Sunday 28 January 2024

Mother and baby home survivors on redress delay: 'They are playing a game of wait and die'

 Mother and baby home survivors on redress delay: 'They are playing a game of wait and die'

A three-year delay in making redress payments to the country's aging survivors of mother and baby homes is "simply not fair on people who have been through so much", an expert in the area has said.

UCC law professor Conor O’Mahony made the comments as the compensation package — worth about €800m and due to be rolled out before the end of last year — continues to be delayed.

The Department of Children told the Irish Examiner that “opening the scheme as soon as possible is an absolute priority and the scheme is set to open in Q1”, but survivors have yet to be given the green light to apply.

The Government has appointed a financial assessor to negotiate with the seven religious orders who ran the institutions about financial contributions — but there is no legal framework that can compel them to do so.

Professor O’Mahony said the scheme could still open while negotiations take place. “There’s no need to wait until any contributions are handed over, just open the scheme and have it up and running” he said. 

It is simply not fair on survivors who have already been through so much.

“This recommendation to compensate survivors was made three years ago by the Commission of Inquiry into Mother and Baby Homes when they produced their final report."

The redress scheme was recommended because of the appalling case of abuses that took place in the homes, by the religious orders.

Following a five-year inquiry spearheaded by former judge Yvonne Murphy, the State apologised to survivors for its failures.

Up to 34,000 people are believed to be eligible for a payment, however, there was widespread criticism following the exclusion of several categories of survivors, including babies who spent under six months in the homes and those who were "boarded out” or fostered.

Professor O’Mahony continued: "From a political point of view, the Government wants to be seen to lay some responsibility on the religious orders, who were deeply involved in the operation of the mother and baby homes.They also want to maintain the public finances”.

Children's Minister Roderic O’Gorman has sought financial contributions from seven Catholic bodies that ran homes or were linked to them: the Bon Secours sisters; the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul; Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary; Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd; the Sisters of Mercy; the Sisters of St John of God; and the Legion of Mary, a lay organisation.

Only one order, the Bon Secours nuns, who ran the Tuam Mother and Baby Home from 1925 to 1961 have agreed to contribute to the scheme — but as of yet, there is no confirmation of any secured deal.

'They promise us the sun, moon and stars'

Peter Mulryan, 79, spent four years in the Tuam Mother and Baby Hhome, before he was boarded out to a family who abused him.

Mr Mulryan, who lives in Ballinasloe, Co Galway, said: “The whole thing is a disgrace. I have never, ever received a penny from the State for the abuses and neglect I suffered.

“There isn’t a sign of anything. I am disgusted with it to be honest, what they are doing to us, they are playing a game of wait and die so they have less to give a few euros to.

“They promised us the sun moon and stars — first they promised a wellbeing payment, but I am a cancer survivor, and they didn’t renew my medical card. Instead, I’m on a GP card and I’m nearly 80.

They are only prolonging our agony — it hasn’t changed since the day we were born.

“They say they are giving us redress this year, I take that with a pinch of salt, how many times did they promise this that and the other, it never came they didn’t treat me well.

“They never even took my DNA either — it’s like everything else they are using delay tactics”.

Mr Mulryan was recently appointed to the advisory board for the forthcoming exhumation of the Tuam babies. The first meeting takes place on January 23 in Dublin and he will be working with the director Daniel McSweeney.

He continued: “I will voice my opinion at that, but we are nearly a year into it and the director of the exhumation only has a two-and-a-half-year contract. I don’t hold out much hope”.

'Some form of payment for even walking through the door'

Colleen Anderson was born in Sean Ross Abbey in 1965 and adopted to the US to a niece of the head nun, Sr Hildegarde, who ran the Roscrea home.

She was subjected to beatings and physical punishments until she ran away as a teenager and never went back home.

“My adoptive mother was very violent. She suffered with schizophrenia and while that doesn’t make you violent, I don’t think that adoption would go through today if that was the case. Either way, she beat me regularly and I ended up on the streets”.

Ms Anderson, who is now living in Ireland, which she calls “home”,  says she has little faith in the redress scheme.

“I am part of the scheme I’m assuming since I was at Sean Ross Abbey for a bit over two years. I feel, sad, hurt and a bit angry on what I think is discrimination on anyone, mother, or child at any of those institutions that were there less than six months, or boarded out.

“In my opinion every child, mother and family at some point were affected mentally and possibly physically, so as the saying goes, 'one for all and all for one'. I sincerely hope they get some sort of payment for even walking through the door, not by choice.”

'Dementia means my mother won't know about redress'

A UCC professor says it is “bitter-sweet” that his mother, who was in the Tuam home for more than three years, will never know about the redress scheme because she has dementia.

Margaret Garavan, nee Daly, who recently marked her 91st birthday, was admitted to a nursing home in recent years when she began to show signs of losing her memory.

The mother of six from Castlebar, Co Mayo, was one of seven children who was incarcerated in the Tuam Mother and Baby Home, before she was boarded out.

In the past decade, Mrs Garavan with the help of her son, Thomas, a lecturer in UCC has traced her six siblings, and was looking forward to receiving a redress payment before she died.

However, she will now never get to enjoy her redress.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Mr Garavan said: “The Government should hang their head in shame.

“It is so bitter sweet the whole thing” he said. “The Government knew about the scheme in 2021, but it only came into law last year. But by then it was just too late for my poor mother.

“She will never know about her compensation, she will never enjoy it, and neither will her sister, who also has dementia.

It really is a shameful thing, there was no need for all these delays and now women like my mother and her sister will never see a penny of that money.

In a statement, the Department of Children said: The Mother and Baby Institutions Payment Scheme will be the largest scheme of its type in the history of the State, with an anticipated 34,000 people eligible under its terms. Given its scale and significance, the scheme has been placed on a statutory footing as enabling legislation was signed into law in July this year.

“The Mother and Baby Institutions Payment Scheme is one element of a comprehensive package of support measures agreed by the Government as part of the Action Plan for Survivors and Former Residents of Mother and Baby and County Home Institutions.