A specialist panel has called for a public inquiry to investigate the conditions and practices in mother-and-baby homes and Magdalene laundries in Northern Ireland.
The Truth Recovery Design Panel’s recommendation follows publication of their report in January on the effects of the scandal which looked at eight homes and four catholic Magdalene Laundries. It found that at least 10,500 women were admitted to mother-and-baby homes between 1922 and 1990 and about 3,000 into Magdalene Laundries. Women were also employed at workhouses.
The institutions housed unmarried expectant mothers aged as young as 12, most had become pregnant through rape or incest. Women were referred to the homes by their own families, doctors, priests as well as via state bodies. Survivors said they were forced into physical labour late into their pregnancies without being paid and to give up their children for adoption. At least 550 babies were given for cross-border adoption and a significant number of the mothers suffered psychiatric harm as a result of their experiences. Dr Lia Nadaria, chair of the UN Committee Against Torture and Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, confirmed findings of ‘systemic torture and ill-treatment’.
The call for a public inquiry comes after similar calls by the likes of Amnesty International. The independent panel was appointed in March and comprises chair Deirdre Mahon, Dr Maeve O’Rourke and Prof Phil Scraton. ‘Lives and futures lost through the cruelty within these institutions cannot be recovered, but we must acknowledge the inter-generational pain and suffering inflicted on victims, survivors and families,’ Prof Scraton said. ‘It is now time for that to be recognised and the full truth revealed.’ The panel recommendations also include immediate financial redress for survivors dating back to the beginning of the investigation and the immediate appointment of a panel of experts.
The recommendations have received widespread political support with the First Minister Paul Givan saying that the voices of survivors were finally ‘being heard’. Deputy First Minister Michelle O’neill pledged to push for immediate adoption of the panel’s recommendations.
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