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12th Jul 2021

Alternative report on mother and baby homes finds State responsible for mass abuses

Laura Grainger

The new report comes six months after the much-criticised Commission report.

An alternative report examining the final findings of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes has found the State responsible for abuses of human and constitutional rights.

The yet-to-be-published report, composed by a team of 25 legal and academic experts, forensically examined the much-criticised Commission report that was published in January.

The Commission report blamed the mistreatment and abuse faced by women in the homes primarily on the lack of support shown by immediate family members and the fathers of their children.

However, the alternative report found the State to be responsible for several of the abuses found in its own Commission report.

“For those of us who teach law students, it was important to show that legal analysis was at the heart of what the commission had done, and central to much past abuse,” the group of experts wrote in the Irish Examiner.

Their report cites six reasons as to how the State is responsible as it claims:

  • All institutions were subject to State funding in some way.
  • The State regulated mother and baby homes through local government, inspection and funding, as well as criminal, human rights, constitutional and administrative law. In addition, the report claims that where religious authorities objected to more intensive regulation and/or reform of the institutions, the State favoured negotiation rather than enforcement.
  • The State was aware of the living conditions and abuses women faced in the institutions, but did not use its powers to prosecute or defund them.
  • Irish law punished pregnancy and birth outside of marriage and showed no concern for reproductive rights.
  • Irish law criminalised aspects of access to contraception up to 1933 and almost all abortion up to 2019, making it difficult to avoid unwanted pregnancy.
  • Irish law still inhibits efforts to seek accountability for abuses in the institutions by restricting affected people’s access to their own records, records of close family members and records of institutionalisation.

The group will launch their alternative findings and recommendations at an online event hosted by Technological University Dublin (TUD) on Wednesday.

Rather than replacing the Commission report, the experts say their alternative report is an academic exercise that shows how the Commission could have come to different conclusions – even while using the same evidence and without conducting new primary research.