Northern Ireland news

Pressure on Executive for mother and baby home inquiry

The site of baby graves on the fringes on Milltown Cemetery in west Belfast is believed to hold hundreds of unbaptised babies and infants, buried between the 1940s and early 1980s. Picture Mal McCann.

Later this week the Stormont Executive will decide whether to call a public inquiry into the incarceration of women and children in mother and baby homes in Northern Ireland.

Earlier this month the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation published their report following a five year probe into the homes in the Republic, which were mainly run by the Catholic Church.

As a result taoiseach Micheal Martin issued an apology to women held in mother and baby homes and Magdalene Laundries, saying they had been failed by the state.

There are now calls for a inquiry into the homes for unmarried mothers that existed in Northern Ireland until the early 1980s – including institutions run by the Catholic Church, the Church of Ireland and the Salvation Army.

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Pregnant girls as young as 13-years-old were sent to the institutions where there was high rates of infant mortality.

Many of the babies who died in the Catholic run homes were placed in an unmarked grave at Milltown Cemetery's Bog Meadows.

The Stormont Executive is expected to receive a report about institutions north of the border this week and will then decide whether to call a public inquiry.

Claire McKeegan, of Phoenix Law, represents around 40 survivors of the mother and baby institutions.

Among the clients she represents are two women, Theresa Bell and 'Jennifer' who have spoken to the Irish News about their experiences.

"These women's stories are not isolated. So many of our clients share very similar harrowing testimonies", she said.

"The UN committee against torture has criticised Northern Ireland government’s ongoing failure to implement a Human Rights compliant investigation into these institutions.

"Unlike in the South, so far the Executive have ignored the calls for a public inquiry.

"These women and their babies were subjected to horrific abuses and violations including forced labour and forced adoption of their babies.

"Without further delay the government should call the public inquiry that these women deserve and establish a redress scheme", she added.

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Northern Ireland news