Survivors call for no delay on mother-and-baby home recommendations

Survivors and victims in maternal and child homes in Northern Ireland have urged the executive to implement the recommendations of an expert panel as soon as possible.

Sometimes emotional testimony before an assembly committee, politicians heard calls to quickly draft legislation to launch a statutory inquiry.

“We are really on a long, difficult journey.

“Going forward, we need to fully implement the Truth and Recovery Panel’s recommendations as quickly as possible,” said Adele Johnstone, who gave birth at the age of 18 at the Mariannevale Mother & Baby Home in Newry.

“Everything that can be done without the need of law, needs to be done.”

The executive has committed to “clear and complete implementation” of a range of recommendations proposed by an expert panel, including a public inquiry and redress plan.

The experiences of thousands of women and children spanning decades in the Mother and Baby Home, Magdalene Laundry and Workhouse and Institutions will be examined.

Simultaneously with a public inquiry, the expert panel also recommended the creation of a non-statutory independent panel, which was permitted to allow institutions and their families to testify in a less adversarial format.

Legislation was also recommended to secure and ensure access to the records of institutions subject to scrutiny.

Ms Johnstone, a member of the Birth Mothers and Their Children for Justice NI, described how she herself was adopted as a young child.

“My adoptive mother constantly told me that I was impervious and that my mother was a prostitute,” she said.

She experienced sexual abuse as a child by someone outside her family and later became pregnant at the age of 17 before being sent home.


Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill (Liam McBurney/PA) speaking to the media in Stormont following the publication of a research report on Mother and Baby Homes and Magdalene Laundry in Northern Ireland

She told politicians, “I’ve lived a life of lies, shame and stomach ache, which never filled that huge hole inside me.”

“Redressal should never have any effect on profit or tax liability.

“We really want the early interim payments to be made without any delay as many of our members are in advanced years with multiple health problems,” she said.

“In the event of the death of the victim and the survivor, we seek redress to go to the next of kin.

Funding is also needed to enable all victims and survivors to seek and receive legal advice and representation in any court or investigation.

“There should be no age restriction on any girl entering these institutions.

“Children who have been raised, boarded or placed in the children’s home should also be included.”

Earlier this year, work by Queen’s University and the University of Ulster found that between 1922 and 1990 more than 14,000 girls and women passed through the doors of mother and child homes, the Magdalene Laundry and other institutions.

It was found that women were abused, kept against their will and forced to give up children for adoption.

Onagh McAleer, who was 17 when she was sent to Mariannevale’s home in 1979, said she had been campaigning for years.

“I’ve been on this journey for a very long time,” she told the committee.

Committee chairman Sinead McLaughlin, who was clearly out of emotion during the testimony, called the houses a “shame of Ireland”.

He said: “We are running out of time. We have to address these issues and we have to address them immediately.”

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