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: firstname.lastname@example.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
Hogan Lovells Website: http://www.hoganlovells.com/probono/