Mother & Baby Homes In Ireland

Options For Those Who Suffered As A Result
Of Our National Scandal

 

Following publication of the Mother & Baby Home Final Report we have prepared this information to assist former residents. If you would like to be kept informed on developments, please REGISTER below or GET IN TOUCH to organise a free, no-obligation consultation with our team of experienced solicitors.

 

The information on this website does not constitute legal advice or otherwise. Make sure you seek specific legal advice before making any important decisions. Under Law Society regulations in contentious business, a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award or settlement. Copyright Poe Kiely Hogan Lanigan Solicitors 2021.

  • Access to information
     

  • Infant
    Mortality
     

  • Unpaid
    Labour
     

  • Abuse
     
     

  • Breach of Constitutional Rights

  • Redress
     
     

Introduction

The plight of unmarried mothers and their children in past decades has increasingly become a matter of public concern across Ireland.  The discovery of mass, undocumented graves in Tuam, Co Galway led to the Mother & Baby Homes Commission of Investigation being set up in 2015 and culminated with a final report published on 12 January, 2021.

Whilst the report has faced criticism from some quarters owing to its length (3,000 pages), legalistic tone and various limitations and oversights, it has still raised a number of important issues for those who were a resident or born into one of these institutions.

As we all await the publication of the Government’s approach to a possible Redress scheme, we have created this section on our website in an attempt to highlight some of the important issues and to share new information as it arises.

Having acted in over 500 cases during the Residential Institutions Redress Scheme and Magdalen Laundries Scheme, we understand the complex issues at hand and the suffering, often in silence, that residents have endured over many years.  We also know that many victims will have a number of questions they want answers to and to understand the various options available to them.

Contents

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Mother & Baby Home Commission

As noted above, the Mother & Baby Homes Commission of Investigation was set up in 2015 and took six years to source information, hear evidence and ultimately produce a final report of findings and recommendations. There were 56,000 unmarried mothers and 57,000 children resident in the mother & baby homes and county homes investigated by the Commission with an estimated further 25,000 unmarried mothers plus a larger number of children resident in county homes who were not investigated.

Mother and Baby Homes Commission Ireland

Whilst some have accused the Commission of limiting the scope of their investigations, over the six year period the Commission examined 1.3 million documents, held 195 hearings involving 64 former residents, 30 advocacy groups, 16 sisters/members of religious congregations 14 experts, 22 social workers, 13 local authority officials, seven Government officials, six workers in the homes, three priests, three gardai and 12 others.  This, however, was the extent of the investigation into only 18 homes when in reality there may have been upwards of 180 different sites involved. 

Mother and Baby Homes in Ireland

Breach of Rights

All told, it would appear that more than 150,000 people may have been affected due to their residence in a Mother & Baby or County Home and that they undoubtedly suffered from a fundamental breach of their legal and constitutional rights, never mind the breach of social trust and the very fact that the State and Religious Orders involved failed in their Duty of Care toward the victims.

The Commission’s Report

The final report of the Mother & Baby Homes Commission of Investigation was submitted to Government on 30 October 2020 and made public on 12 January 2021.  Whilst it is noted that the remit of the Commission may be somewhat narrower than some people may have wanted, the final report ran to over 3,000 pages and made a series of recommendations for Government in order to acknowledge and address the pain and suffering of the residents of the institutions involved.

At its core the Commission chose to focus on two of the most important issues raised by former residents of the homes under investigation:

  • The lack of information & tracing systems; and 
  • Redress for the suffering caused.
Mother and Baby Homes Commission Report

Whilst many of the findings are not a surprise it is still shocking to acknowledge the level and extent of the experiences of the mothers and their children who lived in the homes under investigation.  This included:

Living Conditions

The report noted that the conditions the residents experienced in the institutions were often very poor.  The harsh conditions were compounded by the fact that the unmarried mothers were alone and had been separated from their families.

Infant Mortality

Infant mortality in the institutions under investigation was often five to six times higher than the national average. In fact, at one time the infant mortality rate peaked in the Bessborough home in 1944 at 82% with only 64 of the 900 graves located. 

Abuse

Whilst the report highlights that there was no evidence of widespread physical or sexual abuse, it acknowledged that all residents will have experienced some form of emotional abuse during their stay at the homes in question. It also notes that a substantial level of this abuse came from local people through their judgment of the women and their children.

Unpaid Work

From looking after the children of women who had left the home, caring for other residents who may have been ill, elderly or disabled or working on one of the many attached farms, it is clear that many of the women were employed in various forms of unpaid work. Whilst this cannot be said of all of the women a number of them appear to have been exploited in this manner.

Adoption

Many of the people involved felt coerced into handing their children over for adoption, however, the lack of records and available information coupled with the sensitivities surrounding adopted children seeking their identity versus the possible wishes of the birth mother has led to adoption becoming a contentious area for the report.

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Redress Scheme

Appropriate redress for the wrongs suffered by such a large number of women and their children is absolutely necessary in order to help the victims move forward. Whilst financial redress is the most obvious remedy the report allows for the consideration of alternative solutions such as enhanced medical services.  It also notes that many victims cited a simple apology as going a long way to right the wrongs of the past.

The Commission has suggested that the recent Redress Schemes provided by the Residential Institutions Redress Scheme (RIRS) and the Magdalen Laundries Scheme as possible schemes which could be followed by Government in a redress scheme for residents of the Mother & Baby Homes under investigation.  

The RIRS could be used to provide financial compensation to those who were children in the homes along with a small number of ‘young’ mothers (under 18) who would have been resident and gave birth within the homes.  The Magdalen scheme would be more suited to the Mothers themselves and could be administered along the same lines with a General Payment and a Work Payment dependent upon the length of residence in the home.

Quite controversially, the Commission has deemed that owing to the introduction of the Unmarried Mother’s Allowance in 1973 that residents in homes after this point should not be eligible for redress.

Mother and Baby Homes Redress Scheme

Other Options

Whilst the Mother & Baby Homes Commission of Investigation has recommended that the Government should introduce a Redress Scheme along the lines of the RIRS and Magdalen Schemes, this may not satisfy some of the victims who have suffered the most.  

It is also fair to say that even though the Government is due to publish their approach to the Redress scheme in April, the wheels of Government can move quite slowly. This has most probably been compounded by the current Covid Pandemic. As such many commentators do not expect to see a fully operational Redress Scheme up and running for a number of years.

The option of issuing legal proceedings via the High Court therefore remains an option for victims and is a possible route which some may consider pursuing. Embarking upon this course of action, however, is not without its expense and a number of difficulties.  For example, the Statute of Limitations would initially bar any attempt by a victim of the Mother & Baby Home scandal to pursue litigation.  

Under normal circumstances proceedings must be brought within two years of the birth of a child and in the case of the children themselves within two years of their 18th Birthday.  This is obviously not possible under these circumstances so the first step a victim will have to take is to prove in Court that negligence contributed to their ‘medically verified’ psychiatric disability.  

It is true that the High Court has become more strict in this area in recent years, however, International law - in particular a United Nations 2005 declaration - could see the Government amending the legislation in respect of Mother & Baby Home cases.

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Why Us?

The team at Poe Kiely Lanigan Solicitors represented over 500 people during both the RIRS and Magdalen Schemes and therefore understand the many different issues faced by the residents of these homes. We know that this is a complex and emotive area and requires a team of experienced solicitors who understand the importance of listening to a victim’s story in order to formulate the right course of action for that person.

It is also important to note that whilst we are based in Kilkenny we do not only cover the South East of Ireland. Just like our renowned Surrogacy & Fertility law group, the team involved with Mother & Baby Home claims work across the length and breadth of Ireland.  If you would like to have a confidential conversation with one of our team, please fill in your details below and we will contact you to arrange a time that suits you best to set up a no cost, no obligation consultation via Zoom.

Poe Kiely Hogan Lanigan Redress Scheme experience

Book A Consultation

If you would like to discuss the options available to you and to understand what might be involved, please get in touch to arrange a no cost, no obligation consultation with one of our experienced solicitors.

Why Do You Need A Solicitor?

You may also be asking yourself why you need a solicitor if a Redress Scheme is going to be introduced by the Government?

No matter the Government’s approach to redress for residents of mother and baby homes, it is important that a victim understands what is required of them in order to meet any criteria set by the Government.

It is also important that a victim seeks independent legal advice before accepting the terms of any settlement so that they understand all of the options available to them fully before accepting an award.

Mother and Baby Homes - Why you need a solicitor

What Might Happen Next?

The Government’s proposed Redress Scheme for those identified by the Mother & Baby Home Commission’s Report is due to be published on 12 April 2021. Owing to the current pandemic and the speed at which Government matters tend to move, it is widely anticipated that this date will be missed.

Once the scheme has been published there may be an opportunity provided for consultation on the approach set out by the Government after which a Judge will be appointed to oversee the Redress Scheme.

Whilst it is not expected that a victim will have to prove that their legal rights have been breached, it is anticipated that the victim will be required to present their case on how they believe their rights were taken away from them and how they suffered a personal injury as a result.  This could be in the form of psychological injury such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Depression, Anxiety or a personality disorder.

Mother and Baby Homes Next Steps

Free Consultation

At Poe Kiely Hogan Lanigan Solicitors we are available to conduct a no-cost, no-obligation consultation with anyone affected by the Mother & Baby Home scandal, as we believe that everyone should understand the options available to them so that they can make informed decisions on their best way forward.

 

If you would like to arrange a consultation, please complete your details on the form opposite and we will be in touch to organise a time to discuss your experiences with a member of our team.

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Register your details with us and we will contact you when important information and updates have been published including when the Redress Scheme has finally been published.

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