Thursday, 11 July 2019
Department of Children and Youth Affairs
Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries
836. To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the steps she will take to ensure local authorities and other bodies co-operate with the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes. [30641/19]
The Commission was established by Government in February 2015 to investigate concerns related to the institutional care of unmarried mothers and their babies during the period 1922 to 1998. The Commission is tasked with providing a full account of what happened to vulnerable women and children in these institutions. Following a request from the Commission, Government granted an extension to the time frame for the delivery of its final Report. The Commission is due to report in February 2020.
The Government is satisfied that this independent Commission has sufficient scope to examine the broad range of public concerns, and to make a determination on their relevance to the central issues in question, and where appropriate to make any recommendations to Government which the Commission deems necessary.
In accordance with section 9 of the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004, it is essential to recognise that the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes is independent in the performance of its functions.
The Commissions of Investigation Act 2004 provides an effective mechanism to investigate complex and sensitive matters of significant public concern. The Act gives the Commission robust powers to compel persons to produce information and answer questions, and I do not have any role or information in this regard. The precise approach to examination of evidence are matters for the Commission to decide and progress.
837. To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the status of a report by a person (details supplied) report into the DNA options for the site of the historic mother and baby home at Tuam, County Galway; and when she anticipates this report being finalised. [30701/19]
I have received Dr Shannon's report, and it is under consideration in my Department. A requirement has been identified for detailed legal advice, and this has been sought from the Office of the Attorney General. That advice will determine the options open to Government.
838. To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the estimated number of persons born in the mother and baby homes currently under investigation by the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30702/19]
The Department of Children and Youth Affairs does not have collated information to facilitate an estimate on the numbers of persons born in the Mother and Baby Homes currently under investigation. There is no centralised records system for the fourteen specified institutions but the Deputy may wish to note that certain records from several of these former institutions are now in the possession of Tusla, the Child and Family Agency.
Tusla has made these records available to the independent statutory Commission of Investigation on Mother and Baby Homes. The Commission has reported that when its cross-referencing of all records is complete it should provide as comprehensive an account as is possible of the pathways of entry into and exit from these institutions of the children concerned. It is reasonable to assume that this analysis will assist to estimate the numbers of children born or resident for a time in these institutions. The Commission is due to report in February 2020.
All birth records are held by the General Register Office (GRO). Information provided by the GRO on births recorded at the addresses of the main mother and baby institutions was published in the Report of the Inter-Departmental Group on Mother and Baby Homes in July 2014. This data, which is available on my Department’s website, identifies a total of over 23,000 births as having taken place at the addresses of 9 of these institutions. The delivery of babies to unmarried mothers on-site was a feature of many, though not all, Mother and Baby Homes so this figure would not represent the full numbers of births to mothers resident in these homes. Practices changed over the period during which these the institutions were in operation with births increasingly taking place in maternity hospitals or maternity units in later years.
As the Deputy will be aware I have addressed the question of a redress scheme for former residents of these institutions on a number of occasions and I do appreciate that calls to establish such a scheme are genuinely made on behalf of an ageing community.
It is not possible for a Government to consider an appropriate response to matters which are currently within the scope of an independent statutory investigation, including any question of redress, prior to the Commission submitting its final reports.
Given that these specific matters have not been central to any previous inquiry, it is not feasible at this interim stage in the Commission's work to pre-empt its findings and recommendations. To date the Commission has made no findings about abuse or neglect in any of the institutions within its terms of reference. Its final report is due to be completed by February 2020.
I know that many former residents are eagerly awaiting the completion of this work. When the final reports of the Commission are available the Government will be in a position to comprehensively respond to the full account of the Commission’s conclusions on all matters regarding the experiences of former residents.
In the interim I am committed to on-going engagement with former residents of these institutions. I have engaged with the community of former residents, their families and advocates on this issue and I established the Collaborative Forum. The recommendations of the Forum have recently been published and Government has committed to advancing a number of measures in response to identified issues of concern.
840. To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the status of the work of the working group established between her Department and that of the Department of Health with regard to supporting mother and baby home survivors; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30704/19]
Following the publication of the recommendations from the first report of the Collaborative Forum of former residents of Mother and Baby Homes, my colleague the Minister for Health has convened a working group to develop specific proposals for a package of health and well-being supports. My officials are participating in this work and I understand that there have been three meetings to date.
The working group has been tasked with reporting by September in order to facilitate considerations within the Estimates process for Budget 2020.
843. To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the status of the working group to develop a national memorial that commemorates, respects and honours mothers and children held in mother and baby homes. [30707/19]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 841 to 843, inclusive, together.
These proposed memorialisation measures to which the Deputy refers arise from the Government's initial response to the recommendations in the First Report from the Collaborative Forum of former residents of Mother and Baby Homes.
My Department has already commencing the detailed scoping work necessary to implement the proposed memorialisation measures. It is also my intention to further consult with the Forum as we develop the specific schemes.
When Government approved publication of the Forum's recommendations on 16th April, it also agreed to progress a number of initial related measures. Chief amongst these was a necessity for a comprehensive analysis of all of the recommendations in the report, with individual Department's to conduct an assessment of the policy, resource and legislative of recommendations relevant to their respective Departments. I expect to receive feedback from relevant Departments shortly. Once this initial analysis and assessment is complete, my Department will further co-ordinate the response in respect of a number of the recommendations, particularly those relating to Memorialisation.