Justice for Magdalenes Research (JFMR) and Adoption Rights Alliance (ARA) are concerned that witnesses who have given evidence to the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes are not aware of the Commission’s procedures, in particular, that the Commission has two separate Committees.
We welcome that the Confidential Committee wants to take the time to meet all of the people who have expressed an interest in sharing their experiences. However, we are concerned that the Commission is not sufficiently advertising the existence or procedures of its Investigation Committee. Only the Investigation Committee will make specific findings in relation to any wrongful treatment of unmarried mothers and their children by institutions or individuals. We encourage the Commission to be proactive in inviting people to give evidence to the Investigation Committee and to explain to those affected the different powers of both Committees. JFMR and ARA have discovered that people who thought they had made a submission for the purpose of the Commission's Investigation had in fact just met with the Confidential Committee.
We also welcome the Commission's expressed desire that its social history module is comprehensive. If this is to be achieved, we expect that the Commission will meet its terms of reference by extending this social history report to all (170+) institutions, agencies and individuals which were involved with the treatment of unmarried mothers, and not just the limited group of 18 institutions which the Commission is initially investigating. The Commission’s terms of reference require that the social history module examine the treatment of unmarried mothers and their children generally.
We continue to recommend that the government widen the Commission's Terms of Reference so that it has the ability to investigate allegations of abuse concerning any of the 170+ institutions, agencies and individuals involved in the treatment of unmarried mothers and their children. If the Commission’s Investigation continues to be confined to a list of 18 institutions, it will not be possible for it to make comprehensive findings and recommendations and the majority of people affected by the issue will not have the opportunity to be heard.
In the meantime, ARA and JFMR encourage witnesses affected by any of the 170+ institutions, agencies and individuals to avail of free statement drafting assistance under the Clann project (http://www.clannproject.org), which was recently launched by ARA and JFMR, in association with global law firm Hogan Lovells. Clann can assist witnesses to submit their statements to the Commission and will accept statements from those who wish to share their testimony with the project. Clann will anonymise shared statements and will gather documentary and archival materials in order to make a public group report to the Commission of Investigation, the Irish Government, and international human rights bodies. The witness statement gathering process forms part of a larger project to create a comprehensive, permanent archive of the experiences of Ireland’s unmarried mothers and their children via the Clann website.
The Clann project has also created a Guide to the Commission of Investigation, which includes information on the differences between the Confidential Committee and the Investigation Committee. The Guide will now be updated with new information contained in the Commission’s first interim report.
As the first interim report of the Commission has been published just after the Dáil has broken for the summer recess we ask that time be allocated on the resumption of the Dáil for the report to be debated in both Houses.
We are also concerned that there is a lack of awareness of the Commission’s work, particularly among the diaspora, and we also therefore urge the Commission to increase its advertising of both the Investigation Committee and Confidential Committee processes both within and outside of Ireland.
Notes to editors
Guide to the Commission of Investigation: http://clannproject.org/wp-content/uploads/Guide-to-the-Commission-of-Investigation_V1_June-2016.pdf
Information Form on the Witness Statement Gathering Process: http://clannproject.org/wp-content/uploads/Clann-Information-Form.pdf
Hogan Lovells Website: http://www.hoganlovells.com/probono/