02 Jul 2022

'To give us redress is to give us our human rights' - Mother and baby home survivors protest redress scheme

'To give us redress is to give us our human rights' - Mother and baby home survivors protest redress scheme

Survivors of the Mother & Baby Homes gathered outside Leinster House to protest the proposed redress scheme being offered to survivors of the institutions.

The proposed redress would see mothers receiving a payment based on the length of time spent in an institution and children who spent more than 6 months in a mother and baby home would receive a payment.

Children who spent less than 6 months at a mother and baby institution would not be entitled to redress. 

Majella Connelly was born in St. Patricks Mother and baby home and said the minister is trying to divide survivors again by 'creating a hierarchy of suffering'.

Ms. Connelly said: "To give us redress is to give us human rights. Our right to our identity, our birth certs and our medical history, all uncensored."

Most mothers were forced into a mother and baby home, forcefully have their baby taken away, and were deprived of information about that baby for most of their life.

"You can trace the full history of the cheapest packet of mince more easily than we can trace our own personal history." added Ms. Connelly. 

Maria Arbuckle, who was sent from the North to the South by nuns to St. Patrick's mother and baby home, said the redress is 'devastating' and from the moment the baby is born 'the trauma starts when it is taken away'.

"A baby that lived inside of us for nine months, when it came out it was taken away. The only person it was used to was us." she added.

Ms. Arbuckle said Roderic O'Gorman set up the redress scheme for 'time and money' and 'there is nothing about paying trauma'. 

"Nobody is coming to take their babies away from them." she added.

A group of Irish professionals working in the field of trauma and attachment wrote to Minister O'Gorman seeking a revision of the recommendations from the report with the inclusion of best practices regarding neuroscience, childhood trauma, and attachment. 

The letter stated: "There is an opportunity to right a wrong, to empathize at a human level and seek to understand. We want to minimize the risk of secondary traumatization and invalidation of survivors and their families which is not likely where experiences are not heard, respected, and redressed. Fundamentality, it is about mothers, children and families being seen and heard and having their lived experiences validated." 

Sinn Fein's spokesperson for children, Kathleen Funchion said she had 'serious concerns' about the redress scheme excluding a large number of people.

Speaking on Newstalk's 'On the Record' she said when the commission of investigation published its report she raised concern that it did not cover county homes or many other institutions that existed.

She said anyone not included in the report is not included in the redress scheme.

"More than half of people will not be eligible for redress." she added. 

Another group who were excluded from the redress scheme were Irish children who were fostered out to work on farms.

Roderic O'Gorman said other measures are being considered for children who were boarded out including a counselling scheme, but there are no plans for a separate redress scheme. 

James Sugrue is one of the forgotten children that were boarded out. Mr. Sugrue was eight-year-old when his mother left him and his two brothers in the county home when their father left for work in London. 

He was separated from his two brothers and sent to a farm where he was isolated and abused. He said he was 'beaten, isolated and treated like a slave'.

Speaking on Primetime, he said he was 'totally shocked' that children boarded out were not entitled to a redress, and the shock 'turned into anger' as there was no explanation as to why they were not included in the redress scheme. 

"I am a little surprised as I felt Mr. Gorman was listening to me intently. I felt we are going to get recognition, but it was a blunt answer no not getting any redress," added Mr. Sugrue. 

A motion by Sinn Fein will be debated in the Dail this evening which will 'stand with survivors and call on the government to change the redress scheme to be fairer to them'.

The motion has cross-party support among the opposition.  

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