Belfast Telegraph

Forced adoption survivors claim they were left out of group for probing abuse

Survivors of forced adoptions at mother and baby homes have claimed they were excluded from a Stormont working group tasked with investigating abuse at the institutions.

Mothers and adults born in the homes accused the group of failing victims, saying there is no urgency to progress the inquiry.

An inter-departmental group was set up at the end of February to investigate historical abuse at the homes.

Norah Gibbons - who was a member of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse in the Republic of Ireland - has been hired as an independent chairwoman.

The group has only met twice and has yet to appoint researchers.

Requests by a campaign group of survivors - Birth Mothers And Their Children for Justice NI - to see minutes of the meetings have been denied.

Eunan Duffy, who was born in the Marian Vale mother and baby home in Newry before being taken from his mother against her will and placed for adoption, hit out at the group's "lack of progress".

"The working group is showing absolutely no urgency and there has been a total lack of any progress. We have not been consulted by the group.

"How can a group investigate what went on in these homes without involving us? We have been completely excluded," claimed Mr Duffy.

He added: "We are still living with the consequences of what happened in these homes. While this process drags on survivors are dying without any redress or apology."

Mr Duffy requested copies of the minutes from the working group's two meetings under Freedom of Information but was refused on the basis it would not be in the public interest to share the details.

The group said in its refusal letter: "There is a significant risk that disclosure would result in less candid opinions being expressed and therefore weaken the quality of the decisions yet to be taken."

It added: "Appropriate time must be given to allow robust and candid discussions to take place which in turn will allow informed policy decisions to be taken at a future date."

Mr Duffy said: "I am angry by the total lack of cooperation and consultation."

The Executive Office insisted in a statement that the working group "is sensitive to the views of all those who have suffered abuse and committed to a process of ongoing engagement."

A spokesman added: "In response to a joint proposal by the former first and deputy first ministers and the former health minister, the Executive agreed to the establishment of a single inter-departmental working group (IDWG) to take forward work on Mother and Baby Homes/Magdalene Asylums (Laundries) and historical clerical child abuse.

"The IDWG is now established. It is co-sponsored by the Department of Health and the Executive Office and is independently chaired.

"It has been tasked with making recommendations to the Executive in connection with mother and baby homes/magdalene asylums (laundries) and historical clerical child abuse.

"Norah Gibbons was appointed to chair the IDWG on 28 February 2017. The IDWG met for the first time on March 29 2017, and again on September 14 2017. It has also conducted business by correspondence.

"One of the first tasks of the IDWG was to oversee the procurement of research on mother and baby homes/magdalene asylums (laundries).

"The procurement process is near completion.

"Among other things, it is intended that the research will consider the entry and exit pathways of women to mother and baby homes/magdalene asylums (laundries), the living and working conditions and care arrangements for residents, mortality rates, post-mortem practice and adoption practice."

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