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Justice for victims of Mother and Baby Homes in light of Tuam

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In light of the recent confirmation of an estimated 800 infant bodies at the Mother and Baby Home at Tuam, we demand an end to the compartmentalisation, secrecy and disrespect surrounding the State's handling of Mother and Baby Homes in Ireland. What has been found at Tuam is a tragedy and a violation of basic human rights. It is important to recognise that this was only one of approximately 180 similar institutions.

The victims of these institutions and their families should be treated with the dignity and compassion which they deserve. It is essential for these victims to have their suffering acknowledged and for those surviving to have full access to their own birth certificates and adoption files.

It is a serious matter of public interest that the State should conduct a complete, thorough, honest and public investigation into these institutions, agencies and individuals.

We Demand:

1. For the expansion of the Terms of Reference of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes

  • In order to include all institutions, agencies and individuals involved with Ireland’s unmarried mothers and their children rather than the 18 institutions currently being investigated by the Commission
  •  And to include investigations of burial practices at all these locations


2. For the Commission to notify coroners in all regions where institutional unmarked graves are known to exist

3. For An Garda Síochána to establish an independent investigation into the abuse, neglect and illegal separations of mothers and children in Mother and Baby Homes, County Homes, maternity hospitals, and through adoption agencies and similar entities

  • Evidence given to the Commission is not admissible in any criminal proceedings under s19 Commissions of Investigations Act 2004


4. For the Government, and if necessary the Oireachtas, to ensure that all children who died in Tuam, and all children and adults who died in institutional care or custody, are identified and that their family members are notified of their whereabouts and the circumstances of their deaths

  • Minister Zappone states her primary concern is to ‘respect the dignity and memory of the children’ who died in the Tuam Mother and Baby Home
  • The dignity of these children encompasses the right of their families to know of the circumstances of their death and whereabouts and also to be consulted in relation to their remains


5. For Minister Zappone to amend the Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill 2016 to provide adopted persons with unrestricted access to their own birth certificates and adoption files


6. For the Commission to hold public hearings

  •  A wholly private inquiry is an inappropriate method of investigation into allegations of systematic human rights abuse
  • The Commission has the discretion to hold public hearings under the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004
  • Individuals involved in operating these institutions should be compelled to give evidence in public
  • Those who allege abuse should have the opportunity to speak in public if they wish
  • Affected individuals should have access to evidence put forward by the State, representatives of the religious institutions and other individuals
  • Affected individuals should be enabled to put questions to witnesses


7. For the Oireachtas to amend certain provisions of the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004

The following provisions are inappropriate:

  • Section 11 makes it a criminal offence for any person to publish evidence given to the Commission in private
  • Section 40 imposes a blanket restriction on the application of the Freedom of Information Act to records of the Commission’s investigation
  • Section 19 makes evidence given to the Commission in the course of its investigation inadmissible as evidence against any person in any subsequent criminal or other proceedings
  • Section 39 prevents access to personal data where it has been provided to the Commission


8. For the Commission of Investigation to analyse the treatment of mothers and children from the perspective of Constitutional rights rather than in the context of past legislation and common practice

  • Minister Zappone noted that the Commission will examine ‘whether the burial arrangements were in line with the laws or practices of that time’ while acknowledging that these laws and practices ‘would of course be very different today
  • Current legislation in Ireland regarding burials fails to comply with one’s right to respect for private and family life both under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and under the Irish Constitution
    (Irish Human Rights Commission, Follow-Up Report on State Involvement with Magdalene Laundries, June 2013)


These recommendations were sourced by Aisling Burns from the Clann Project on March 6, 2017


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