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06th Oct 2021

Michelle O’Neill to support public inquiry into mother and baby homes in Northern Ireland

Katy Brennan

“The barbaric way in which women and girls were treated over many decades is utterly shameful.”

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill has said she will make the case for a full public inquiry into institutions for unmarried mothers in Northern Ireland.

She accepted all recommendations of an expert panel into mother and baby homes, Magdalene laundries, and workhouses.

The Truth Recovery Design Panel has been working with victims and survivors to come up with recommendations. They proposed an investigation by a non-statutory independent panel, feeding into a statutory public inquiry, as well as immediate redress payments for those affected.

The panel also called for “all state, religious and other institutions, agencies, organisations and individuals complicit in the processes of institutionalisation and forced labour, family separation and adoption to act without delay in issuing unqualified apologies.”

Over 10,000 women passed through mother-and-baby homes in Northern Ireland between 1922 and 1990. 3,000 were sent to Magdalene laundries in Derry, Belfast and Newry.

Along with Ms O’Neill, First Minister Paul Givan and Health Minister Robin Swann have also said they will consider these recommendations and stated that the Executive would set out their next steps as soon as possible.

Speaking to the media at Stormont, Ms O’Neill said:

“If you reflect on what has happened, the barbaric way in which women and girls were treated over many decades is utterly shameful.

“I do think today is significant in moving things forward and today is a step forward in terms of recognition, a step closer to the truth.

“Women were abused in a barbaric way, they had their babies stolen from their arms and moved without their consent.

“I very much welcome the proposals. I’ve said from the very outset that I accept all of the proposals which are brought forward by the victims and survivors, and in this case I support the recommendations and I will make that case to the Executive, including a full public inquiry.”

Mr. Givan said he hoped the Executive would be able to make decisions and give a definite response to recommendations in the next few weeks. He also said that mother and baby homes should be involved in reparation payments.

“Obviously we’re at a premature stage in terms of what would a reparation look like, that’s more than just financial, it’s also having an apology which is meaningful, and there needs to be work done around that,” he said.

“Those are issues that will need to be considered. We’re at the early stages of trying to have a proper investigative process set now and flowing from that obviously those recommendations included, things like reparation, acknowledgement, the ability for victims and survivors to be able to tell their story, do all need to be taken forward.”