Today is a sombre day for Ireland.
The Report into the Mother and Baby Homes is harrowing; detailing the actions of institutions, the State and a society that treated women and their children in a callous and uncaring way. The State fundamentally failed to support the vulnerable of society and ignored the voices of those we should have listened to.
With the publication of the Report today and our response and actions to it, it is time for a compassionate and sensitive approach. It is the beginning of new kind of engagement – one that is focussed on survivors.
The State needs to and will listen to the experiences and concerns of survivors. There can be no more ‘State knows best’ approach.
We will not shy away, either in taking responsibility for what happened, or in responding to the report.
Over the weeks and months ahead, the Government will give very careful and detailed consideration to the report. The Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth is committed to a survivor-centred approach and will be working with colleagues and survivors to advance these matters as a priority. This will be done with a view to developing a comprehensive Government Action Plan spanning 8 themes, as follows:
- A survivor-centred approach
- Access to Personal Information
- Archiving and Databases
- Education and Research
- Restorative Recognition
- Dignified Burial
I want to reiterate that this report does not mark the end of our response to the Mother and Baby Homes but is a beginning. I hope it to be a new chapter, when we can work with those survivors, hear their stories and ensure that future generations understand what happened so that it can never happen again.
Counselling and Psychological Support for Survivors
In light of the today and the impact it may have, counselling service and support is available for Survivors through the National Counselling Service. The NCS have specific professional expertise with past trauma and childhood trauma, and can offer face-to-face, telephone, or video counselling, on a long terms basis or crisis basis.
Mother and Baby Homes survivors are designated a prioritised group, meaning they are not put on a general waiting list.
National Counselling Service phone lines will be available 9am-6pm, with Connect Counselling operating out of hours 6-10pm. Connect counselling usually only operates Wednesday to Friday but will run 7 days a week for 6 weeks following the publication of the Report. NCS can provide crisis support / direct someone to a relevant crisis service and also assign someone to sessional counselling.
The Government will provide for redress through the introduction of a bespoke ‘restorative recognition’ scheme, in line with the Commission’s recommendations on redress.
Government is committed to providing a bespoke ex-gratia Restorative Recognition Scheme to provide financial recognition to specific groups identified by the Commission of Investigation. An Inter Departmental Group will design proposals to be brought back to Government
This scheme will be an important acknowledgement of the State’s role in what was done to the women and children involved.
Through the restorative recognition scheme, a form of enhanced medical card will be provided to all former residents of Mother and Baby Homes and County Homes (where they were resident for a period of more than six months).
Detailed health research will be undertaken to understand the precise health needs of survivors and former residents.
A Patient Advocacy Liaison Service will be provided.
The Government has put in place immediate health support through the National Counselling Service in the HSE.
Access to Information
The denial of access to personal and early life information is a lasting trauma for many people born in the Mother and Baby Homes.
The Government is committed to advancing Information and Tracing Legislation as a priority this year to ensure that people have access to their birth information, and has restated this commitment in response to the findings of the Commission. Detailed consultation will take place on this legislation as it is developed, allowing all those with a stake the opportunity to input.
The Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, and Tusla, will be facilitating subject access requests under GDPR into the Commission’s archive from the end of February, after the Commission’s archive transfers.
Memorialisation and Records
With the publication of this Report, the Government has acknowledged that proper memorialisation of Ireland’s history of institutionalisation and institutional abuse must take place.
The Minister for Children and Equality knows from speaking with different survivors groups there are divergent views on how and where this should be done. The Government is committed to working with them to develop an appropriate memorial, one where everyone feels recognised and respected.
The Government will work to establish, on a formal, national basis, a national memorial and records centre related to institutional trauma during the 20th century.
In consultation with former residents and key stakeholders, we will develop an all-Ireland memorial and support local memorialisation projects funded by Local Authorities.
Tuam Burial Site
The Government has also approved the general scheme of Historic Burials legislation, which will allow for the excavation and exhumation of the remains at the Mother and Baby Home burial site at Tuam, Co Galway.
The legislation will allow for a large-scale exhumation to be conducted at the site, for identification of remains and for dignified reburial and memorialisation.
There are unanswered questions in the Report regarding Bessborough. I am signalling this in a submission I am making today to planning authorities in respect of proposed development on that site.
More generally, I believe that it will be important to engage with the wishes of family members in respect of the different sites. In some cases, I understand that many would have a preference for respectful memorialisation of the sites.
In coming forward with this legislation, the Government acknowledges and pays tribute to the tireless work of Catherine Corless.
Link to Final Report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes here
Details on Counselling supports for former residents of Mother and Baby Homes available here