Response toMinister Zappone's Statement by Senator Ivana Bacik:
Seanad Éireann - 17/May/2017 PreludeI welcome the Minister back to the Chamber. I welcome those present in the Gallery for this important debate. I acknowledge that the issues we are debating relating to the second interim report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes are closely related to the issues we debated earlier on the Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill. Both relate to Ireland's shameful history of treatment of women and children. Both relate to our history of confinement and concealment of births outside of marriage. Both relate to the appalling stigma that the State allowed to encapsulate or enshroud women and children for so many decades of our history, right up to the recent past in the 1990s. It is important to have the two debates together.
I acknowledge the work of the local historian, Catherine Corless, whose painstaking work in unearthing the horrific reality of the Tuam mother and baby home gave rise to the establishment of the commission in 2015. Her work in taking out the death certificates of each of the 796 children who had died at the Tuam mother and baby home gave rise to the commission and to such immense public outcry about the scandal of Tuam.
The three-person commission is chaired by Judge Yvonne Murphy and includes Professor Mary Daly and Dr. William Duncan. I pay tribute to their immense work and expertise. I know Dr. William Duncan personally. He taught me family law and he has taught many generations of students at Trinity. He has unparalleled expertise on family and adoption law. Indeed, I quoted him earlier during the debate on the Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill. Professor Mary Daly's historical expertise is singularly important. Judge Yvonne Murphy had done a great deal of work previously on unearthing scandals around institutional abuse in Ireland. She has unparalleled expertise. The commission is doing valuable work.
I wish to deal with the recommendations in the interim report. First, I acknowledge the scope of the work undertaken within the current terms of reference. The terms of reference include the 14 so-called mother and baby homes as well the four county homes. I note Senator Boyhan's comment in this regard. The report refers to 70,000 women and more children having gone through those homes and institutions. It is a vast amount of work. The first interim report was produced in July 2016. At that point, more than 500 people had expressed an interest in engaging with the confidential committee. The commission hopes to engage in a comprehensive historical analysis covering the decades from 1922 to 1998. This is an enormous body of work that will do immense service to the State when we see the final report published in February 2018.
I wish to turn to the issues addressed in the second interim report. There are three discrete and contained issues. The first relates to children who were unaccompanied in these homes. The commissions says it understands a substantial number of children were resident in these institutions without their mothers. The commission is dealing with the exclusion of these children from the residential institutions redress scheme. The commission makes a compelling case for the inclusion of these children in the redress case. It makes the clear point that one of the institutions covered by the Act relating to the redress scheme, St. Patrick's on the Navan Road, is also under investigation by the commission as a mother and baby home. The commission maintains it is simply not logical to include St. Patrick's in the redress scheme but not other institutions under the scheme where they relate to unaccompanied children. The children who were resident in those homes without their mothers are clearly in the same position as the children who were included in the redress scheme.
The commission has referred back to the debates in the Dáil and Seanad at the time of the establishment of the redress scheme. It has made that point that the Minister said at the time that inclusion in the scheme did not imply that a complaint of abuse or a finding of abuse had been made.
In the light of the clear and logical finding of the commission it was disappointing to see the Government decision to exclude these people from redress. These people are adults now and some are of advanced age. This must be revisited. Others have pointed this out as well. At the least, it must be revisited when the final report of the commission is made in 2018. As the commission has clearly said, inclusion in the redress scheme did not imply a complaint of abuse.
I am speaking on my experience and I acknowledge my experience in this matter as a barrister who has represented many survivors of abuse before the redress board and as someone who has been critical of many aspects of the board.