Ireland’s Minister for Children Charlie Flanagan has announced a statutory Commission of Investigation into mother-and-baby-homes across the State. Mr Flanagan said he hopes the inquiry will examine all issues, including the high mortality rates, burial practices, the legal circumstances around adoptions and the question of conducting of clinical trials.
This news has been expected with recent revelations of a mass grave of 796 children in one such home in Tuam, Galway.
Mr Flanagan was speaking on RTÉ’s News at One and said it is important that a light be shone on “these dark periods.
The inquiry will look at all mother and baby homes, those operated by the State, by Catholic religious orders and also by Church of Ireland religious orders, saying: ““It’s not possible to detail the terms of reference of the Commission at this stage but the scope and the breadth of it will not be confined to Tuam and Galway and the west of Ireland.”
While he said that a lot of material was already in the possession of the State he called on the Catholic church to cooperate fully and to transfer all relevant material.
He also said that it was too early to say who will lead the commission, but that he has some names in mind.
He also said that the Government will receive an initial report from a cross-departmental investigation by 30 June.
It is thought about 35,000 unmarried mothers spent time in one of 10 homes run by religious orders in Ireland.
Pressure had been mounting on the Government to announce an independent inquiry since records uncovered by historian Catherine Corless in relation to the home became publicised. It is believed almost 800 children were interred in a septic tank in Tuam, in a home previously run by the Bon Secours nuns.
Outside of Tuam three other mother and baby homes have little angels plots believed to hold the remains of another 3,200 babies and infants. They are Sean Ross Abbey, Tipperary – where the story of Philomena Lee began – Bessborough, Co Cork, and Castlepollard, Co Westmeath. Infant mortality rates ranged from 30-50 per cent in some of the homes in the 1930s and 1940s.