Tuesday, 12 October 2021
Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth
Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries
348. To ask the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the reason the Final Report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes contains so little information about St. Gerard’s Mother and Baby Home when it was part of the Commission of Investigation’s remit to investigate it and when its records were in the possession of Tusla; if he has plans to correct this deficit in the final report by ensuring that the records for St. Gerard’s are processed and a further and comprehensive report on St. Gerard’s Mother and Baby Home is issued including the nature of its engagements with St. Patrick’s Guild; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50074/21]
355. To ask the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth his views on the fact that the Final Report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes appears to have failed to reach findings in respect of St. Gerard's Mother and Baby Home; if he accepts the Church of Ireland executive summary claim that the commission knows very little about St. Gerard’s due to the fact it was unable to access its institutional records; if he plans to conduct a review of this particular home; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49190/21]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 348 and 355 together.
The Commission of Investigation (Mother and Baby Homes and certain related Matters) was entirely independent in the conduct of its investigations and this independence was guaranteed in law.
It was a matter for the Commission alone to reach whatever conclusions it deemed possible, based on its assessment of the full body of evidence available to it at the time. It is incorrect to infer that the Commission did not make findings in relation to St. Gerard's Mother and Baby Home. The Commission had statutory powers and access to a body of information never previously available in examining these matters. Its Final Report addresses important questions in relation to the practices in place throughout the network of Mother and Baby and County Home Institutions during the period under investigation.
The Commission noted that St Gerard's was in operation between 1919 to 1939. On the basis of its capacity, and the 45 recorded births in the 1930s, the Commission reports that it was likely to have catered for no more than 200 women and their children in total. The Commission stated that the records of St Gerard’s which it examined are part of the very large archive of records relating to St Patrick’s Guild. It was acknowledged that, at the time of the investigation, it was unable to extract specific records in relation to St Gerard’s. However, during its investigation, the Commission cross-referenced information from the institutional records available to it, State records, testimony from witnesses and evidence from other sources, in order to reach its conclusions. There are a number of such citations in relation to "Chapter 27: St Gerard’s, originally 39 Mountjoy Square" of the Commission's final report.
The Commission has now been dissolved in law. My Department does not have comparable powers to access records or compel persons to provide information. I have no plans to re-investigate the findings made by the Independent Commission, nor does my Department have the statutory powers to do so.
Notably, the Commission's terms of reference specifically acknowledge the importance of its work in supporting further historical research. I, therefore, welcome future academic research into these matters, and the Government has committed to supporting further research and access to records as key parts of our response to the Commission’s Report.
As I have previously stated, the Commission’s Report is not the end of the State’s response to mother and baby and county home institutions. It provides the initial basis on which we are building a series of responses to the needs and concerns of survivors and their families.