Belfast Telegraph

More meetings ahead of homes probe

The scope of an inquiry into the state's mother and baby homes will be known before the Dail summer recess, Children's Minister Charlie Flanagan has said.

Mr Flanagan is this week holding a series of meeting with campaigners and clergy before the final shape of the commission of investigation is announced.

"I am working on an inclusive basis on this important initiative and I wish to see an effective commission in place which will address these important matters on a sensitive and timely basis," the minister said. "Agreement on the terms of reference of the Commission is a matter for Government and it is my intention that the Oireachtas will agree the terms of reference under the Commission of Investigations Act 2004, before the summer recess."

Catholic run homes for unmarried mothers, including one operated by the Sisters of Bon Secours in Tuam, Co Galway, where 796 infants died between 1925 and 1961, will make up a large part of the inquiry.

There were 10 similar homes across Ireland - three others which have little angels plots are believed to hold the remains of another 3,200 babies and infants.

The inquiry is expected to take in Protestant run homes, including the most publicised, Bethany in Harold's Cross, Dublin, and others such as Denny House, the Church of Ireland Magdalene laundry on Leeson Street.

Campaigners are also pushing for the inquiry to examine forced adoptions from the homes, international adoption and cross border movement of youngsters.

Mr Flanagan said a review by officials in several government departments on what files are held relating to mother and baby homes will finish before the end of the month.

About 35,000 single women are believed to have spent time in one of 10 homes for pregnant women.

Submissions on the inquiry's terms of reference must be submitted before midday next Monday.

Niall Meehan, a journalism lecturer who researched the scale of infant deaths at Bethany and helped identify unmarked burials of more than 200 babies in Mount Jerome Cemetery, Harold's Cross, Dublin, said it was a positive move.

"We are positive with the inclusion aspect. The minister is more in favour of inclusion than exclusion," he said.

"The terms of reference for us though are key, that's what everybody has to work towards."

Mr Meehan stressed the need for the historical element of the inquiry to run alongside dealing with the issue of redress.

The mother and baby homes were excluded from a redress scheme in 2005.

The oldest survivor of Bethany was born in 1929.

Meanwhile, the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children will tomorrow hear from campaigners on adoption issues. Committee chairman Jerry Buttimer TD said: "Tomorrow we will have the opportunity to engage with a range of organisations working on issues related to adoption in Ireland."

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