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Dear TDs and Senators,
The Government is expected to pass its Mother and Baby Institutions ‘redress’ scheme through Dáil Report Stage in the coming days. Shockingly, the scheme excludes 40% of survivors and denies healthcare to two-thirds.
Minister O’Gorman’s scheme excludes everyone separated from their mother before the age of 6 months in a Mother and Baby Institution or County Home. The Minister has no logical explanation for this.
The exclusion ignores the lifelong consequences of forced family separation and loss of identity for these 24,000 people. The Government plans to deny these survivors recognition, in a blatant act of discrimination.
The scheme does not recognise abuse in adoptive or ‘boarding out’ placements despite repeated survivor testimony which the Commission of Investigation’s Confidential Committee described as a ‘stream of similar accounts of beatings and abuse of all kinds’.
The scheme also prohibits mothers institutionalised in 13 Mother and Baby Homes from claiming a ‘work payment’. This is no doubt based on the Commission of Investigation’s insulting finding that the forced unpaid labour of girls and women in Mother and Baby Homes ‘was generally work which they would have had to do if they were living at home’. The scheme also denies an ‘enhanced medical card’ to mothers institutionalised for less than 6 months.
I call on the Government immediately to:
1) Expand the redress scheme to include all those who spent time in a Mother and Baby Institution or County Home, and to make an enhanced medical card available to all survivors.
2) Extend the scheme to anyone abused in a ‘boarding out’/adoptive placement or abused through forced labour, vaccine trials, racial or disability-based discrimination or illegal expatriation outside the State for adoption, by allowing affected people to swear their testimony in a non-adversarial way.
The Government claims its scheme pursues the ‘twin tenets of “act with kindness” and “do no harm”’.
In reality: The scheme’s exclusions heap abuse upon abuse.
The High Court has declared eight times that the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation proceeded illegally by denying survivors the same opportunity given to religious and State institutions to comment on the Commission’s draft findings.
In its Final Report the Commission of Investigation characterised affected people as unreliable witnesses whose testimony may have been ‘contaminated’ by meeting with other survivors or the influence of media coverage.
The Commission of Investigation further concluded that the nature of violence suffered by boarded out children ‘cannot be established’: despite its Confidential Committee recording tens of graphic descriptions of extreme violence such as serial rape, routine whipping, servitude, abject neglect and denial of education.
The Government’s own survivor consultation report found: ‘There were numerous harms and human rights violations identified by survivors for which reparation was needed. The primary was the loss of the mother child bond and relationship … The harm caused by psychological, physical and sexual abuse, including degrading and dehumanising treatment received in the homes and in unvetted family placements through adoption, fostering or boarding out was also clearly identified.’
The all-party Oireachtas Joint Children Committee and the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission have called on the Minister to amend the redress scheme.
Minister O’Gorman: Believe survivors. Do the right thing. Widen the redress scheme now.