CLANN PUBLISHES FINDINGS OF THREE-YEAR PROJECT ON ADOPTION AND MOTHER AND BABY HOMES

Press Release. EMBARGOED UNTIL 9.30am,15th October 2018

CLANN PUBLISHES FINDINGS OF THREE-YEAR PROJECT ON ADOPTION AND MOTHER AND BABY HOMES 

Statutory Rights to Files and Independent Archive of Records amongst 8 key recommendations

Adoption Rights Alliance (ARA), Justice for Magdalenes Research (JFMR) and global law firm, Hogan Lovells, today published the final Report of their joint ‘Clann Project’ which draws on 77 witness statements, extracted from conversations with 164 people separated from their family members through Ireland’s forced, secret adoption system and related historical abuses.

The 154-page ReportIreland’s Unmarried Mothers and their Children: Gathering the Data – references an unprecedented number of witness statements and makes 8 recommendations to the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation.

The continued denial of access to personal files, and the lack of an independent repository where all privately and publicly held records are deposited and made available, is perpetuating the abuse of those impacted by forced, secret adoption and related historical abuses in Ireland, according to the Clann Project.

Adopted people in Ireland have no statutory right to their birth certificates or their adoption or early life files, and this is out of step with Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, and with countries such as Germany and Spain.

There is no independent system in Ireland to ensure that survivors of related institutional and historical abuses are provided with their records. These records continue to be held by the religious and private bodies, State agencies and Government departments involved.

Women whose children were forcibly taken from them have to rely on the discretion of private bodies that managed the institutions or social workers operating ad hoc when looking for information about their past treatment.  Equally, family members of children and adults who died in institutions and who may still lie in unmarked graves also do not have a statutory right to their relative’s personal records.

Due to its underpinning legislation and the Commission of Investigation model - which in the view of the Clann Project is significantly hindering the process and must be reviewed - the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes and Certain Related Matters is proceeding in private and is refusing personal or public access to the files it is considering:

  • The Commission has declined all requests for public hearings and is conducting its inquiry entirely in private.[i]
  • The Commission is declining to provide a transcript to any witness who has given oral evidence to it in private.[ii]
  • It appears that the Commission’s entire archive will be sealed once it finishes its inquiry, and never available to the Gardaí, the civil courts, affected individuals or the public.[iii]
  • The Commission does not provide people with the personal records it has gathered on them.[iv]

In its final report, and following three years of evidence gathering from witnesses, the Clann Project is making the following 8 recommendations to the Commission of Investigation, as it prepares to make its recommendations to Government early next year.

  1. A new process of investigation should be opened to all stakeholders and make access to information its primary goal;
  2. A State apology should be issued to all those who have been affected;
  3. Redress and reparations, primarily in the form of access to information, and also material benefits and symbolic reparations devised through a process led by people directly affected;
  4. Introduction of statutory rights and services for adopted people, natural parents, relatives of the deceased and all individuals who experienced abuse, including centralised records and access to archives and tracing services;
  5. Acknowledgement by religious orders and church hierarchies;
  6. Establishment of a specific unit to investigate criminal allegations;
  7. Amended Statute of Limitations and reformed legal aid to enable multi-party litigation;
  8. Active and ongoing memorialisation and research.

The Clann project is also calling for the contents of the McAleese archive to be made public – the Archive contains all State records concerning the Magdalene Laundries, gathered by the Inter-departmental Committee to establish the facts of State involvement with the Magdalen Laundries from 2011 to 2013.

Claire McGettrick, Co-Director of the Clann Project, said: ‘The Clann Project witnesses describe a situation of marginalisation, powerlessness and discrimination that persists in 21st Century Ireland, because private, religious and State bodies are withholding their personal and family records. In addition, the administrative records held by the State and private bodies are being kept entirely secret. This is compounding the abuse suffered in the past. No other form of redress will be meaningful without first abandoning this insistence on secrecy and treating people with dignity.’

Rod Baker, of Hogan Lovells, said: ‘There is a surprising reticence by authorities to allow individuals access to basic information about themselves, preferring to preserve the confidentiality of the institutions and their members whose actions caused those individuals great suffering. Even the Commission set up to investigate those institutions is operating in great secrecy and has refused, without giving any justification for the refusal, to allow public hearings when requested by witnesses in accordance with the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004. In this modern age, it is imperative that this pervasive insistence on secrecy is abandoned and those who have suffered most get the information they need’.

Dr Maeve O’Rourke, Co-Director of the Clann Project, said: ‘The insistence on secrecy is causing ongoing human rights violations. There is a “right to truth” under European and international law for victims and survivors, and for the general public, where gross human rights violations have occurred in a country. It is time for the State to do what is right and tell the truth. It is the first step in restoring dignity to people who have suffered, and in ensuring that these abuses never happen again.’

Dr Maeve O’Rourke continued: ‘Under international law, an “enforced disappearance” occurs where a person is detained or abducted with State involvement, following which the State refuses to provide information about the person’s fate or whereabouts. We have many cases of “enforced disappearance” in Ireland,” she concluded.

ENDS //

Media Contacts:

Notes to editors:

1. About the Clann Project

The full Report of the Clann Project ‘- Ireland’s Unmarried Mothers and their Children: Gathering the Data’ is now available at http://clannproject.org/clann-report/

The ‘Clann Project’ is a voluntary initiative set up three years ago to help people give testimony to the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation. ARA and JFMR were concerned from the outset of the Commission’s work that its inquiry was happening entirely in private and that it would not be providing a transcript to any witness who gave oral evidence before it. To date, lawyers at Hogan Lovells have given pro bono assistance to 164 people, 77 of whom gave detailed witness statements to the Commission. The Clann Project has also received help from over 20 barristers (including 7 Senior Counsel) through the Bar of Ireland’s Voluntary Assistance Scheme, and from numerous legal academics, whose analysis of the law in the past and present informed the Clann Report.

The witnesses who participated in the Clann Project provided harrowing accounts of past abuse and forced separation from their family members. Overwhelmingly, the witnesses also drew attention to their continuing experiences of abuse by State, Church and private bodies because of the ongoing secrecy of information. They stated unequivocally that they need to be provided with access to information and records. Please see below for excerpts of the testimony provided.

2. Access to adoption files in other European jurisdictions

The following are examples of other European countries which provide adopted people with access to their birth certificates and adoption records (see also our Briefing note on Access to Information here):

  • Northern Ireland

Since 1987, adopted people over 18 in Northern Ireland have been able to access their birth certificates and adoption files.

  • England and Wales

In England and Wales, adopted people over 18 years old have had the right to access their birth records since 1975, when the Children Act 1975 was introduced. In the debates surrounding the legislation before its enactment, some sections of the media, politicians and other activists predicted disastrous outcomes to the opening of adoption records. Triseliotis notes that adopted people were viewed as ‘potentially vindictive ‘second-class’ citizens.[v] Ultimately however, in his empirical analysis of the impact of the Children Act 1975, Triseliotis found that:

  • ‘The calamities anticipated by sections of the media, politicians, and some organizations have not materialized. The various studies carried out so far suggest that the vast majority of adoptees act thoughtfully and with great consideration for the feelings of both their birth and adoptive parents’.[vi]
  • Scotland

In Scotland, since 1930, adopted people over 16 years of age can access their birth certificates and adoption records.

  • Germany

In Germany, since 1957, any child (including adopted children) can access their birth certificates once they reach the age of 16. Since 2002, adult adopted people in Germany have had the right to access their adoption files once they are 16 years or older. Additionally, since 1989, it is the constitutional right of every person in Germany to have knowledge of their parentage. It is important to note that under German law, the interests of the adopted person outweigh the interests of natural parents to protect their identities.

  • Spain

In Spain, adopted people over the age of 18 can access their birth certificates and adoption files. Adopted people under the age of 18 can also access this information with their adoptive parents’ consent.

  • Austria

In Austria, since 1983, adopted people have had a general legal entitlement to access their birth records, including the following information regarding their parents: name, date and place of birth and death, marital status and nationality (Sections 2 and 52/2 of the Austrian Personal Statute Law 2013). This also applies to incognito adoptions, although the access is limited to those who are 14 years or older. These regulations are considered as being consistent with Article 8 ECHR (the right to respect for private and family life).

  • The Netherlands

In The Netherlands, since 1994, since the ‘Valkenhorst II’ case, adopted people have had the right to access their adoption records.

  • Belgium

In Belgium, since 1960, adopted people have automatic access to their birth certificates.

3. Philomena Lee and Dame Judi Dench

Among the participants in the Clann Project were Philomena Lee and her daughter, Jane Libberton, who made a short film to encourage others to come forward and make a witness statement.

Dame Judi Dench, who played the part of Philomena Lee in the 2014 Oscar-nominated movie, also endorsed the Clann Project, stating, ‘There must be so many women who have had an experience like Philomena Lee.  It is imperative that their voices should be heard.’

 4. Excerpts from Witness Testimony

The Clann Project Report contains evidence of human rights abuses throughout the network of County Homes, Mother and Baby Homes, adoption agencies, Magdalene Laundries and other entities involved in institutionalising and separating women and their children. The Report also provides compelling accounts of continuing abuse through the secrecy and manipulation of records and other information by the State and private entities involved in the abuses.

See for example the following excerpts from the Clann Project Report (for further quotations, navigate to the relevant paragraph in the Report):

Conditions in Mother and Baby Homes and Institutions

“[W]e were locked in and there was absolutely no way of getting out”. (Para 1.47)

“There was no doctor present, just nuns, and there was no formal medical care or any kind of pain relief” (Para 1.204)

“[My mother] was tied to the bed and when she couldn’t push, one of the nuns sat on her chest to make her”. (Para 1.206)

“I was in terrible pain and was afraid but when I screamed or called for help I was abused”. (Para 1.210)

We were made to work even if we were very ill, as I was. No excuses were ever accepted”. (Para 1.225)

I went into labour while polishing the corridor floors”. (Para 1.227)

[W]hen my mother cried out in pain during labour she was told [she] was “paying for her sins”. (Para 1.262)

Coercion and Forced Adoption

"[My son] was wrenched from my breast by one of the nuns while I was feeding him and taken away for adoption... At no time did I give my consent to my son's adoption”. (Para 1.102)

[F] ollowing some pressure, I ultimately signed the papers”. (Para 1.152)

“I was not given any other options”. (Para 1.153)

Mortality and Infant Deaths

“[My son was kept] in a closed off area called the dying room. I begged the nuns to take my son to a hospital, but they only did so after two weeks had passed. My son died in hospital”. (Para 1.172)

“I do not even know whether he was buried in a coffinThere was never even a kind or sympathetic [word] spoken to me”. (Para 1.173)

Emotional and Psychological Impact of Forced Adoption on Mothers

“There was no discussion about it in advance and I was given no information afterwards other than that he had gone. Being parted from him broke my heart”. (Para 1.277)

The nuns at Bessborough made my life hell and changed my life forever. ... I think I am still in shock, still traumatised. ... I think I will die with the pain and trauma that was caused during this time”. (Para 1.291)

“The level of insensitivity we experienced was shocking. No thought was given to how affected we would be by having bonded with our babies and having cared for them for five days”. (Para 1.293)

Lack of Proper Adoption Assessments

"My [adoptive] parents' drinking was not a secret and I do not believe that if a proper vtting process had been followed they would have been allowed to adopt me”. (Para 2.59)

“Throughout my childhood and adolescence, my adoptive mother subjected me to psychological cruelty, as well as physical abuse”. (Para 2.62)

“My childhood was not a happy one and I do not view adoption as a guarantee of a ‘better life’. My upbringing was dysfunctional primarily involving my adoptive mother’s alcoholism and sexual abuse by my brother”. (Para 2.69)

The Emotional and Psychological Impact of Closed, Secret Adoption on Adopted People

“One of the saddest things is the perception of adoption in the past as being the best solution for mother and child. It most certainly was not. I feel personally I have lost so much”. (Para 2.89)

As I grew older I felt a sense of loss within me that I didn’t know my true origins. I felt very lonely all my life. I was nothing like my adoptive family”. (Para 2.90)

“I had a relatively normal upbringing and my adoptive parents would say that I caused no trouble. In fact, I suffered from depression and an all-pervading sense of sadness throughout my childhood, teenage years and early adulthood”. (Para 2.94)

"The impact of my adoption has had a lasting impact on my life … It has also had a lasting impact on my children. They have not known any grandparents or relatives other than those of their father's family”. (Para 2.95)

“My upbringing with my adoptive parents was full of love and affection; I had a very close bond with both of them and they were wonderful parents to me. Despite this, I felt the impact of being adopted…”. (Para 2.96)

Lack of Statutory Rights to Information

"It is incredibly difficult for people who were adopted from the Mother and Baby Homes to get hold of accurate and detailed information. If I’d had to rely on the official channels to trace my birth mother I would be an old lady before they got around to me and my birth mother would likely be dead”. (Para 3.49)

"I have found it incredibly difficult to access information about my childhood, my mother and my siblings. ... Whenever I attempted to obtain information I was made to feel that I was a nuisance”. (Para 3.58)

I felt like I was treated as a threat to my mother, and that the social worker tried to keep us apart for as long as possible”. (Para 3.59)

I haven’t been entitled to review anything on my file held by the Child and Family Agency. They have been obstructive from the start and I have been refused access to a large amount of information. Without a birth certificate I managed to find my mother myself…”. (Para 3.61)

“Throughout the time I spent researching my birth family I found the authorities from whom I sought assistance obstructive and unhelpful". (Para 3.66)

"It seems to me that some of the information I was given was deliberately inaccurate, or misleading. I felt that some of the details I was provided were given in order to lead me down a garden path. This experience has made me very angry and I feel like I have been lied to. I do not know what to believe” (Para 3.71)

"… it makes me angry to think that I was pushed as far as becoming an emotional wreck in order to obtain such simple information about myself. Everyone has the right to know their name; the right to know their mother's name”. (Para 3.72)

“I first approached the nuns at St Patrick’s Guild ... when I was 18. ...the nun had glee in her eyes and a horrible satisfaction about her when she told me … that I had no chance of finding [my mother].” (Para 3.78)

"By the time St Patrick's Guild passed on the information they had about my mother … after numerous phone calls and letters, she had passed away four months earlier…" (Para 3.89)

When the social workers finally took me to my birth mother's ward, I walked into the room and kissed her on the forehead. I told her who I was and she replied by saying "I knew you would find me someday". … My mother passed away less than a month later". (Para 3.91)

"By this stage, it was too late to seek [my natural mother’s] consent or establish her wishes which no one had ever done before. She had already passed". (Para 3.109)

"I have found the process of trying to trace information about my mother very hard. It has been the most daunting, depressing, miserable and lonely search. I have faced umpteen brick walls, and I don't know how to express it. All I know is that it has worn me out". (Para 3.113)

References:

[i] See:

[ii] See letter dated 1 June 2016 from Maeve Doherty, Solicitor to the Commission of Investigation, to Rod Baker, Hogan Lovells, http://clannproject.org/wp-content/uploads/Letter-from-MBHCOI_01-06-16.pdf

[iii] See:

  • Section 11(3) of the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004, which prohibits disclosure or publication of the evidence or contents of any documents produced by a witness while giving evidence in private. The High Court has held that this section of the Act creates statutory privilege over the archives of Commissions of Investigation (O’Neill and Others v An Taoiseach and Others [2009] IEHC 119, Murphy J, 18 March 2009; Byrne and Others v An Taoiseach and Others [2010] IEHC 353, Laffoy J, 9 September 2010).
  • Section 19 of the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004, which states that statements or admissions made to the Commission, documents given or sent to the Commission, and documents specified in an affidavit and given to the Commission are not admissible as evidence against a person in any criminal or other proceedings.
  • Section 43 and Section 45 of the Commissions of Investigation Act, which state that all evidence and all documents received or created by a Commission of Investigation will be deposited with the ‘specified Minister’ upon the conclusion of the investigation, only to be released to any subsequent Tribunal of Investigation that may be established to inquire into matters that fell within the Commission of Investigation’s terms of reference.

[iv] Prior to May 2018, the original Section 39 of the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004 made the Commission immune from the application of the right to personal data under Section 4 of the Data Protection Act 1988.

In May 2018, Section 198 of the Data Protection Act 2018 amended Section 39 of the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004 to provide that: ‘Article 15 (Right of Access) of the Data Protection Regulation is restricted, to the extent necessary and proportionate to safeguard the effective operation of Commissions and the future cooperation of witnesses in so far as it relates to personal data (within the meaning of that Regulation) provided to a Commission.’

The Commission of Investigation has recently refused any access to personal data that the Commission currently holds on a woman whose child was taken from her, stating that ‘it is necessary and proportionate to refuse access to the personal data [the Commission] holds relating to your client in order to safeguard the effective operation of the Commission and the future cooperation of witnesses.’  A redacted version of this letter is available at the following link:  http://clannproject.org/wp-content/uploads/Letter-from-COI-re-Subject-Access-Request.pdf

[v] Triseliotis, J. (1984). Obtaining Birth Certificates. In P. Bean (Ed.), Adoption: Essays in Social Policy, Law, and Sociology (pp. 39–53). London and New York: Tavistock. (Page 46)

[vi] Triseliotis, J. (1984). Obtaining Birth Certificates. In P. Bean (Ed.), Adoption: Essays in Social Policy, Law, and Sociology (pp. 39–53). London and New York: Tavistock. (Page 51)

ARA and JFMR cautiously welcome Minister Zappone’s announcement

Adoption Rights Alliance (ARA) and Justice for Magdalenes Research (JFMR) have cautiously welcomed Minister Katherine Zappone’s announcement today in relation to the ongoing investigations into conditions at Ireland’s Mother and Baby Homes. In particular, we welcome the Minister’s openness to exploring whether broader Terms of Reference for the Commission of Investigation might be appropriate, and we look forward to engaging with her in this regard.

We welcome the appointment of Ms Niamh McCullagh and her team of international experts who will advise on issues concerning the burial site at the former Mother and Baby Home in Tuam. However, we reiterate that Tuam is not an isolated case. Thus far we are aware that there may be similar unmarked graves at the sites of institutions run by the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary at Bessborough, Sean Ross Abbey and Castlepollard. Indeed, we are aware of over 180 institutions, agencies and individuals who were involved with Ireland’s unmarried mothers and their children. Little is known of the conditions and practices - including burial practices and grave locations - of these institutions, most of which are not on the Commission’s Terms of Reference. Moreover, JFMR has consistently publicised the fact that many women who died in Magdalene Laundries also remain unidentified and in unmarked graves.

JFMR and ARA also welcome the appointment of Dr James Gallen who is assisting the Minister in mapping out a possible transitional justice model on this issue. We have serious concerns about the ability of the existing Commission of Investigation to provide restorative justice and access to the truth for those affected by Ireland's policy towards unmarried mothers and their children. The Commissions of Investigation Act 2004 enshrines a secret approach to investigations, which continues and entrenches the State’s established practice of secrecy when it comes to investigating our history of institutional abuse and other issues of corruption and trauma. The private investigative approach has failed to gain public trust because it signals that the State is not prepared to hold itself or the religious congregations properly to account for the systemic failings of the past. We look forward to hearing the Minister’s announcement on the proposed transitional justice model.

We acknowledge and welcome the Minister’s efforts to improve communications from her department regarding the Mother and Baby Homes investigations. We look forward to participating in the upcoming facilitated consultations on health and well-being support, and we note the Minister’s request to Tusla ‘to enhance its capacity for the provision of information to assist former residents who may wish to establish when they resided in a Mother and Baby Home’. However, in this context we wish to reiterate our deep concerns regarding the Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill 2016, which, in its current format, serves to perpetuate the stigmatisation and suffering of the very same cohort that the Minister is seeking to assist through today’s announcements. The Adoption Bill and the ongoing investigations into conditions in Mother and Baby Homes cannot and must not be dealt with in isolation from each other. We also call on the Minister to make provisions to ensure that the administrative records of all agencies and institutions are made available to stakeholders.

Although the closing date for applications to meet the Commission’s Confidential Committee was 1st March, JFMR and ARA remind those who wish to give evidence to the Commission that they can still do so by simply sending in a written statement which can be verified by affidavit. Those who wish to avail of free witness statement drafting assistance can do so through the Clann project, which is a joint initiative of JFMR and ARA, in association with global law firm Hogan Lovells. For further information visit www.clannproject.org or write to Rod Baker, Hogan Lovells International LLP, Atlantic House, Holborn Viaduct, London EC1A 2FG. [See also Notes to Editors]

Notes to editors:

Clann Contact Details: info@clannproject.org

Clann Information Pack: http://clannproject.org/wp-content/uploads/Clann-Information-Pack.zip

Clann Short Films:

About the Project & How to Participate:          https://youtu.be/YSHaL2i4aMw

Philomena Lee and Jane Libberton:               https://youtu.be/gUZRJC6ePDM

Mari Steed:                                                      https://youtu.be/hVkHQclGK14

Maeve O’Rourke, Clann Legal Advisor:         https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQJHbvb–rs

Rod Baker, Hogan Lovells:                             https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QWj25ZjGj6w

Please note that Adoption Rights Alliance, Justice for Magdalenes Research and Hogan Lovells plan to submit the Clann group report at the end of September. Therefore, if you wish to have your experiences included in the group submission, you will need to have your statement completed by 31st August.

For current witnesses who are already engaged in the process, this means that you should ensure that you respond to any correspondence from Hogan Lovells about drafts of your statement, and/or regarding your consent form.

For new witnesses who wish to avail of the statement-drafting assistance, this means that you should email statements@clannproject.org as soon as possible, as the statement-drafting process can take at least a number of weeks to complete.

Please note that this does not mean that the free statement-drafting assistance will discontinue after the 31st August deadline. You are very welcome to contact us for assistance after this time, but we cannot guarantee that your experiences will appear in the Clann group report.

 

Important notice for current Clann project witnesses and new witnesses interested in availing of statement-drafting assistance

Please note that Adoption Rights Alliance, Justice for Magdalenes Research and Hogan Lovells plan to submit the Clann group report at the end of September. Therefore, if you wish to have your experiences included in the group submission, you will need to have your statement completed by 31st August.

For current witnesses who are already engaged in the process, this means that you should ensure that you respond to any correspondence from Hogan Lovells about drafts of your statement, and/or regarding your consent form.

For new witnesses who wish to avail of the statement-drafting assistance, this means that you should email statements@clannproject.org as soon as possible, as the statement-drafting process can take at least a number of weeks to complete.

Please note that this does not mean that the free statement-drafting assistance will discontinue after the 31st August deadline. You are very welcome to contact us for assistance after this time, but we cannot guarantee that your experiences will appear in the Clann group report.

 

ARA and JFMR call on State to ensure identification of all remains at institutional unmarked graves

 

Press Release, 3rd March 2017 - for immediate release

ARA and JFMR call on State to ensure identification of all remains at institutional unmarked graves

Adoption Rights Alliance (ARA) and Justice for Magdalenes Research (JFMR) are saddened by the news that ‘significant quantities’ of infant remains have been discovered following an examination by the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes of the site of the former Mother and Baby Home at Tuam.

We reiterate our concerns that the Commission’s Terms of Reference are not comprehensive enough, and stress that Tuam is but one institution in an ad hoc and almost entirely unregulated, State-funded system which had responsibility for the care of unmarried mothers and their children. Today’s disturbing statement from the Commission underscores that the State failed in its ‘duty of care towards these children and their mothers.

In the context of these revelations, and in the public interest, we also reiterate our call on Minister Zappone to publish the Commission’s second interim report without delay.

Irregular burials and unmarked graves We have consistently maintained that irregular, unregistered and unmarked burials were a hallmark of the institutional care system in 20th century Ireland, and we stress that Tuam is not an isolated case. Thus far we are aware that there may be similar unmarked graves at the sites of institutions run by the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary at Bessborough, Sean Ross Abbey and Castlepollard. Indeed, we are aware of over 180 institutions, agencies and individuals who were involved with Ireland’s unmarried mothers and their children. Little is known of the conditions and practices - including burial practices and grave locations - of these institutions, most of which are not on the Commission’s Terms of Reference.  In addition, Conall O’Fatharta of the Irish Examiner has reported that 353 infants died at the Bessborough Mother and Baby Home between 1938 and 1944, and that the official death registrations and nuns’ own records of deaths do not tally (with 80 fewer deaths recorded on the institution’s books). A report supplied by the HSE to the McAleese Committee in 2012 (originally published by Conall O’Fatharta) expressed concerns that death records may have been falsified at Bessborough in order to facilitate ‘clandestine adoption arrangements’.

JFMR has consistently publicised the fact that many women who died in Magdalene Laundries also remain unidentified and in unmarked graves. The headstones in Glasnevin Cemetery for the High Park and Sean McDermott Street Magdalene Laundry communal graves inscribe names of women who are not, according to the cemetery’s records, buried in the plots. There are similar discrepancies at Magdalene graves in Galway and Cork. In addition, the locations of the graves of Magdalene women who died in the Dun Laoghaire Magdalene Laundry are unknown.

We reiterate our call for an expansion of the Commission’s Terms of Reference to include all institutions, agencies and individuals that were involved with Ireland’s unmarried mothers and their children, and to include investigations of burial practices at all of these locations. It is well known that the systematic abuse of unmarried mothers and their children extended far beyond the 14 Mother and Baby Homes and 4 County Homes which the Commission is investigating - mistreatment and forced separation were experienced at the hands of adoption agencies, national maternity hospitals, Magdalene Laundries and many other institutions and individuals.

We welcome the Commission’s decision to notify the Coroner for North Galway of its findings in Tuam. We urge the Commission to notify the Coroners in all regions where institutional unmarked graves are known to exist.

We are very concerned that evidence given to the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation is not admissible in any criminal proceedings (s19 of the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004). We therefore urge An Garda Síochána to establish its own investigation, independent of the Commission of Investigation, into abuse, neglect and illegal separations of mothers and children in Mother and Baby Homes, County Homes, maternity hospitals, and through adoption agencies and similar entities.

We recognise that Minister Zappone’s primary concern is to ‘respect the dignity and the memory of the children’ who died in the Tuam Mother and Baby Home. This can only be achieved by identifying each of the children involved. We underscore that the dignity of the children is bound up with the dignity of their parents and siblings, who have a right to know of the circumstances of the child’s death and their whereabouts, and to be consulted regarding the fate of the remains. We draw attention to the fact that, alongside today’s notice, the Commission’s website states that ‘Our terms of reference do not allow us to assist any individual in resolving their identity or in tracing a birth relative’. We also highlight with great concern that section 39 of the 2004 Commissions of Investigation Act restricts entirely the s4 Data Protection Act 1988 right of access to personal data, where data has been provided to the Commission in the course of its investigation.

We call on the government, and if necessary the Oireachtas, to ensure that all children who died in Tuam, and all children and adults who died in institutional care or custody, are identified, and that their family members are notified of their whereabouts and the circumstances of their deaths. We are conscious that many adopted persons have siblings who were born in Mother and Baby Homes, County Homes and similar institutions. We urge Minister Zappone to amend the Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill 2016 to provide adopted persons with unfettered access to their birth certificates and adoption files.

Commission of Investigation process We repeat our criticism that a wholly private inquiry is not an appropriate way of investigating allegations of systematic human rights abuse of mothers and the children born to them outside of marriage. We are deeply concerned that the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation has chosen not to hold any public hearings to date. The Commission must use the discretion given to it in the 2004 Commissions of Investigation Act to hold public hearings. It should call individuals involved in operating Mother and Baby Homes and County Homes to give evidence in public. It should also allow those who allege abuse to speak in public if they wish. Those affected should have access to the evidence that is being provided by the State, representatives of the religious orders and other individuals, and they should be enabled to put questions to witnesses.

We call on the Oireachtas to amend certain aspects of the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004, which are highly inappropriate for the current investigation into the systematic abuse of women and children born to them outside of marriage. We are calling for the amendment of Section 11 of the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004, which makes it a criminal offence for any person to publish evidence given to the Commission in private. We also call for the amendment of section 40 of the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004, which imposes a blanket restriction on the application of the Freedom of Information Acts to records of the Commission’s investigation. Crucially, too, we urge the Oireachtas to amend section 19, which provides that ‘statements, admissions and documents given to the Commission in the course of its investigations are not admissible as evidence against a person in any criminal or other proceedings. We also call for the amendment of section 39, which prevents access to personal data where it has been provided to the Commission in the course of its investigation.

We urge the Commission of Investigation to analyse the treatment of mothers and children from the perspective of Constitutional rights, and not to confine itself to the narrow question of what legislation and common practice permitted at the time of the institutions’ operation. It is our view that many accepted practices were unconstitutional, and that better regulation and legislation were required to comply with the Constitutional rights of women and children. With regard to Tuam, Minister Zappone notes that the Commission will examine ‘whether the burial arrangements were in line with the laws or practices of that time’, asserting that these laws and practices ‘would of course be very different today’. We highlight the Irish Human Rights Commission’s view in 2013, when commenting on the exhumation and cremation of unidentified remains of Magdalene women at High Park, Drumcondra in 1993, that current legislation in Ireland regarding burials still fails to comply with the right to respect for one’s private and family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (also a right protected by the Irish Constitution).[1]

Clann Project Although the closing date for applications to meet the Commission’s Confidential Committee was 1st March, JFMR and ARA remind those who wish to give evidence to the Commission that they can still do so by simply sending in a written statement which can be verified by affidavit. Those who wish to avail of free witness statement drafting assistance can do so through the Clann project, which is a joint initiative of JFMR and ARA, in association with global law firm Hogan Lovells. For further information visit www.clannproject.org or write to Rod Baker, Hogan Lovells International LLP, Atlantic House, Holborn Viaduct, London EC1A 2FG.

Contact:

Maeve O’Rourke:                   +353-83-8453070, maeveorourke@gmail.com Katherine O’Donnell:               +353-87-9612163, katherine.odonnell@ucd.ie Claire McGettrick:                   +353-86-3659516, clairemcgettrick@gmail.com Susan Lohan:                          +353-86-8163024, susanlohan@hotmail.com Mari Steed:                              +1-215-589-9329, maristeed@gmail.com

Notes to editors:

Clann Contact Details: info@clannproject.org

Clann Information Pack: http://clannproject.org/wp-content/uploads/Clann-Information-Pack.zip

Clann Short Films:

About the Project & How to Participate:          https://youtu.be/YSHaL2i4aMw

Philomena Lee and Jane Libberton:               https://youtu.be/gUZRJC6ePDM

Mari Steed:                                                      https://youtu.be/hVkHQclGK14

Maeve O’Rourke, Clann Legal Advisor:         https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQJHbvb–rs

Rod Baker, Hogan Lovells:                             https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QWj25ZjGj6w

Minister Zappone’s statement: http://www.dcya.gov.ie/viewdoc.asp?DocID=3204

Commission of Investigation statement: http://www.mbhcoi.ie/MBH.nsf/page/Latest%20News-en

[1] Irish Human Rights Commission, Follow-Up Report on State Involvement with Magdalen Laundries, June 2013.

Clann project launches short films in advance of Commission of Investigation closing date

In June 2016, Justice for Magdalenes Research (JFMR) and Adoption Rights Alliance (ARA) launched Clann: Ireland’s Unmarried Mothers and their Children: Gathering the Data (Clann) [http://www.clannproject.org], which is a joint initiative with global law firm, Hogan Lovells. Clann is assisting individuals affected by or involved with the treatment of unmarried mothers and their children to provide evidence to the ongoing Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes and Certain Related Matters.

Clann has launched a number of short films, explaining the purpose of the project and how to participate. One of Clann’s short films features natural mother Philomena Lee and her daughter Jane Libberton. Philomena spent three and a half years with her son in the Sacred Heart home at Sean Ross Abbey before he was adopted to America. Philomena and Jane have strongly encouraged those affected by Ireland’s treatment of unmarried mothers and their children to give evidence to the Commission and to participate in the Clann project.

JFMR and ARA encourage those who may wish to meet with the Commission of Investigation’s Confidential Committee to do so as soon as possible, as the closing date for applications to meet the Confidential Committee is 1st March 2017. It is not clear from the Commission’s website whether there is a deadline for its Investigation Committee, however JFMR and ARA strongly encourage those who wish to meet with either committee to register their interest as soon as possible. Contact details for the Commission of Investigation are available in the Notes to Editors below. JFMR and ARA also wish to remind witnesses that if they wish, they may simply to send their statements to the Commission but not give ’live evidence’ in person. In this instance, the statement will need to be attached to an affidavit and sworn in front of a solicitor.

In association with Hogan Lovells, JFMR and ARA are offering free witness statement-drafting assistance through Clann to anyone, living anywhere in the world, who has experience of Ireland’s treatment of unmarried mothers and their children (including adult adopted people). The assistance is not limited to the list of 18 institutions initially being investigated by the Commission. Where witnesses are invited to meet the Commission’s Investigation Committee in person, Clann will also endeavour to obtain free legal representation for those individuals if they wish.

Witnesses may choose to share their statements with Clann, however this is entirely optional. Clann will anonymise shared statements and use extracts from them, alongside archival material, 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 permanent archive of the experiences of Ireland’s unmarried mothers and their children via the Clann website. The Clann website will act as a resource for individuals affected by the issues and will be available to the wider public for ongoing education and research.

If witnesses have already given evidence to the Commission, they are still welcome to participate in the Clann project. Additional details may come to mind during the interview with Hogan Lovells and in this instance the witness may wish to send the statement into the Commission, to add to the evidence they have already submitted. They may also find it helpful to have a written statement for safe-keeping or future use, even if they have already been to the Commission of Investigation. In addition, if the witness consents to their statement being used by ARA and JFMR, their information could greatly assist the ARA and JFMR group submissions.

Ends.

Notes to editors:

Clann Contact Details: info@clannproject.org

Clann Information Pack: http://clannproject.org/wp-content/uploads/Clann-Information-Pack.zip

Clann Short Films:

Commission of Investigation Contact Details:

  • Address: 73 Lower Baggot Street, Dublin 2, D02 N773 or PO Box 12626, Dublin 2
  • Email: info@mbhcoi.ie
  • Confidential Freephone: ROI only: 1800 80-66-88 Outside ROI:+353-1-6445088 Telephone:+353-1-6445000 Fax: +353-1-6445002

Justice for Magdalenes Research and Adoption Rights Alliance joint statement on publication of Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation Interim Report

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.

Ends/

Notes to editors

Clann Website:  http://www.clannproject.org Clann Email:    info@clannproject.org

 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

Adoption Rights Alliance Email:               info@adoptionrightsalliance.com Website:           www.adoptionrightsalliance.com

Justice for Magdalenes Research Email:               info@magdalenelaundries.com Website:           www.magdalenelaundries.com

Hogan Lovells Website:           http://www.hoganlovells.com/probono/

 

Commission of Investigation Publishes Interim Report

The Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes has published its first interim report. In the report, the Commission requested an extension of its timeframe for the publication of the Report of the Confidential Committee and the Report of the Academic Social History module. All three reports (including that of the Investigation Committee) are now due to be published in February 2018. Click here to download the Interim Report from the Commission of Investigation Click here to download the government FAQ document on the decision to extend the timeframe for the Commission's Reports Click here to download press release from Minister for Children, Dr Katherine Zappone, TD

Launch of major project to assist with Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation

Press Release, 15th June 2016

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 which will offer support to those who wish to make a statement to the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes and Certain Related Matters.

The project will provide individuals with free witness statement drafting assistance and it has been endorsed by Philomena Lee and her daughter Jane Libberton. It will be known as Clann: Ireland’s Unmarried Mothers and their Children: Gathering the Data (Clann) and it will be delivered in association with global law firm Hogan Lovells.

JFMR and ARA believe firstly that it is crucial that those who wish to give evidence to the Commission of Investigation have access to legal assistance at no cost, and secondly that the putting in place of such assistance will help ensure that the Commission of Investigation conducts the most comprehensive investigation possible and that it makes appropriate findings and recommendations.

Everyone who compiles a witness statement with Hogan Lovells’ assistance will retain a copy and will be free to use it for any other purpose, including making a written submission to the Commission should they wish not to appear in person.  The Clann project has also created a Guide to the Commission of Investigation as a resource.

Clann’s assistance will be available to people living anywhere in the world. Assistance will be offered to anyone with experience of Ireland’s treatment of unmarried mothers and their children, and now adult adopted people, even if they do not fall under the list of 18 institutions initially being investigated by the Commission. ARA and JFMR have supplied the Commission with details of 170+ institutions, organisations, agencies and individuals who were involved with unmarried mothers and their children in 20th century Ireland. The Commission has statutory powers to request a widening of its focus and we believe that if a thorough and transparent investigation is to be made, the Commission will include all relevant bodies.

In addition to individualised assistance, Clann will anonymise donated 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 Clann submission will also consider the range of forms of redress that may be due to various individuals, including access to records, disclosure of the whereabouts of remains and financial compensation.

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 and will be available to the wider public for ongoing education and research.

JFMR and ARA, along with Rod Baker, who is leading the project from Hogan Lovells’ side, 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.

Ends. Notes to editors ARA and JFMR are grateful for the assistance of KOD Lyons solicitors and a number of barristers. KOD Lyons and Colin Smith BL provided representation to us at our recent hearing with the Commission of Investigation and they and Michael Lynn SC, Siobhan Phelan SC and Maeve O'Rourke, Barrister (England and Wales) have been an invaluable support over the past year in the development of the Clann project.

Clann Website :  http://www.clannproject.org

Clann Email:    info@clannproject.org

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

Adoption Rights Alliance Email:               info@adoptionrightsalliance.com Website:           www.adoptionrightsalliance.com

Justice for Magdalenes Research Email:               info@magdalenelaundries.com Website:           www.magdalenelaundries.com

Hogan Lovells Website:           http://www.hoganlovells.com/probono/

 

Parliamentary Questions: Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries

3rd November 2015, Question asked by Robert Dowds, TD 628. To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs his views on a submission (details supplied) regarding the mother and baby homes commission of investigation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. Response from James Reilly, then Minister for Children The Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes and certain related matters was established by Government Order on 17 February 2015 (S.I. No 57 of 2015). It is essential to recognise that in accordance with Section 9 of the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004, a Commission of Investigation is entirely independent in the performance of its functions. I am therefore not in a position to comment on any submissions made to the Commission nor would it be appropriate for me to do so. The Deputy may wish to contact the Commission directly at; Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes, 73 Lower Baggot Street, Dublin 2 or by email info@mbhcoi.ie This question has been downloaded from kildarestreet.com (original link here )

Parliamentary Questions: Departmental Advertising Expenditure

13th January 2016, Question asked by Aengus Ó Snodaigh, TD 527. To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the annual cost to his Department of advertisements placed on its behalf in newspapers, magazines, television and radio, and social media. Response from James Reilly, then Minister for Children The Department of Children and Youth Affairs website is the primary resource in providing information for use by the public and an essential communications tool for my Department. My Department occasionally uses free tools e.g. Twitter and YouTube, to communicate with the public. On occasion, my Department may provide public information through other media e.g. electronic, broadcast and print media where a requirement for alternative platforms of information is required. In 2015 my Department spent the following on advertising as referred to in the question. €60,977.44 spent in relation to public radio and print media advertisements re the establishment of the Commission of Investigation (Mother & Baby Homes and Certain Related Matters) €6279.15 in total spent with regard to Department advertisements in the State Directory; Golden Pages phone books & website; and eircom phone books for 2015/2016. This question has been downloaded from kildarestreet.com (original link here )