Belfast Telegraph

Amnesty International call for inquiry into allegations of abuse in Mother and Baby homes in Northern Ireland

Amnesty International has called for an inquiry into allegations of decades of abuse suffered in Mother and Baby homes in Northern Ireland.

It comes after the Irish government published the terms of reference for a Commission of Investigation into such homes in the Republic of Ireland.

The Human Rights organisation accused Ministers in Northern Ireland of failing to respond to victims’ calls for a probe into abuse which they allege occurred in Mother and Baby Homes and Magdalene Laundry-type institutions in Northern Ireland over a period of decades.

Amnesty International's Northern Ireland Programme Director, Patrick Corrigan said: “Women in Northern Ireland have told Amnesty they suffered arbitrary detention, forced labour, ill-treatment, and the removal and forced adoption of their babies - criminal acts in both domestic and international law.

“Two years after first asking, victims in Northern Ireland still cannot get an answer from Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness on whether there will be an inquiry here.

“The Northern Ireland institutional abuse inquiry leaves out cases of abuse which took place after the age of 18, leaving these women in complete legal limbo – North and South.

“The Northern Ireland Executive must now urgently consider a separate inquiry mechanism for these cases.”

Amnesty International has identified twelve Mother and Baby Homes or Magdalene Laundry-type institutions which operated in Northern Ireland in the last century.

The organisation said that in May 2013 they published research into abuses in Northern Ireland’s Magdalene Laundry and Mother and Baby Home-type institutions, and supported victims’ calls for an investigation into the alleged abuse.

Amnesty International said "despite bringing abuse victims to meet Ministers at Stormont Castle in June 2013 and again in September 2014"victims have "received no answer to their calls for an inquiry".

Amnesty said two powerful United Nations committees have "urged the Northern Ireland Executive to investigate the abuse allegations of systemic abuse".

A spokesman for OFMDFM said: “The primary purpose of the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry is to investigate whether there were systemic failings by institutions (apart from schools),  or the State in their duties towards those children in their care under the age of 18. 

“Mother and Baby homes were not established principally for the care of children and would have had many residents over the age of 18. To the extent that the Inquiry has received applications from people who spent time in a home of this type, while under the age of 18, these will be considered. 

“Until all applicants have been interviewed it will not be possible for the Inquiry to make a final decision on whether these cases properly fall within the Terms of Reference or indeed whether there is any indication of systemic abuse.

“Ministers are sensitive to the views of those who have suffered abuse who fall outside the scope of the Inquiry and they are mindful of the equally destructive impact it has had on many people. Officials have completed a scoping exercise in relation to Mother and Baby Homes which Ministers’ are giving careful consideration.”

Irish Mother and Baby homes inquiry

The Irish government have published the terms of reference for a Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby homes n the Republic.

A three year investigation into Mother and Baby homes will be conducted following revelations last year about the deaths of almost 800 children at the Tuam Home in Galway.

Judge Yvonne Murphy leads a team of three commissioners who will investigate what happened to more than 35,000 women and children - mostly placed in homes after being ostracised by their families - between 1922 to 1998.

Their mass grave was discovered 40 years ago, but it was not until last year that local historian Catherine Corless drew attention to the very high infant death rate - with almost 80pc dying before their first birthday.

The Tuam home was run by nuns of the Bon Secours Sisters for 36 years.

The Irish Government said the public inquiry will investigate how society 'failed' the women and children in the homes.

The minister for children has set out the terms for a three-year inquiry.

Former residents will be able to give evidence in private.

Others compelled to give evidence face imprisonment or hefty fines if they fail to bear witness or produce requested documents.

While the inquiry itself can not bring criminal charges, findings can be referred to the Garda (Irish police) and prosecutors for investigation.

Irish Children's Minister James Reilly said the probe - expected to cost 21.5 million euro - will be critical to how the country comes to terms with an uncomfortable truth that it had seen fit to largely ignore.

"Last May, people in Ireland and around the world were shocked at media reports about what was described as a mass grave in the mother and baby home in Tuam in Galway," he said.

"The sense of indignation we all felt about this was palpable.

"While some academics had examined these matters, as a State we had failed to come to terms with a harrowing reality in our past; the manner in which single women and their children were treated in mother and baby homes, how they came to be there in the first place and the circumstances of their departure from the homes."

Campaigners have complained that there is no specific mention in the terms of reference to compensation for survivors, but Mr Reilly said it was open to the inquiry to recommend redress.

Catholic and Protestant-run homes are to be investigated.

They include Ard Mhuire, in Dunboyne, Co Meath; Bessboro House, in Blackrock, Cork; Kilrush, on Cooraclare Road, Co Clare; Manor House, Castlepollard, Co Westmeath; Sean Ross Abbey, Roscrea, Co Tipperary; and The Castle, Newtowncunningham, Co Donegal.

In Dublin, institutions include Bethany Home in Rathgar; the Belmont Flatlets, Denny House and Eglinton House in Donnybrook; Ms Carr's Flatlets in Ranelagh; Regina Coeli Hostel, North Brunswick Street; St Gerard's on Mountjoy Square; and St Patrick's on Navan Road.

A sample of so-called County Homes around the country will also be looked at.

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