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/

 

TEST POST —Launch of Clann: Ireland’s Unmarried Mothers and their Children: Gathering the Data

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.

 

Ends.