Launch of major project to assist with Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation
Justice for Magdalenes Research (JFMR) and Adoption Rights Alliance (ARA) are delighted to announce the launch of a major project in association with global law firm Hogan Lovells. The project, which will be known as Clann: Ireland’s Unmarried Mothers and their Children: Gathering the Data (Clann), aims to provide free witness statement drafting assistance to enable individuals to make a comprehensive statement to the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes.
Through the Clann project, which has been endorsed by Philomena Lee and her daughter Jane Libberton, JFMR and ARA wish to help ensure that the Commission of Investigation conducts the most comprehensive investigation possible and that it makes appropriate findings and recommendations. We believe that it is crucial that those who wish to give evidence to the Commission of Investigation have access to legal assistance at no cost. The assistance of a lawyer will enable people to make a comprehensive statement so that they are under less pressure while giving ‘live evidence’ to the Commission and will ensure that they can still give evidence to the Commission if they do not wish to do so in person. Everyone who compiles a witness statement with Hogan Lovells’ assistance will retain a copy of their witness statement and will be free to use it for any other purpose. The Clann project has also created a Guide to the Commission of Investigation as a resource for those who wish to engage with the Commission.
It is intended that Clann will act as a parallel process to the Commission of Investigation, collating information regarding any of the 170 institutions, organisations, agencies and individuals which were involved with unmarried mothers and their children in 20th century Ireland. Although the Commission of Investigation is beginning its work by focusing on 14 Mother and Baby Homes and 4 County Homes, ARA and JFMR believe that if a thorough and transparent investigation is to be made, the Commission will include all relevant bodies. The Commission has statutory powers to request a widening of its focus and ARA and JFMR have made submissions in this regard to the Commission and have supplied the Commission with details of the 170+ bodies.
Clann will anonymise donated statements gathered by Hogan Lovells and will gather documentary and archival materials from individuals who were affected by any of the 170+ institutions, organisations, agencies or individuals, in order to make a public group report to the Commission of Investigation, the Irish Government, and international human rights bodies. The Clann submission will also consider the various forms of redress that may be due to various individuals, including financial compensation and access to records.
The witness statement gathering process forms part of a larger project to create a permanent archive of the experiences of Ireland’s unmarried mothers and their children via the Clann website. ARA and JFMR are concerned that the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes and Certain Related matters has no current plans to hold any public hearings or to allow public access (or access to those affected) to the documentary/archival evidence that it is considering. Clann aims to provide public access to as much non-sensitive documentary evidence as possible, in order to create public awareness of the Commission’s investigations, in the hope that members of the public will contribute documentary evidence to both the Commission and Clann, and so that individuals affected can comment on the evidence. The Clann website will act as a resource for individuals affected by the issues which will be available to the wider public for ongoing education and research.
JFMR and ARA, along with Rod Baker who is heading up the project in Hogan Lovells will hold a Clann information session at the Adoption Rights Alliance Adoption Information Day at the Racket Hall Hotel, Roscrea, Co. Tipperary on 25th June 2016, beginning at 12pm. Philomena Lee and Jane Libberton will also be in attendance. Further information sessions will be held in Ireland, the UK and the US in due course.