Mother and baby homes report may be ‘defamatory’

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Mother and baby homes report may be ‘defamatory’

Unpublished report of collaborative forum on mother and baby homes said to criticise Tusla


PUBLICATION: Minister for Children Katherine Zappone. Picture: Collins
PUBLICATION: Minister for Children Katherine Zappone. Picture: Collins

The Attorney General warned the Government that the report of the collaborative forum on mother and baby homes raised serious legal concerns and was potentially defamatory.

The Government’s legal adviser cautioned that publishing the report could interfere with the separate State investigation into mother and baby homes and advised shelving it until after the investigation concluded, the Sunday Independent understands.

The forum’s report was expected to be published at the same time as the Commission of Investigation’s report on the burial of infants at mother and baby homes two weeks ago. The Minister for Children, Katherine Zappone, angered forum members when she published only its recommendations, citing “legal advice”.

She appointed the group of former residents and representatives last year, to report on how best the State should memorialise these institutions and care for their survivors.

The nature of the AG’s advice was one of several issues raised at cabinet about the collaborative forum.

Its unpublished report is understood to be “severely critical” of Tusla, particularly in relation to access to adoption records, according to informed sources.

It includes serious allegations against the child and family agency’s adoption and information section. The Minister is understood to have raised the issues with Tusla, which has defended its work and denied the allegations.

The Government was told that managing the expectations of survivors would be “very challenging”, particularly in relation to providing a health care package to survivors, a recommendation of the forum.

While the Minister has pushed for more support to be provided to survivors, many of whom are elderly, she warned the costs involved in providing health care could be “considerable”.

At one point, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform suggested not publishing the forum’s recommendations until a cost analysis was done. But the Minister said this could undermine the Government’s credibility with former residents.

A working group on costs will report back in September.

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The forum’s recommendations also included a module on mother and child institutions in the national history curriculum for schools but the Department of Education questioned whether this was “an appropriate topic” for primary school children, given its “highly sensitive nature.”

The Minister launched the collaborative forum’s recommendations on April 16, announcing a range of measures to support former residents of Mother and Baby Homes.

The Minister for Children has consistently ruled out redress to survivors until after the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes concludes its work.

However, she has promised a package of health and well-being supports, amendments to the Government’s Adoption Bill and funding for a series of memorials and events to honour and remember the mothers and children who lived in these institutions.

The cost is expected to run to €25,000 at each location, while a further €500,000 ring fenced by the Department of Education is likely to be spent on a national memorial, according to sources.

A number of forum members were critical of the Minister’s decision not to publish the report.

Susan Lohan, of Adoption Rights Alliance, has said that it was unfortunate given the amount of time and effort put into its work.

The forum’s recommendations included an “awareness programme” to “assist” public bodies in their interactions with former residents, developing an “appropriate language” to undo stigma, along with professional counselling, access to private health care and memorials to children who died in each institution.

Sunday Independent


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