Northern Ireland news

Police probe 29 allegations around mother and baby homes in Northern Ireland

 Dr Maeve O'Rourke, Deirdre Mahon (Chair) and Professor Phil Scraton outside Stormont, at the official launch of Truth Recovery Design Panel Report entitled 'Mother and Baby Institutions, Magdalene Laundries and Workhouses in Northern Ireland - Truth, Acknowledgement and Accountability'
Rebecca Black, PA

The PSNI are probing 29 allegations of criminal activity around mother and baby homes.

Officers have received reports from a number of people who were adopted from different named institutions and also from some who either worked there or were residents within these institutions.

Last year, a major academic research report was published outlining the scale of mistreatment endured by thousands of women and girls in the institutions, the last of which closed in the 1990s.

Police launched an investigation into allegations of physical and sexual abuse involving the homes last October.

A spokesperson said all those who have come forward have been spoken to by a specialist detective from the Historic Child Abuse Unit within the Public Protection Branch and have been offered the opportunity to have their account recorded so that a criminal investigation can take place.

Detectives have encouraged more victims and witnesses to come forward, and are particularly keen to reach expats who now live outside Northern Ireland, including in Britain, US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Police have been working with the groups Truth Recover NI and Birth Mothers and their Children for Justice NI.

Maria Cogley, from the Truth Recovery Group said a number of their members have made statements to police.

“Establishing potential criminality is imperative, either during individuals’ confinement in one or more of the many types of NI institutions or as babies, now adults, born from an institution in Northern Ireland and subsequently adopted through coercive methods, fostered or boarded out or sent to institutions specifically for children,” she said.

“Truth Recovery NI is actively encouraging survivors to contact the Investigative Team.

“You will be able to share your experience with detectives in a safe, understanding and supportive environment.”

Adele Johnston, from Birth Mothers and their Children for Justice NI added: “This is a safe and confidential place to come forward, get information and support.”

Detective Superintendent Gary Reid also provided reassurance to encourage more victims and witnesses to come forward.

“We don’t want anyone to feel they have to suffer in silence anymore and we will continue to do all we can to reach as many people with this message as possible,” he said.

“If you were the victim of abuse in these Homes or know somebody who was, or if you witnessed criminal activity take place, please contact us.

“We care about what you have to say, will listen and support you, and will act to keep you and others safe.”

A dedicated reporting system has been set up.

The research report, by Queen’s University and Ulster University, found that more than 14,000 girls and women went through the doors of mother and baby homes, Magdalene laundries and other institutions between 1922 and 1990.

An expert panel has recommended a public inquiry into the matter as well as redress and access to files.

Last November, the then Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said the Stormont Executive was committed to implementing the recommendations.

However she said it would not be possible to advance legislation to set up the public inquiry until the new Assembly mandate later this year.

The Mother and Baby Homes and Magdalene Laundries Investigative Team can be contacted by email on or by phone on 02890 901728.

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