Tag Archives: mother and baby homes

The former Marianvale Mother and Baby Home (top) in Newry, County Down, run by the Good Shepherd Sisters

This afternoon.

Police in Northern Ireland are probing 29 allegations of criminal activity around mother and baby homes.

Via RTÉ News:

Officers have received reports from a number of people who were adopted from different named institutions and also from some who either worked there or were residents within these institutions.

…Police launched an investigation into allegations of physical and sexual abuse involving the homes last October.

A spokesperson said all those who have come forward have been spoken to by a specialist detective from the Historic Child Abuse Unit within the Public Protection Branch and have been offered the opportunity to have their account recorded so that a criminal investigation can take place.

Detectives have encouraged more victims and witnesses to come forward, and are particularly keen to reach expats who now live outside Northern Ireland, including in Britain, US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Police probe 29 allegations around NI Mother and Baby homes (RTE)

Previously: Traffficked With Three Birth certs

Pic: BBC

Solicitor Simon McGarr is fighting to get access to records for a Mother and Baby Home survivor

This afternoon.

The Government promised to ensure Mother and Baby Home survivors would get access to their personal information, contained within the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes’ records, in line with EU law, or more specifically General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

But it hasn’t done so, citing a Statutory Instrument from 1989.

However, the SI is inferior to GDPR.

Solicitor Simon McGarr, in his latest Gist article, explains:

“…on behalf of a client, on the 17th September my office reported Ireland for this ongoing breach of EU law to the European Commission.

“On the 10th November 2021 the Commission wrote back, confirming it had opened an investigation on foot of that complaint and that it had written to the Department;

‘We wrote to the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth as part of the investigation of this complaint. They informed us that the Minister for Health is progressing new Regulations concerning access to health data as a matter of priority and that officials from the Department of Children are also liaising with the Department of Health on this issue. The Department have informed us that the new Regulations intend to take into account of the requirements of the GDPR, and the issue of mandatory consultation with a health practitioner will be given further consideration. They stated that it is anticipated that the new Regulations will be in place by the end of the year.’

“In response, I pointed out that the Minister had not accepted that the requirement for a mandatory consultation with a health practitioner would be changed, but merely that it would be given ‘further consideration’.

“I then supplied the Commission with a copy of the new Legislative Heads for the same Minister’s proposed Birth Information and Tracing Bill, drawing their attention to Section 10(2), which repeats and continues the same block on direct access, and maintains the same requirement from the 1989 SI, that survivors’ medical records would be sent to doctors, not to them directly.

“We’re awaiting their reply, but it appears as though Ireland remains under investigation.

“And, for survivors, a right that everyone seems to acknowledge they have—to access their medical data under the GDPR—continues to be blocked.”


The Gist: Ireland under Investigation



Dáil Éireann.

TDs debated a Sinn Fein amendment to the government’s redress scheme which excludes adopted people who spent less than six months following birth in a Mother and Baby home.

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said:

“I am telling the Minister now that he will have to revisit this. Arbitrary time periods, or tables of compensation linked to time periods, are offensive.

They completely fail to take into account the reality of coerced, forced separation of mothers from children. The trauma, suffering, impact and lifelong and varying consequences are unique to every single case.

There should be no attempt to try to link those consequences to arbitrary time periods in an institution, or to a table with amounts of money linked to time periods, and it is offensive to do so.

I ask the Minister to think about it. It is shocking and he will have to revisit it.

“I was born in a mother and baby home and from what I understand, I was in two mother and baby homes. I do not know how long I was in them and I am sure many others do not know how long they were in them either.

“The impact could be horrendous if you were in a home for one day and it could be somewhat less if you were in one for six months, depending on the outcome. However, in every case, the primal wound of children being separated from their mothers and mothers being separated from their children is a crime that was committed by the church and State against tens of thousands of mothers and children.

“To create arbitrary thresholds that you reach, where the State considers you worthy of redress, is absolutely offensive.

I know the Minister did not mean to be offensive, but the problem with this whole sorry saga, which is about the crimes of the church and the State against mothers and children and their then trying to cover their backs and limit the damage, is that he has ended up compounding the hurt, insult, abuse and trauma perpetrated against mothers and children and retraumatising the victims. It is obnoxious. I know the Minister did not mean to be obnoxious, but that is the net result.”

Galway West independent TD Catherine Connolly said:

“In the past Ireland has been criticised for its narrow interpretation of the category of persons who should qualify… All participants emphasised how the Final Report failed to recognise the gravity and magnitude of the human rights violations that occurred in Mother and Baby Homes and related institutions… [They reported] a perceived lack of recognition [I would go much stronger than that] of trauma of being separated from mother or child and the ‘family destruction’ therein.

“The Minister has come forward with a scheme and, notwithstanding his best efforts, he is now perpetuating that discrimination all over again and adding to survivors’ trauma, whether he likes it or not.”

Opposing the amendment, Anne Rabbitte, Minister of State at the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, said:

“I acknowledge the amendment to the motion tabled this evening. I value all contributions from Deputies on this most important of issues. However, the motion calls for action that would be grossly unconstitutional. The Chamber cannot and should not seek to pre-empt or anticipate matters that are under the examination of the courts. The Government simply cannot support the amendment…”

Last night: Disappointment And Disgust

Transcripts via Oireachtas.ie

Thanks Breeda

Maria Arbuckle, whose son was removed from her for adoption when she was 18

This afternoon.

Kildare Street, Dublin 2.

Adoptees and survivors of Mother and Baby homes address media and TDs outside the Dail in to express their “feelings of disappointment and disgust” in response to Government’s redress scheme.

Last week: Terms Of Redress

Sasko Lazarov/RollingNews

This afternoon.

Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman (above) has sent the government’s Action Plan for Survivors and Former Residents of Mother and Baby and County Home Institutions and details of the long-delayed Mother and Baby Institutions Payment Scheme to survivor groups.

It will distribute up to €800 million among an estimated 34,000 survivors.

Minister O’Gorman writes:

The Payment Scheme will operate as follows:

1.  All mothers who spent time in a Mother and Baby Institution will be eligible for a payment, increasing based on their length of stay.

2.  All children who spent six months or more in an institution, and did not receive redress for that institution under the Residential Institutions Redress Scheme (RIRS), will be eligible for payment based on their length of stay.

3.  There will also be an additional, work-related payment for women who were resident in certain institutions for more than three months and who undertook what might be termed commercial work.

4. An enhanced medical card will be available to everybody who was resident in a Mother and Baby or County Home Institution for six months or more.

5. Applicants will qualify solely based on proof of residency, without a need to bring forward any evidence of abuse nor any medical evidence. In certain limited circumstances, sworn affidavits may be required.

6. Those survivors and former residents now living overseas will qualify for a payment on the same terms as individuals living in Ireland, and will have the choice to receive an enhanced medical card or a once-off payment in lieu of the card as a contribution towards their individual health needs.

The legislation required to establish the Scheme will be developed by my Department as a matter of priority…


…Although work has already commenced, it will take some time to make arrangements for this Scheme and it is hoped that the Scheme will be open for applications before the end of 2022.

Report here


Thanks Breeda

From top: The expert panel report: The former nuns’ residence at the Marianvale mother-and-baby home in Newry, county Down

This morning.

Via BBC:

A panel has called for a public inquiry to be held into institutions for unmarried mothers in Northern Ireland.

The three experts also advised that there should be immediate redress payments to survivors.

The devolved government committed to an investigation after research into mother-and-baby homes and Magdalene Laundries was published.

Women said they were detained against their will, used as unpaid labour and had to give up babies for adoption.

The primary recommendation in Tuesday’s report is to establish an “integrated Investigation” by a non-statutory independent panel, feeding into a statutory public inquiry.

There are also further recommendations for supporting measures to ensure that victims and survivors can participate in the investigation, including access to records legislation.

Panel backs public inquiry into mother-and-baby homes (BBC)

Pic: BBC

From top: Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman; a meeting with Tuam survivor group cancelled

Lawyer and Tuam activist Kevin Higgins writes:

Former Minister for Children Zappone and current Minister for Children  O’Gorman will need to clarify in what capacity members of his Department attended Her Ladyship’s drink party when his office had cancelled – late in the evening just 48 hours earlier – meetings with survivor groups in Tuam (having sought them at short notice to begin with) and yet some of those expected at Tuam – and supposedly quarantining following an alleged outbreak of covid in the office – turned up at Katherine’s Party….

Eamon Ryan’s chief-of-staff and Department of Children secretary general both attended Katherine Zappone’s controversial party (Independent.ie)

Earlier: Merrion In Haste, Repent At Leisure


This morning.

The Dáil at the Convention Centre.

Tanaiste Leo Varadkar has asked for the members of the Mother and Baby Home Commission of Investigation committee to appear before TDs while Labour Party leader Alan Kelly has called for the establishment of a new commission of investigation, describing the committee’s report as ‘flawed’.


From top: Tuam burial site: Professor Mary Daly, who was presented with a Royal Irish Academy Gold Medal, considered the highest scholarly accolade in Ireland, last month

This morning

Further to confirmation made yesterday by Professor Mary Daly to an online Oxford seminar on Irish history that the evidence provided by 550 survivors to the Mother and baby Home Commission of Investigation committee was ‘discounted’.

Historian Professor Daly was a member of a three member commission led by Judge Yvonne Murphy which made its final report public in January to an outcry from survivors. The members have since declined to appear before TDs.

The Minister for Higher Education has this morning called for the authors of the report by the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes to address the Oireachtas in relation to their findings.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Mr Harris said:

“I don’t want to say anything inflammatory or offensive here. I think it did add insult to injury, I’m sure unintentionally but it did add insult to injury to people who had been through mother and baby homes and their families and their communities that they never got an opportunity to hear in public from those who did the report

People have every right to speak in Oxford but if they can find the time to speak in Oxford I hope they can find time to speak in the Oireachtas. I think it would be very very helpful as part of the healing process but also as part of the sharing of information and look we have more work to do on this.

“It is my personal view that if you undertake to do a body of work, you should be willing to explain how you did that body of work in a public forum. I think that’s right and proper. The Government commissioned this report; the Government published the report but the Government didn’t author the report and I think it would be helpful to hear from the author. So I think it would be useful in the appropriate forum in the Oireachtas for those who authored the report to have a dialogue and explain the work they did, the rationale and maybe other work that needs to be done.”

Mother and Baby Home Commission urged to address Oireachtas over report (RTÉ)


From top: the former Bessborough Mother and Baby Home in Cork; A map indicicating a children’s burial ground on the grounds of the former institution; Professor Clair Wills

What about Bessborough?

Ireland-born, Cambridge-based. English Professor Clair Wills, in a 10,000-word review of the Mother and Baby Home Commission of Investigation report for the current issue of London Review of Books, writes:

….the home with the worst infant mortality rate was Bessborough in Cork, where over the twenty years between 1934 and 1953 ‘in the region of 25 per cent’ of babies died – five times the rate for Ireland in 1950. In 1944 the newly appointed chief medical adviser for the Republic of Ireland, James Deeny, tried to close the home because in the previous year 180 babies had been born there and 100 had died.

…Bessborough opened as a mother and baby home in 1922, in a Georgian house on 150 acres in Blackrock, to the south-east of Cork City. It was owned and run by the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary (also, initially, a French order) and its remit – as recommended by the Cork Board of Guardians, which was responsible for the poor law union – was to remove unmarried mothers from workhouses.

The grounds were subsequently enlarged to 200 acres, and in 1930 a maternity ward was built so that women who entered the home no longer had their babies in Cork District Hospital (known as St Finbarr’s), but on the Bessborough estate itself. T

he home took in unmarried expectant mothers and women who had recently given birth from all over Ireland, paid for by local health authorities. It also accepted private fee-paying unmarried mothers. Until 1946, when the rules changed, a considerable number of these private patients, willingly or under family pressure, discharged themselves from Bessborough after giving birth, leaving their babies awaiting informal adoption or boarding out through the Catholic Women’s Aid Society.

Infant mortality was highest among those babies whose mothers had left the home, and who seem to have been routinely neglected. From the mid-1950s onwards, another adoption agency, St Anne’s, brought unmarried expectant mothers back from the United Kingdom to have their babies at Bessborough, from where they would be adopted.

All these different organisations – St Finbarr’s, the Catholic Women’s Aid Society, St Anne’s and Bessborough itself – had responsibility for the burial of children who died under their care. Private burial grounds were not legally required to keep records of burials, but canon law did require records to be kept. Yet there are almost no burial records at all.

Given the extraordinarily high mortality rates, the involvement of adoption agencies and the absence of records, it is no surprise that many people believe some of the babies did not die, but were ‘sold’ for adoption. The report did not find evidence for a trade in live babies from Bessborough, although this doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, and critics, including the campaigning journalist Conall Ó Fátharta, question the commission’s conclusions. But it does suggest that whatever did happen there, ‘economies’ were at the back of it….

… During the 1920s Bessborough’s dead babies (or some of them) were buried in the ‘Poor Ground’ section of St Joseph’s Cemetery in Cork, at the cost of ten shillings each, which the congregation had to recoup from the health authority responsible for the child’s maintenance. It was expensive, and a hassle, and it would have been cheaper and easier to bury them on public assistance in the Cork District Cemetery at Carr’s Hill, a former famine ground. And perhaps that is where they are, though no burial register has been found to prove it. Or perhaps they are buried in unconsecrated ground somewhere on the Bessborough estate. That would have been the cheapest way of dealing with the problem, and was the way things were dealt with at Tuam.

At Tuam there are bones, but no burial ground. At Bessborough it is the other way round. There is a burial ground, but no bones. Inside the estate there is a small plot, which was opened in 1956 for members of the order:

It seems to have been assumed by former residents and advocacy groups that this is also where the children who died in Bessborough are buried as there are occasional meetings and commemoration ceremonies held there. The vast majority of children who died in Bessborough are not buried there; it seems that only one child is buried there.

More than nine hundred children died in Bessborough or in hospital after being transferred from Bessborough. Despite very extensive inquiries and searches, the commission has been able to establish the burial place of only 64 children. The Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary who owned and ran Bessborough do not know where the other children are buried.

Unlike Tuam, which closed in 1961, the Bessborough Mother and Baby Home continued to operate until 1998. Members of the congregation claimed not to know where the children might be buried. The commission states that it…

‘…finds this very difficult to comprehend as Bessborough was a mother and baby home for the duration of the period covered by the commission (1922-98) and the congregation was involved with it for all of this time. The commission finds it very difficult to understand that no member of the congregation was able to say where the children who died in Bessborough are buried.’

But perhaps forgetting where babies were buried is a way of forgetting that they died.

One sister who lived at the home for fifty years between 1948 and 1998 could not recall the deaths of any children at all during that time, although 31 children died there between 1950 and 1960 alone. Her name is given as the informant on a number of death certificates. It is a powerful act of erasure.

No grave, no baby. No baby, no grave.

Architectures of Containment (Clair Wills, London Review of Books)

Previously: Archeology of Containment

A mapping expert with Ordnance Survey Ireland (OSi) says he believes a children’s burial ground associated with a mother and baby home in Cork is located on land now earmarked for apartments.

John Clarkin, who has worked with OSi for more than 46 years, and who has been an expert witness on boundary matters for over 30 years, made his comment during a detailed assessment of historic maps which were at the centre of the second day of An Bórd Pleanála’s oral hearing into plans for 179 apartments on a privately-owned site on the former Bessborough estate in Cork.

Part of the development site overlaps an area marked on historic maps as ‘children’s burial ground’.

Bessborough children’s burial ground on land earmarked for apartments, says expert (Irish Examiner)


From top: the former Mother and Baby Home at Bessborough, Cork; Professor Phil Scraton, whose report on the Irish coroner system was published yesterday by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties

“It is a remarkable coincidence that the submission that we made on the Mother and Baby Homes, the Magdalenes, two weeks ago coincides with the launch of this report [see below]. It’s quite difficult for me some days to disentangle the work I’m doing on both.

“But I do believe, very, very strongly that we have to listen to families in terms of the issue of dis-internment and re-internment. If this is a matter of simply dis-interning to re-intern then we are missing the most significant issue.

“The most significant issue for many families, certainly that I’ve spoken with, is that they want to actually have their story told. They want, if possible, through DNA, to be able to identify their loved one and they want an appropriate inquest in which at that inquest they can give evidence around the circumstances of death.

“When we think about what inquests are, they are there to establish how a person died. That means the circumstances of their death. This means that evidence, where it is at all possible, should be brought forward into an inquest of anyone who died in the Mother and Baby homes or as a consequence, they should be brought forward to an inquest into that death. And as far as is possible: the story told.

“Now not all families will want that and some will just simply want re-internment in appropriate burials sites. That is their choice. But I think that as a matter of real concern, this has to be done, for those cases where families wish that to happen.

“Now immediately the response is the coronial process in Ireland just couldn’t cope. Nor could it cope in the North either. I understand that. So that’s why one of the reasons we’re arguing for, in this particular case, specific coronial appointments to deal precisely with this issue.”

Phil Scraton, professor emeritus in the School of Law, Queen’s University.

Professor Scraton was speaking during a webinar yesterday on Death Investigation, Coroners’ Inquests and the Rights of the Bereaved, a report published by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties and compiled by Professor Scraton – a key figure in the Hillsborough investigation, and Gillian McNaul, also of Queen’s University. The report looks at the Coroner system currently in place in Ireland.

Yesterday: Inquestigation


A forensic archaeologist who has helped to recover the remains of ‘the Disappeared’ in the North has recommended a new search for human remains on the grounds of a former mother and baby home in Cork.

Aidan Harte, a senior team member with the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims Remains, was senior archaeologist for site investigations at Tuam and at Sean Ross Abbey on behalf of the Mother and Baby Home Commission of Investigation.

He set out the approach for a new search of a 3.7-acre site on the former Bessborough estate during a Bord Pleanála online oral hearing yesterday into plans for 179 apartments on the sit

He suggested the deployment of ground-penetrating radar at specific locations on the site

If human remains are found, the excavation work should cease, the coroner and gardaí notified, and the site secured, he said.

Expert outlines new search for human remains at Bessborough (irish Examiner)