant. Whether that was intended or was just a gross mistake, I do not know, but it was wrong. One of the things we have added in our amendment is to say that report must be fully repudiated in terms of its conclusions. Some of the stuff in that report was offensive. I am just telling the Minister it was offensive. There is no point in saying it was not offensive because it was. Some of what is in this scheme is offensive. I do not believe it was deliberate, but it smacks of the State covering itself and trying to limit things, instead of trying to do right by the survivors and victims of this whole horrible scandal. We have to walk in lockstep with the people at the centre of this - the mothers, children and survivors - if we are to get this right. This scheme has not done so and I ask the Minister to review it in consultation with the survivors.
Our amendment also adds to the motion a demand that if the church institutions and pharmaceutical companies, which have a lot of assets, do not pay their fair share to fund redress, they must be forced to do so. We should state clearly that their assets will be expropriated if they do not do so. I do not know what half of these institutions are still doing running our hospitals and schools. Rather than us asking them nicely, they have to be told and if they will not do it, they have to be forced.
I will not bother with other individual details. They are in the amendment we proposed. However, the point has already been made by Deputy Cairns and others that what the Minister has said about those who are not included in this scheme having guaranteed access to all their identity records and birth certificates in the adoption (information and tracing) Bill 2021 and so on is not true, according to people who have looked at that legislation closely and also as I see it. We need to address that.
The other changes we have proposed are to say that sometimes it is forcible separation - in fact, it is always forcible - but the way in which it is forced can be coercion or force, it can be unlawful technically or lawful technically, but it is all wrong. To create a hierarchy and distinctions that do not understand that human reality is wrong and the Minister needs to revisit it.
A game of divide and conquer is being played here and I believe it is entirely deliberate. There are 58,000 survivors of mother and baby homes in this State. The redress scheme will provide financial compensation for 34,000 of them. Thousands will receive no compensation whatsoever. These include the children who were boarded out and all those who left the homes before attaining the age of six months. Divide and conquer is being played out here. The survivors to whom I have spoken believe so and I have spoken to many of them.
More than 30 experts in childhood trauma wrote to the Minister saying these provisions ignore best practice guidelines in neuroscience, childhood trauma and attachment. They make the following telling point: "The earlier the impact of trauma the more long lasting the effects". That rather spectacularly undermines the Minister's crude six-month cut-off rule. Rosie Rodgers, a survivor of Castlepollard, put it very well and pointed to the divisiveness of the Minister's policy when she said:
Anything after six months and you are acknowledged. Anything less and your pain doesn’t count. Everybody who spent a day in those institutions, it has left its mark. There is no inclusiveness in this redress.
Nor is the compensation adequate for the 34,000 survivors. Furthermore, forcing people to wait until 2023 to receive payment is unfair. Many of the survivors are, of course, elderly. Interim payments are being made in Northern Ireland. Why is that not happening here?
I will say a few brief words about the role of the Minister and the Green Party in all of this. Many people voted for the Green Party in general election 2020 and, in doing so, they voted for change in many cases. They wanted something different and bought the idea that the greens were radical. However, what they see here is the old politics, including an attempt to divide and conquer with people who are victims of oppression. Those people cannot see any difference between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael and they have a strong point. I will leave it at that.
I thank Sinn Féin for putting forward the motion. I supported and put my name to the motion on the basis that the idea of dividing people has come across very badly with survivors. In the past week, I have spoken to a number of survivors about the redress scheme. They are disappointed because they all came into this together, told their stories together and bared their souls in public and private to tell people what had happened to them. They did not do it for any reason other than wanting to get, first, an apology from the State and, second, recognition for what they had gone through.
As one of the survivors said to me, the first six months went grand and then it turned after that. One day in one of these homes could have caused somebody as much trauma and anguish and left as big as mark as it did on somebody who was there for five or six years. That is why the idea of segregating, categorising and dividing people has created resistance to the redress scheme. The scheme is well-intended.
The Minister talked about the cost of the scheme. I take a different view. I do not believe the State should look at the cost as much as it looks at what the cost in human terms is to the people who were in these homes, both the mothers and the babies, and the lives they have led in the meantime. They have carried this burden and anguish for years. Whether it was a month, a day or six years, the anguish and pain are still there.
Sometimes when we try to do something good, we get it wrong. This redress scheme needs to be re-examined. We should not try to divide and segregate people. It is also important to realise, as a previous speaker said, that the survivors are getting older. Many survivors have told me over the last five or six years that this is not about money but about recognition and the State saying it will try to do something for them. When it says it will do something for some people but not for others, because they were not in a home for long enough, how do we address that? People have asked me if they have to serve an apprenticeship before they qualify.
We have to look at this and say this is not what it is all about. It is about real people who have suffered more than enough. We are talking about events in the past. We are not proud of them, but we have to stop talking and act. We have to get people what they require. They have placed their faith in modern politics and the politicians of today to make sure they get what they deserve. I think the Minister has accepted the motion but he has to go beyond that. It is not just about not opposing the motion. We have to see this redress scheme broken apart and put back together in conjunction with all the survivors and advocacy groups in order that we can create something that is fitting for what we are dealing with. It is a major part of people's lives. As Deputy Boyd Barrett said, there is passion about this. It is not a political issue but one of everybody trying to do the right thing. That is why we are talking about this motion tonight.
As politicians, we come across some things that we say are not right. I was talking to a survivor on Saturday. He said he was lucky because he was fostered to a good family and good home. There are good stories. He farmed the land for 40 or 50 years and was left the farm. When it came to giving him the land, he had to pay stamp duty at 7.5% because he was a foster child, as opposed to paying stamp duty at 1% as if he was the son. He told me that survivors are being victimised everywhere they go. Despite what the paperwork said, this was a family handing its son the family farm. Even though this man was fostered, he had to pay 7.5% stamp duty. When he tried to get it back, he was told those were the rules. We have to ask why the rules are there. They are not supposed to victimise people but to help them along.
The other part of the motion that we have to look at, which was spoken about earlier, is its call on the Government to "seek immediate and substantive recourse from religious orders and pharmaceutical companies to contribute to the State’s redress scheme". We have to be strong on this. The pharmaceutical companies played a part in all of this. They cannot be allowed to just walk away. They need to own up to what they were doing. I spoke to a woman who was in a home in Cork. She told me that after having the baby, she was given a tablet. She did not know what it was for and she never found out. It is not recorded in any medical history. Experiments were carried out for the benefit of pharmaceutical companies without the knowledge or express permission of the mothers or the children.
We have to say to the religious orders that they need to own up too. I went to school in Tuam. The mother and baby home was probably closed before I started secondary school in the town but I know many people who remember it. They remember how children were segregated when going to classrooms and schools. They would be brought in after everybody was in the classroom brought out before anybody else was let out. One said that by changing the redress scheme to provide nothing for those who were there for less than six months and something for those who were there for a longer period is the same as when they went to school. They were treated differently then and people are being divided and treated differently now.
We have to ensure survivors and their families receive the recognition they surely deserve. They need the State apology, which has already been given, to be repeated many times. We have to show them respect. We have to give all of them restitution for what happened to them. We cannot be selective. That would not be the right thing to do. It is not about the money but the people who suffered unjust experiences, some of which are probably indescribable.
I acknowledge all of the work the Minister and Minister of State have done but this scheme needs to be overhauled before it goes further. We do not want to have any more anguish for the survivors. I acknowledge all of the survivors who I have met and who have written to me. Some have become friends. They have done everything they have been asked to do. They have been polite and brave. At times, they have gone through much anguish when telling the public what they went through. It has been a watershed for them. I hope this redress scheme will become a watershed for this State, making sure that we do something right for these people.
I acknowledge the work of Catherine Corless from my home town, Tuam, and her family. They have gone through a journey with her as she did all this work and research to expose what happened in the town. Tuam is not the only place where it happened, unfortunately. We have an opportunity and I would welcome the efforts of the Minister and Minister of State to make sure the scheme is for everybody.
I thank Sinn Féin. I was too late to sign the motion, but my heart is in it. This has been a terrible time in the history of our State. It is 11 months since the commission of investigation delivered its final report. The payment scheme was finally published on Tuesday, 16 November. The payment involves an €800 million redress payment for 34,000 survivors of mother and baby homes and county homes. However, we know from the response of the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth in the Dáil last week that an estimated 58,000 survivors of mother and baby homes are alive today. This means that the compensation scheme will not be available to 24,000 other survivors, including babies and women who were in these homes. These women were treated shabbily from the start by parents, religious orders, different Governments and health boards.
Many babies died from neglect and not getting the medical care or interventions that would have kept them alive. Clearly, for the religious orders in the mother and baby homes, the money that they made was more important to them than keeping babies alive. Many babies were taken from their mothers and sold into adoption. Can you imagine that?
Last year, the Government tried to keep the records from those trying to contact sons or daughters and, likewise, sons and daughters trying to find their mothers, and stated that they had been destroyed. It must be a divine right that a child is not impeded from finding out the identity of his or her mother or father. No arm of the State should in any way impede a person trying getting that information, if available.
What happened to the babies in Tuam by way of mass burial in a septic tank was absolutely terrible. I watched the RTÉ programme a week or so ago. It was horrific. The Government now wants survivors to put their signatures to what it is offering them by way of redress and is trying to ensure that there can be no further claims. This tells me that the Government knows that what it is offering is in no way adequate. Why else would it be trying to get survivors to sign on the dotted line? The scheme provides that unless a person was resident in a mother and baby home for more than six months prior to his or her being adopted out, no redress will be payable. Who decided that a child would have to have been in a mother and baby home for six months or more? A group of women contacted me in the past few days. They were outraged because one of them was in Bessborough for four months and another was there for five. They are being denied any redress. I would like to meet the person who set that time limit. Those who were boarded out to other homes are also not entitled to redress.
The Government is not even halfway there. It must do right and be seen to do right. It must rectify the wrong that has been done. A savage wrong has been done to these survivors. It is wrong that people would be left out regardless of whether they were there for a short period or for much less than six months. I cannot understand how the Government thinks it is going to get away with this. What is on offer is not adequate. I appeal to the Minister to look at this again and ensure that all survivors, male or female, are looked after properly. The manner in which the Government is going about this in terms of requiring these people to sign on the dotted line that they are happy with what they are getting leaves me in grave doubt as to what it is doing. I am very worried about it and I cannot stand over it. I ask the Minister to look at the matter again.
I am glad to have the opportunity to speak on behalf of these misfortunates who have been treated so badly in our State, and by many people in our State, and not that long ago. Many of them are still alive. I am asking the Minister to look at this again. I am not shouting or roaring; I am appealing to him to look at this in a fair way because what is happening in regard to the nine people who were in the homes for less than six months is wrong. I appeal to the Minister to look at this again and to do what is right for those survivors. Now is the time; do not let it pass. Do not delay because many of these people are on their last legs. Medical cards should be awarded to each and every one of them to ensure that while they did not get proper medical treatment at the time they were born into these homes, they will at least get it for the remaining days of their lives. I appeal to the Minister to do that.
I welcome the opportunity to speak on this very important issue. I completely support Sinn Féin’s motion for an expansion of the mother and baby homes redress scheme to all former residents of mother and baby homes regardless of how long or short their stay. I thank Deputy Funchion for bringing this motion to the House.
I echo the words of the survivors' group, who I listened to and met outside the gates of Leinster House today and who described the mother and baby homes redress scheme as a travesty of justice. It truly is a travesty that those who lived or were born into these terrible institutions and spent less than six months there have been completely left out and excluded from claiming deserved redress. Who are those in government to put a timeline on trauma or to decide at what point survivors deserve compensation for the awful conditions in which they were forced to endure? It is a complete insult to these survivors who have already been failed by this State time and again. We really ought to be ashamed of ourselves for allowing this to happen.
This redress scheme is not inclusive and does not meet the needs of the survivors. It is clear that there is a complete lack of survivor voice within this scheme. We cannot create a scheme without the input of the people it affects. This should be at the heart of every redress scheme that is established and it should be the priority of all schemes going forward, be they in respect the mother and baby homes or the mica issue. It is of utmost importance that those affected have a large part to play in discussing the impact and the redress that is due to them.
It is a simple face of governance and politics that when attempting to provide some form of monetary redress to a portion of the public, tragedies must be quantified. My issue is that the mother and baby homes redress scheme appears to be an operation of spreadsheets and finances, with little or no evidence that the survivors were at the heart of things. It seems as though a kitty was agreed upon and, on the basis of that amount, the tragedies of survivors were weighed up and calculated. As I said, I understand that a certain amount of box ticking and bureaucracy must be accepted and expected in order for such schemes to operate. Subjectivity in application will not work. However, in cases such as this, the starting point should not be a final budget or monetary limit. The starting should be, and must be, the survivors.
If we must quantify the pain suffered by Irish citizens, pain that was sanctioned by the State on our behalf, then the Minister must listen to the survivors and base the quantification of the redress not on what has been deemed available but on the Government's genuine desire to offer a meaningful gesture of sorrow and remorse towards those women, children and families who it so gravely wronged. The impact of early trauma cannot be understood by anyone but those who have experienced it. Such trauma should not be overlooked. The time spent in mother and baby homes should be completely irrelevant and the fact that anyone was forced into these institutions against their will, separated from their babies or their mothers, should be the sole focus here. It does not matter for how long they were forcibly separated, the fact of the matter was that they were, and wrongly so. We cannot measure wrongdoing by how long it went on, but rather and simply whether the act was wrong.
The reports that have come out over the past few years regarding these institutions are truly harrowing. It is devastating to read of the huge loss of lives in these homes. In the Stranorlar County Home in Donegal, 343 illegitimate children died in infancy or early childhood. Many of those who lived were subjected to awful conditions and, unfortunately, experienced separation anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues throughout their lives. The very least that we can do is give full and fair redress to every single one of those impacted.
It is the very least the survivors deserve after all they have been forced to endure and continue to endure. I am calling on the Government to do the right thing. This is a shameful chapter in our country's history. We cannot bury our heads in the sand and pretend it did not happen. We need to address it and support the survivors. We must give each and every one of them proper redress for the pain, sorrow and heartache that the State, in our name, has caused them.
I thank Deputy Funchion for tabling the motion and Solidarity-People Before Profit for the proposed additions. I welcome the opportunity to take part in the debate. I recognise the work the Minister has done to get us to this point. I could go over the history of the issue but will not do so in the limited time available. Instead, I will focus on a number of issues and refer to several submissions and reports.
First is the submission to the Government from the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, IHREC, which includes a number of observations and recommendations. On page 22, it states:
By the Commission of Investigation's own admissions, it did not take a human rights-based approach. This has resulted in findings and recommendations that do not reflect Ireland's human rights or equality obligations and in turn is not an adequate mechanism for identifying the full universe of survivors.
I acknowledge that the Minister has gone a little beyond the commission's recommendations, but not far enough. The IHREC submission further states:
In the past Ireland has been criticised for its narrow interpretation of the category of persons who should qualify... All participants emphasised how the Final Report failed to recognise the gravity and magnitude of the human rights violations that occurred in Mother and Baby Homes and related institutions... [They reported] a perceived lack of recognition [I would go much stronger than that] of trauma of being separated from mother or child and the 'family destruction' therein.
The Minister has come forward with a scheme and, notwithstanding his best efforts, he is now perpetuating that discrimination all over again and adding to survivors' trauma, whether he likes it or not.
Let us consider the people, other than my colleagues and me, who have made that case. The open letter the Minister received from therapists was a bold statement. They do not often do such a thing and I welcome it. The letter has 30-plus signatures of professionals who have spoken out. They state: "Firstly, childhood trauma, which includes separation from primary caregiver and exposure to multiple caregivers in an institutional setting, has the greatest impact early in childhood." Lack of time prevents me from reading out the whole letter but I ask all members of the Government to read it. The authors further state:
Secondly, there is no quantum of time that allows us to think about the impact of childhood trauma. Thus, having an arbitrary period of six months' exposure is simply that, arbitrary. What is known from research in the area of childhood trauma is that it is the combination of adversity and quality of relationships which confer risk.
They go on to refer to research in this area. Having had the privilege, in a previous life, of working in psychology, I refer the Minister to the work of John Bowlby, which we knew of as students, even when we were not paying much attention to our studies. We knew the importance of the early childhood bond, as outlined in the letter.
The submission from the IHREC likewise asks the Minister to withdraw the six-month residency distinction. However, he is persisting with it. I looked for some idea as to where that criterion came from and what the justification is for it. I am afraid, like Deputy Barry, I cannot think of any reason other than a monetary one. The report of the interdepartmental group reflects the fact it did some good work, but it was done within a financial framework and without any understanding of the trauma that was caused by many parts of the experience of survivors, particularly by the separation of mother and baby. There is an utter failure to recognise that and, again, a perpetuation of the abuse.
I apologise if I am sometimes too passionate about this issue but I know it inside out from both professional and personal experience. The personal has nothing to do with my role in the Dáil but the professional side does. It is our duty to highlight every occasion on which this Government and other Governments have perpetuated this injustice and the misuse of language. I notice, for instance, that the interdepartmental report refers to the importance of kindness. I certainly agree that kindness is a quality that should be inherent in a just system based on principle. The report talks about the principle of kindness. In fact, kindness is not a principle; it is a quality that should be present in any interaction with the State. What is important are the principles of justice, proportionality, fairness, equality and so on. That is not recognised in the interdepartmental report or the proposal with which the Minister is persisting.
On page 35 of the interdepartmental report, we get some idea of why the six-month residency condition is included. It is stated very clearly and quite adamantly, as outlined earlier in the chapter, as follows: "The group is strongly of the view that the six month residency criterion is particularly important when considering children [I do not know whether the Minister has read this] as it [the interdepartmental committee] does not want to create a circumstance whereby being born in a mother and baby home or a county home is deemed a basis for the redress under the scheme". There we have it. The mere fact that someone was born in a home is not going to give him or her any right or entitlement. That brings home to me the utter failure to understand what we have all been guilty of in allowing what happened in mother and baby homes in Ireland. An apology was given by the Taoiseach and other apologies were given in 1999 by Bertie Ahern. We are utterly failing to act on those apologies in a meaningful fashion.
As the time is almost up, the final point I will make is that serious consideration must be given to the provision of interim payments. This is a vulnerable group of people, of whom more than one third are aged over 70, one third are aged between 60 and 70 and one third are nearing 60 years of age. That has to be first and foremost in our minds. I cannot escape the conclusion that decisions were made on the basis of money. The exclusion is not done on principles of justice or equality but for the purpose of saving money for the State, religious institutions and pharmaceutical companies.
I thank Members for their contributions. In January this year, the Taoiseach, on behalf of the Government, the State and its citizens, apologised for the profound generational wrong visited upon Irish mothers and their children who ended up in mother and baby homes or county homes. He stated categorically that the State did not uphold its duty of care and thereby failed these women and children. He acknowledged that an apology alone was not enough but only a first step.
The Government had undertaken to respond to the needs of survivors in consultation with them. As stated by the Minister, Deputy O'Gorman, in his opening remarks, while the Government strives to deliver an inclusive response, there are no easy answers when it comes to providing a remedy to the significant grief and anguish caused to the women and children who spent time in these institutions. In many respects, it is not possible to replace what has been lost to survivors. No financial reward or service provision can take back the hurt, loss and distress that were suffered through decades of failure. Nevertheless, the Government is earnest in its wish to provide an enduring response to the priority needs of all concerned.
The action plan for survivors and former residents of mother and baby and county home institutions begins with an apology. It is broad-reaching, encompassing actions under a wide variety of themes, which include a survivor-centred approach, the apology, access to personal information, archives and databases, education and research, memorialisation, restorative recognition, including health supports and financial payments, and dignified burial. Although only recently published, work on the action plan has been under way since January to ensure the 22 action plan points set out across the eight themes are developed and implemented. The mother and baby institution payment scheme, while hugely important and, indeed, the most significant scheme of its type in the history of the State, is just one element of the plan. The Government's intention is to deliver a payment scheme that is non-adversarial, simple and respectful. Work on the scheme is already under way.
It is important, in addition, to highlight the other hugely significant elements of the plan. These actions are not only important to the Government in demonstrating sincerity in addressing the wrongs of the past but, more crucially, they are vitally important to the survivors.
First, counselling to support all former residents has been in place since before the publication of the commission's report. The service has been strengthened with additional investment and an expanded out-of-hours support. The Government has published the general scheme of a birth information and tracing Bill. This is currently the subject of pre-legislative scrutiny. It will provide guaranteed access to birth certificates and wider birth and early life information for those who have questions about their origins. It will also provide a robust statutory tracing service to support family contact and reunion. The Government is committed to advancing institutional burials legislation to provide for dignified and respectful treatment of remains at Tuam, and elsewhere if necessary.
On the same day that the Government approved proposals for the mother and baby institutions payment scheme, it further progressed two other important actions, both of which are intended to demonstrate the its commitment to acknowledge the failings of the past and to learn from those failings. The first of these actions is the creation of 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. The second action is the creation of a national memorial and records centre. This action is hugely important to survivors. A scoping group chaired by the Secretary General to the Government will develop an overarching vision and proposed approach to the creation of a national centre. It will then be brought to the Government for approval. Both of these actions are tangible demonstrations of the Government's determination not to forget the past and not to repeat the past. They stand as part of the gesture of acknowledgement, apology and healing to those who were failed as mothers and as children.
I acknowledge the amendment to the motion tabled this evening. I value all contributions from Deputies on this most important of issues. However, the motion calls for action that would be grossly unconstitutional. The Chamber cannot and should not seek to pre-empt or anticipate matters that are under the examination of the courts. The Government simply cannot support the amendment. I thank all Members for their time this evening in debating this important matter. I echo the Minister's opening words of appreciation to survivors and their families as the Government continues to work through these complex issues.
This scheme is not fit for purpose. The Minister needs to go back to the drawing board. The scheme has been widely condemned by survivors and experts. On a human level, it dismisses their suffering. It basically says that many of their experiences are not traumatic enough to receive redress. Boarded-out children and infants who spent less than six months in these appalling institutions are completely excluded. A group of 30 childhood experts wrote to the Minister over the weekend explaining why this is a shocking decision. Trauma cannot be measured by time periods. The Minister completely ignored the views expressed by survivors in the OAK report. That is insulting to survivors who have experienced decades of appalling treatment by this State. The Minister has created a hierarchy of victims here. I do not believe he intended to do that, but that is the reality. The current proposal is heartless and tone-deaf. I welcome that the Minister spoke to religious institutions, but he needs to speak to the pharmaceutical companies involved and demand that they, too, pay for the pain and suffering they caused. Forced adoptions, forced labour, physical and sexual abuse and vaccine trials happened in these institutions. They should all be held to account, along with the State. It is a dark stain on this State's history. The Minister needs to listen to the criticism of this scheme and make the changes that are needed for it to be acceptable for survivors.
We would not be here this evening if the Minister had used the findings of the OAK consultation with the survivors of the mother and baby homes. Nobody wants to be here, at least of all the people who are watching in tonight. The survivors do not want to be watching this. I send them our solidarity. I thank all of those who have engaged with Deputies across the House and told us their stories.
Some of those who are watching tonight have raised a couple of things with me since the debate started. The Minister says he has sought to seek consensus rather than division in the House, but I have been asked why he is continuously trying to create a divide between survivors. He needs to hear that going out of this Chamber tonight. He needs to include it in the legislation he is bringing forward. The Minister also said that the Government has gone significantly further, when he referred to what the Government has done. They say that this is not far enough. If they say that it is not far enough, it is not far enough. The Minister said that this is the largest scheme of its kind in the history of the State, but they want to remind him that it is the largest and most inhumane scandal in the history of the State. The Minister has to listen, even at this late stage.
I want to remember tonight the tenacity and courage of Catherine Corless in uncovering the scandal of the 796 babies still in the sewage tanks in Tuam. Some 208 of them are from my own county of Mayo. I want to acknowledge the recent initiatives by Valerie Jennings and Seosamh Mulchrone to highlight that to the Minister. That needs to be done. I ask the Minister, please, to listen to the survivors.
Countless men and women living in my area have a history intertwined with the Castlepollard institution. I do not have the time to fully express to the Minister the hurt, frustration and disbelief they have expressed to me. I want to place on the record of the Dáil some quotes from an open letter written by the survivors of the Castlepollard institution earlier this year. It begins:
The sad fact is that losing a baby to forced adoption is a traumatic event in a mother's life causing a form of post traumatic stress disorder and it makes zero difference how soon after birth this trauma is inflicted; the horror remains, the depression, anxiety, nightmares, flashbacks ...
The survivors make it clear in their open letter that "the commission's final report is deeply flawed". It continues:
Up to 15,000 people in Ireland ... were illegally adopted during the timeframe under investigation and they were excluded ... they have spent their entire lives giving false, misleading and potentially lethal family medical histories to doctors and hospital staff.
The letter further states:
Furthermore the rest of the county homes were ignored by this commission - more than two dozen escaped investigation ... Where is their truth and justice?
We listened to both Taoiseach Martin and Tánaiste Varadkar apologise in the Dáil today ... Neither mentioned their own political parties nor their culpability in what is essentially Ireland's own little holocaust ... insult headed upon injury and salt thrown in the wounds by the empty seats ... Apparently, it was 'society's fault'. What was the point in our testifying if our word was to be doubted? Our testimonies ARE the proof.
Neither of the sickening double act in the Dáil today bothered to talk about real and immediate action for living survivors ... the living survivor community must take priority ... we need action while some of us are alive.
These are the raw, hurt words of survivors, told in their own words in an open letter. They have had enough of political waffle to last them more than a lifetime. They have been failed time and again. Actions, not words, are what is needed now, because people start to heal the moment they feel heard. These survivors have yet to feel heard. Do not deny them again. I ask the Minister not to let that happen on his watch. He must ensure that justice is finally delivered.
I thank everybody who has been involved in the debate. I welcome the fact that the motion is not being opposed. Genuinely, the Minister and Minister of State have heard tonight that people want to work constructively. That is why we brought this motion forward. We want to highlight the issues. I imagine that Government Deputies, like everyone else, were inundated with people asking why they were excluded from the scheme. I do not believe that anybody, whether they stand in opposition or in government, wants to exclude anybody. That is why we brought the motion forward. I genuinely hope that there is sincerity when the Minister says that he wants to work with us and that he is not opposing the motion for that reason. Everybody wants a scheme that will suit and that is fit for purpose.
As already stated, this has to be the Dáil that finally deals with these issues because we have been talking about them for so long. People are literally dying as we are debating them. I reiterate what I said earlier. A lot of this was left at the Minister's door by predecessors, who were probably happy enough to leave it there, but he now has an opportunity to deal with it properly and constructively and listen to people.
The letter that was written to the Minister was mentioned on a number of occasions. Some of it has already been read out but I will read out two final points. We should welcome that we have such experts to whom we can look, particularly when this matter comes to legislation and the pre-legislative scrutiny process. I am hoping that people like these will feed into that process and that we can base that legislation on some of their work. It is excellent, as Deputy Connolly said, that they had the courage to come out with this letter at the weekend. It states:
We are seeking a revision of the recommendations arising from the report, with inclusion of best practice guidelines regarding neuroscience, childhood trauma and attachment. We are willing to work alongside you to see these changes through and want to meaningfully contribute to better practices, rather than simply criticising from the sidelines.
One final point. These women and children have experienced complex trauma and adversity in their lives. Yes, the money will help, there's no doubt about it. But there is also an opportunity to right a wrong, to empathise at a human level and seek to understand. We want to minimise the risk of secondary traumatisation and invalidation of survivors and their families which is most likely where experiences are not heard, respected and redressed. Fundamentally it is about mothers, children and families being seen and heard and having their lived experiences validated. Collectively we can surely strive for this?
That perfectly sums up what we are trying to achieve with this motion. These people are clinical psychologists and therapeutic social workers. They work with children and understand trauma very well. We should take their suggestions on board. I think everybody would agree that this scheme has to be inclusive. It should include all survivors, particularly as regards the medical card aspect. An awful lot of women are being retraumatised by that because they were holding out and waiting for this enhanced medical card. It is not right that they would be denied it. Interim payments should also be looked at and that is being examined in the Six Counties as part of their report.
There will be statements on this matter again on Thursday so we will be discussing the topic again. I thank people for their support on this motion. I send solidarity and support to all survivors who were sent to institutions, anybody who was born there and their families. I know it retraumatises them every time we talk about it but it is important to raise the issues. I am thinking of all the people I have met, and who we have all met.
We never submitted an amendment looking to delete anything in the motion. What we did was amend it. I do not understand how it has come out with the word "delete" as part of it.
If there are multiple additions to different parts of the motion, it can be couched as a full rewrite of the motion. That is what has happened in this instance because there were multiple changes suggested in the amendment that the Deputy submitted.
We have often put in changes before and that did not happen. That is not at all what we intended. I do not want anything that implies we were deleting any aspect of the motion because we were not. We were adding to it.
I have no choice, but I am not very happy about it. We never put the word "delete" into the amendment. I am not happy. You sometimes add and sometimes delete all of it and we did not put the word "delete" in our amendment. That was not in anything we submitted to the Journal Office.
If the proposers accept the amendment, will the names of all the signatories from all parties, including those of the original motion, be on the amended motion or will it only be the of the signatories to the amendment? I would not want that. The whole point was that the amendment was in solidarity with the cross-party motion.
If the amendment was accepted by the proposers, would the names of all the signatories to the original motion stay on the agreed and amended motion? That is what I want to know.