| 14°C Dublin

Rights group wants criminal probe into mother, baby homes

Close

Minister Katherine Zappone has appealed for information

Minister Katherine Zappone has appealed for information

Minister Katherine Zappone has appealed for information

CRIMINAL investigations should be conducted into former mother and baby homes, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) has said.

The call comes after the Commission of Investigation into the institutions reported on the burial of children there.

The commission's fifth interim report found that the final resting place of hundreds of children who died at the homes is unknown.

The ICCL said the report "reveals disturbing detail on the failure of institutions to provide dignified burials for hundreds of children who died in their care".

abuses

It also said the report "raises more questions than it is able to answer".

The ICCL called on the Government to initiate criminal investigations "to ensure that where the law was broken, or where human rights abuses have been committed, accountability is prioritised".

It also raised concern about "strict rules" on the use of evidence gathered by the commission.

It said witnesses in future cases would need to be re- interviewed and are "likely to be revictimised as a result".

Fianna Fail children's spokesperson Anne Rabbitte said there was "deep anger and hurt" among people who experienced the institutions, and she understands the desire for accountability.

However, she stopped short of calling for a criminal investigation, saying she did not want to preempt the commission's conclusions, which are due next year.

The Department of Children said criminal investigations are a matter for gardai.

The commission's fifth interim report will be referred by Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan to gardai for "appropriate attention".

The commission operates under a legal framework that provides an effective mechanism to investigate complex and sensitive matters while respecting fair procedures and natural justice.

Its report on the homes was published on Wednesday.

Children's Minister Katherine Zappone has appealed to anyone with information on burials at the former homes to come forward.

"Let us know where they are buried," she said.

"Maybe then, finally, they could be treated with dignity in death."

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the report makes "gruesome reading" and "gives us a further insight into a very dark part of our history".

He said it was a time "when women and their babies were appallingly treated, often simply just for being unmarried, or even just for being poor".

He said they were badly treated by the State, by the Catholic Church, by their own families and also by wider society.

mortality

Mr Varadkar said it "happened at a time when infant mortality was very high, few vaccines, no antibiotics, very poor public health and sanitation, huge numbers of people living at close quarters in congregated settings".

"However, none of that excuses the indignity in the way in which these babies were treated in death," he added.

The commission's report found that the final resting place of the "vast majority" of hundreds of children who died at Bessborough Mother and Baby Home in Cork is not known.

It also said that 802 children died at the Mother and Baby Home in Tuam. Many of those are said to have been buried in an underground chamber built inside an old sewage tank.