Effective action is needed quickly following the publication of the Mother and Baby Homes report and the State apology, survivor groups said this weekend.
It will all be meaningless and just fine words unless the Government follows up fast with concrete action because the survivors are part of an aging and dying community,” said Paul Redmond, chairperson of the Coalition of Mother and Baby Home Survivors.
The most pressing matter is that action is needed to open up adoption records so that adopted people can get access to their own personal birth records, he said.
Adopted people should be given the right to learn the identity of their birth mothers, but he also accepts birth mothers should have a right not be contacted without agreement, he said.
Mr Redmond added that many birth mothers would also like to have access to the identities of children who were given up for adoption.
While critical of shortcomings of the report, he acknowledged it contained many important facts, figures and anecdotes. It was better that it now exists as an acknowledgement of some of the circumstances of the mother and child homes system, he said.
When it comes to a redress scheme, he said, mothers who suffered in these homes should be given compensation of “cold, hard cash” for the “unpaid slave labour” they endured.
Mr Redmond did not agree with a recommendation in the report that there should not be redress for women who entered the homes after the introduction of the Unmarried Mother’s Allowance in 1973.
The homes were in operation until the last one closed in 1998 and girls and women were still coming under “horrendous pressure” from social workers and nuns and families to give up their children for adoption after 1973, he said.
“I know of one woman who was in labour at the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin in 1987 when a social worker arrived at her bedside asking her to sign adoption forms. She kept her baby son,” he said, adding that there should be some sums of money, however small, offered to children adopted from these homes.
Enhanced medical cards for those survivors who are living in Ireland will also be welcome. Another important action must be the building of dignified memorials in the small number of sites of homes where remains lie buried. And there should be one national memorial in a location like the Phoenix Park in Dublin, Mr Redmond said.
Finally, what happened in the mother and baby homes should be included in the history syllabus of schools in Ireland, he added.
Theresa Hiney Tinggal, spokesperson for the Adopted Illegally Ireland group which represents people who were illegally adopted, said the report was “a sham and a shame”.
She said it should have been more comprehensive by including the many mother and baby homes that were excluded from its remit.
It was “beyond belief” that the report should state there was no evidence of forced adoptions.
She believed the report opened a lot of old wounds. She said there needs to be a system whereby those survivors who were not in the homes covered in the report should have a forum in which to tell their stories. She backed calls for financial redress.
Anne Harris, who lives in France and who gave evidence to the commission, gave birth to a son in 1970 in the Bessborough home in Cork. She said she was disappointed on a number of levels with the report, but especially with the way it was presented to the survivors.
“There should have been extensive consultation with the survivors who gave evidence, long before this document was placed in the public domain. They should have been given the opportunity to see how their evidence would be used in the report.
“It has been physically impossible to read and digest all 2,865 pages in a few days.”
Source: Irish News