Thursday, 17 November 2022
Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth
Mother and Baby Homes
242. To ask the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth if his attention has been drawn to the views outlined by the United Nations special rapporteurs on 23 September 2022, expressing concern that children of African and Irish descent were subjected to differential treatment in mother-and-baby homes due to their race and colour; if special redress will be provided through the mother and baby institutions payment scheme as a result of this report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57157/22]
I am aware of the recent UN statement and I would like to reassure the Deputy that the Government takes its responsibility to investigate and address historic wrongs and allegations of human rights abuses very seriously.
Following publication of the Final Report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes, the Taoiseach offered a formal apology on behalf of the Government, the State and its citizens to all those who spent time in these institutions. In this apology, the Taoiseach acknowledged the failings of the State, over many decades, to protect vulnerable citizens, and to uphold their fundamental rights. The State apology recognised the “additional impact which a lack of knowledge and understanding had on the treatment and outcomes of mothers and children with different racial and cultural heritage, those who faced mental health challenges, or those with physical and intellectual disabilities”.
It was further acknowledged that “such discriminatory attitudes exacerbated the shame and stigma felt by some of our most vulnerable citizens, especially where opportunities for non-institutional placement of children were restricted by an unjust belief that they were unsuitable for placement with families”.
This State apology marked a starting point for further measures designed to address the needs and concerns of survivors and their families.
I am acutely aware that there is no financial payment which could make up for the immense pain and suffering endured by so many of our citizens whose lives have been affected by these issues.
The Mother and Baby Institutions Payment Scheme is just one aspect of the overall package of supports and measures set out in the Government’s Action Plan for Survivors and Former Residents of Mother and Baby and County Homes Institutions which seeks to provide an inclusive and enduring response to the priority needs of all survivors.
The Scheme stands as a recognition of time spent, harsh conditions, emotional abuse and all other forms of harm, mistreatment, stigma and trauma experienced while resident in a Mother and Baby or County Home Institution. The proposed structure of the Scheme, with increasing financial payments depending on length of stay, recognises that higher payments should be made to those who were subjected to institutional conditions for a prolonged period. This would acknowledge the reality that some may have experienced longer institutional stays due to a wholly unjust belief that they were unsuitable for placement with families.
The approach allows for a simple and non-adversarial application process, in which applicants will not have to prove abuse and the State can shoulder much of the administrative burden.