Friday, 18 August 2017

Starvation Orders

Taoiseach Éamon de Valera’s Starvation Order. The Emergency Powers (No 362) Order, which became enshrined in law as Section 13 of the Defence Forces (Temporary Provisions) Act, formally dismissed deserters, stripping them of pay, pension, and gratuity rights.
De Valera’s order was draconian in the extreme, depriving those who fought with the Allies the right to unemployment benefit or from obtaining any state or public sector employment for seven years. Not only were returning Irish soldiers disbarred from many kinds of work, they could not access their British demobilisation benefits.
Condemned in the Dáil by Fine Gael deputy leader Dr Thomas O’Higgins, as “an order stimulated by malice, seething with hatred, oozing with venom”, it came into effect on April Fool’s Day, 1946.
In a fiery speech aimed at defeating the order, O’Higgins thundered: “Any one of us who reads in the papers or knows anything of the horrors of war can have some little picture of what those men went through, of their experiences and their agonies.
“Yet, when the war is over, and when they come back, hoping to come back to a mother, to a young wife and to the little children, they find the government of this State stepping in to sentence them to seven years’ starvation, seven years’ destitution, and to find themselves branded, as far as the State can do so, as pariah dogs, as outcasts, untouchables, who cannot be employed or maintained here.
“They find the government of this State sentencing them to starvation or exile not for the crime of cowardice, not for the crime of deserting this nation in a time of danger, but for the crime of going to assist other nations in what they believed was a fight for the survival of Christianity in Europe.”
Records show 4,983 personnel deserted the Irish army during the war, although Dáil debates at the time put the figure at 7,000. Whatever the total, more than 4,000 of those who deserted joined the British services. Deserters who merely absconded and did not leave Ireland or who went to Britain to work did not face the kind of penalties endured by those who joined the Allied cause. Desertion was only punished if the soldier went on to serve with the British. The penalties only applied to enlisted men and not to Irish army officers who deserted and joined British forces.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

A UNITED NATIONS committee has criticised the government for its failure to undertake an independent investigation into allegations of ill-treatment at Magdalene Laundries.


A UNITED NATIONS committee has criticised the government for its failure to undertake an independent investigation into allegations of ill-treatment at Magdalene Laundries.
It said that it “deeply regrets” that the Irish State has failed to prosecute and punish perpetrators, which was a recommendation it had made previously.
Last month, Minister David Stanton told the UN Committee Against Torture that Ireland had a “strong human rights record” and hailed positive developments that have been made since the last report on the matter submitted to the UN in November 2015.
On the issue of investigations, accountability and redress in the context of Magdalene Laundries, the UN committee said that it had noted the creation of an “ex-gratia scheme that has provided over €25.5 million to 677 former Magdalene women to date”.
However, the committee also criticised the government for not undertaking an “independent, thorough and effective investigation” into the alleged ill-treatment of women and children in these institutions.
It said: “The committee is concerned at reports that the State party has not undertaken sufficient efforts to uncover all available evidence of abuses held by private institutions, nor taken adequate steps to ensure that victims are able to access information that could support their claims.
The committee is also concerned that the State party’s ex gratia payment scheme does not apply to all women who worked in the Magdalene Laundries.
The UN issued a number of recommendations to the government to address these failings.
This includes a “thorough, impartial investigation” into allegations of ill-treatment at these institutions, and ensuring that victims have the right to bring civil actions even if they’ve participated in the redress scheme.
On Mother and Baby Homes, the committee urged the government to “ensure that information concerning abuses in these institutions [...] be made accessible to the public to the greatest extent possible”.
The committee also recommended that the independence and effectiveness of the Garda Síochana Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) be strengthened and that efforts are made to reduce overcrowding and violence among Ireland’s prisoner population.
Recommendations are also made in the context of violence against women in Ireland, including guaranteeing that allegations of sexual and domestic violence are promptly investigated and the provision of sufficient funding for victims to access medical and legal services.
Dublin Rape Crisis Centre CEO Noeline Blackwell said: “The recommendations that have come out from the Committee would definitely help to reduce the risk of harm from sexual violence for victims.
The recommendations are sensible, balanced and modest. They can be implemented if there is political will to do so.


Friday, 14 July 2017

Summer Stars Reading Programme

Had fun at Celbridge library on Tues.morning :-)
From the libraries Ireland website below:
The Summer Stars programme provides the whole family with an opportunity to explore the full range of events and facilities which are available in their local library, such as story time sessions, children’s activities, access to talking books and games, computers and Internet access, and of course children’s books for all ages.Exciting events for children will also be held in public libraries during the summer. Check out your local library service or local library website for further information on local activities and events.

Monday, 26 June 2017

More horrific revelations

New Bessborough revelations show wider range of products tested on children

Previously unseen details of a medical trial by Glaxo in 1974 at a Cork mother and baby home have generated a whole new series of questions for the nuns and the companies involved, writes Conall Ó Fátharta.
For almost two decades, the public has been drip-fed revelations about medical testing by British pharmaceutical companies on children in care in Ireland.
These tests involved the trialling of various vaccine combinations by predecessor companies of pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) — Glaxo Laboratories and Burroughs Wellcome. These revelations generated more questions than answers — answers it is hoped the Mother and Baby Homes Commission can provide.
However, it has now emerged thashoot Glaxo Laboratories was also trialling other products on children here — namely lactose and baby formulas.
This occurred in 1974 in the Bessborough Mother and Baby Home in Cork and had never been made public. Once again, the revelation has generated lots of questions but few answers.
A trial sheet obtained by the Irish Examiner reveals that Glaxo Laboratories carried out a “clinical acceptability and safety trial” of “Golden Ostermilk and Lactose”, while a separate trial sheet reveals a trial of “overseas milk powders (by 0111)”.
The “clinician responsible” for the tests was Eithne Conlon — a local Cork GP who worked with the institution for many years.
The trial sheets recorded a range of reactions to the products. These included vomiting (slight, moderate, severe, or none), excessive regurgitation, wind (slight, moderate, severe, or none), stools (locae, normal, or constipated) and stool colour (yellow, grass green, olive green, yellow green, no stools, meconium, changing).
Other “abnormal conditions” were also noted. These included excessive crying, irritability, napkin rash, thrush, and others.
The latter trial sheet was contained in the records of Breda Bonass, who had sought information on her medical history from Tusla under Freedom of Information.
The former only came to light when Ms Bonass sought further information from Tusla.
However, this only confused matters further as the trial sheet for “Golden Ostermilk and Lactose” was found in the antenatal records of other women — and all contain identical details including patient numbers — something which the FOI officer told Ms Bonass was “perplexing”.
“In the majority of cases where this record was present the record was glued to another copy of the same record [front to front] and details about the respective baby’s feeding schedules, types of formula given, reactions to feeds, etc, were hand written on this paper,” said the FOI officer.
“When I pried the two sheets apart I noticed that these trial sheets all contained the exact same patient and trial numbers and identifying details as the trial sheet located in your file.”
Ms Bonass went to the religious order which ran Bessborough — the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary — and GSK looking answers.
The nuns responded via their solicitors, telling her they no longer held the records nor had any access to them and that she should go to Tusla.
GSK’s UK data protection section informed her that the data had been “destroyed” as the “retention period has already expired some years ago”.
The Irish Examiner contacted GSK in an effort to get answers as to why this trial was carried out in Ireland, how many children it involved and if consent was sought.
It responded by saying it was “unable to locate any records relating to a 1974 study” but that it had located records relating to a trial from 1967.
“The assumption therefore would be that the 1974 study’s purpose was to compare current milk powder with a newer formulation. The records contain no names or information about the children involved,” said GSK in a statement.
It had no documentation to explain why Ireland was chosen as a location, but that the 1967 trial was also carried out in the UK, Kenya, Argentina, Malaysia, “and probably more”.
With regard to the consent of mothers, GSK said that, due to the fact that it had no records, it could not confirm who gave consent but that its assumption was that it would have been “those Sisters running the homes as the legal guardians”.
Obtaining consent would been left to the doctor conducting the trial.
The company said that, to the best of its knowledge, no financial remuneration would have been provided to the Order for allowing children in its care to be used for the trial.
GSK said the identical sheets were probably blank forms or templates and that the information entered “appear to be codes, possibly relating to a spreadsheet collating all responses”.
It also confirmed that this was the first time it was made aware of this study and that it had not been asked to disclose it in any official capacity, “as this is clearly outside of the current Commission’s [Into Mother and Baby Homes] vaccines inquiry”.
That, of course, is technically correct. The Commission is only tasked with examining vaccine trials carried out by GSK legacy companies. This latest revelation confirms that it wasn’t just vaccines that were being tested on children in care here.
The involvement of Burroughs Wellcome and Glaxo Laboratories in trials on children in Mother and Baby Homes and other institutions is worth repeating.
It’s been a long tale which saw a previous State inquiry —the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (CICA) in 2000 — try and fail to fully investigate the matter.
Before that inquiry was halted following a Supreme Court ruling in 2002, GSK had confirmed just three vaccine trials in the 1960s and 1970s involving more than 250 children.
In 2011, in a response to an RTÉ investigation, it acknowledged a fourth trial but stated that this was the only other clinical trial sponsored by Wellcome using children in institutions in Ireland.
However, in 2014, documents uncovered by Michael Dwyer of UCC’s School of History revealed a fifth trial of a measles vaccine on 34 children took place in 1965.
It was carried out by Irene Hillary and Patrick Meenan of UCD’s microbiology department and AJ Beale of Glaxo Laboratories. The UCD academics (both now deceased) were also involved in the first two vaccine trials also.
Earlier that year, Dr Dwyer also discovered evidence that Wellcome had carried out vaccine trials on more than 2,000 Irish children in 24 residential institutions between 1930 and 1935.
Despite this, the Inter-Departmental Group on Mother and Baby Homes published in 2014 only referred to three vaccine trials. It also failed to mention a 1965 trial of a 5-in-1 vaccine carried out on Philip Delaney at Bessborough Mother and Baby Home in Cork.
Questions around the involvement of British pharmaceutical companies in vaccine trials in Ireland have been popping up in the media for almost three decades now.
They first hit the headlines in the 1990s, but it wasn’t until 1997 that then health minister Brian Lenihan gave an undertaking that the matter would be examined.
This resulted in the Kiely Report in 2000, by Jim Kiely, chief medical officer of the Department of Health, which confirmed three trials had been conducted on behalf of the pharmaceutical company the Wellcome Foundation.
The i nstitutions involved were Wellcome Laboratories in Britain, the Department of Medical Microbiology in UCD, and the Eastern Health Board.
The first trial took place between December 1960 and November 1961 in four Mother and Baby Homes — St Patrick’s on the Navan Road in Dublin (14 children), Bessborough in Cork (25 children), Castlepollard in Westmeath (six children), and Dunboyne (nine children).
Four children from Stamullen baby home in Meath were also used for this trial.
The purpose of the trial was to look at the response the children would have to a 4-in-1 vaccine — diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, and polio.
The second trial involved 69 children from St Anne’s Industrial School in Booterstown in Dublin being administered an intranasal rubella vaccine. A further 53 children from the wider community in Kilcullen in Westmeath were also used in this trial.
The first two trials were carried out by Prof Hillary and Prof Meenan from the department of Microbiology in UCD, as well as other doctors.
The third trial involved 53 children in a number of residential institutions in Dublin including St Patrick’s Home, Madonna House, Bird’s Nest, and Boheenaburna.
A total of 65 children living at home in Dublin also received the vaccine.
The aim of the third trial was to compare commercially available batches of the 3-in-1 vaccine — Trivax and Trivax D — with that of equivalent vaccines prepared for the trial. There is no published paper or report of this trial, but the Eastern Health Board was aware it was being conducted.
Dr Kiely’s report in 2000 concluded that, given the conditions which the vaccines sought to counter, the decision to conduct the trials was “acceptable and reasonable”.
However, Dr Kiely said there was a lack of documentation available to clarify whether consent was either obtained or sought from the parents of the children or the managers of the institutions.
However, an entry in the 1962 British Medical Journal concerning the first trial seems to confirm that parental consent was not sought.
“We are indebted to the medical officers in charge of the children’s homes for permission to carry out this investigation on infants under their care,” it wrote.
Responding to the Kiely Report in 2000, Prof Hillary said it was her “invariable practice at the time to obtain consent of the competent authority”, be it the mother, the manager, or the medical officer.
However, no record of written consent has been acknowledged. The religious orders who ran the homes involved in the trials have also denied that they authorised any clinical trials.
Of the victims of the vaccine trials who have located their natural mothers, all mothers have said they were not asked for their permission.
In 2000, then minister for children Micheál Martin admitted the Kiely report was “incomplete” and raised “as many questions as it answered”.
However, despite this, Mr Martin reassured the Dáil that the trials appeared to have had no medically negative consequences for any of the children involved.
In an effort to deal with the matter, the Government decided to extend the terms of reference of CICA.
This was done despite objections that the trials could not adequately be dealt with by an inquiry looking primarily into physical and sexual abuse.
The ‘Vaccines Module’ of CICA began investigating in early 2002.
It obtained documentation from GSK — the successor of Wellcome — and identified the names and addresses of some of those involved in the trials.
It also sought records from a range of religious orders who were caring for the children used in the trials.
In November of last year, the Irish Examiner revealed that the files of vaccine trial victims from Bessborough involved in the 1960/61 4-in-1 vaccine were altered just weeks after the CICA sought discovery of records from the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.
The document listing the changes opens with: “8.8.02 Checked the 20 files.” This is immediately followed by: “9.8.02 Made the changes.”
The changes made to files Nos 5, 8, 11, 12, and 15-20 are then detailed.
The changes include:
  • The alteration of discharge dates of mothers (by a period of one year and two years):
  • The changing of discharge dates of children;
  • The changing of admission dates of mothers;
  • The alteration of the age of a mother (by two years);
  • The alteration of dates of adoption;
  • The changing of baptism dates and location of baptism;
  • The insertion of certain named locations and information into admission books.
In a series of statements, the order said it wished to “categorically state that no documents were altered”.
“In your recent correspondence, you are suggesting that something illegal or inappropriate had occurred in regard to the documents to which you refer. This is entirely untrue; and we will continue to deal directly with the official commission on all such matters,” said a statement.
This document listing the changes was discovered in the Bessborough archive handed over to the HSE by the nuns in 2011.
It wasn’t discovered until 2016 — some 13 years after CICA’s investigation into the vaccine trials was suspended.
This occurred after the probe was hit with a Supreme Court ruling which upheld Prof Meenan’s challenge against a High Court order directing him to give evidence before the inquiry.
The court also criticised the decision to ask the commission to examine the vaccine trials in the first place, stating they had “only the most tenuous connection, if any, with the appalling social evil of the sexual and physical abuse of children in institutions, which was the specific area into which the commission was established to inquire”.
Mr Justice Hardiman stated that Prof Meenan’s involvement in vaccine trials related only to one trial in 1960/61 and that the issue of the “reputational damage” associated with being involved with a commission primarily looking at sexual abuse had to be considered.
Following this, Prof Hillary challenged the Government’s order directing an investigation into the vaccine trials and when the the Government declined to appeal this decision, the work of the Vaccines Module ceased in November 2003.
However, at the time, many people believed there were far more than three trials carried out by Wellcome here.
The Third Interim Report from CICA in December 2003 confirmed as much when it stated that the documentation it received from GSK “disclosed a considerable amount of information in relation to other vaccine trials conducted in the State”.
When RTÉ’s Prime Time asked the pharmaceutical giant about this statement in 2011, it confirmed a fourth trial had taken place in 1965. This trial involved giving differing doses of the measles vaccine to 12 babies aged between nine and 19 months in the Sean Ross Abbey mother-and-baby home in Tipperary.
GSK stated that this fourth trial was the only other clinical trial sponsored by Burroughs Wellcome using children in institutions in Ireland.
Then, in 2014, the Irish Examiner revealed a fifth trial also occurred during this period.
An article in The Lancet medical journal in August 1965, discovered by Dr Dwyer confirms that Glaxo Laboratories Ltd carried out another measles vaccine trial on 34 children aged between eight months and just over two years.
The trial was carried out by Prof Hillary and Prof Meenan and AJ Beale of Glaxo Laboratories. It is also the first trial which confirms Glaxo Laboratories involvement in a vaccine trial.
The report does not mention an institution. However, it makes reference to the fact that the reaction to the vaccine were monitored by “the adults looking after the children”.
It also says examinations were done on the children from day six to 14 at the same time — 6pm — indicating the children were in a group setting.
However, in response, GSK disagreed that these references amounted to evidence that the trial was carried out on children in care.
The pharmaceutical giant pointed out that, in other papers by the same investigator, it was stated explicitly that the study was carried out on children in care. GSK said if it had any evidence that this trial was carried out on children in care, it would have handed it over to the CICA at the time.
So, three years on, we now know that it wasn’t just vaccines that were being tested on children in Ireland’s Mother and Baby Homes.
Now, we know that clinical acceptability and safety trials of lactose, Golden Ostermilk and “overseas baby powders” were being trialled in at least one Mother and Baby Home.
Can and will the commission examine this latest development? Why was a British company testing such products in Ireland?
Were religious orders benefiting financially by allowing children in their care to be involved in such trials? Was the consent of mothers obtained, or was it even sought?
The Mother and Baby Homes commission did not respond to a request for comment.

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Link to article

Monday, 12 June 2017

Bookworms Book Festival - Co.Roscommon

Cloontuskert NS, Lanesboro, Co Roscommon.  

Cloontuskert NS, Lanesboro, Co Roscommon.


Ballyfeeney NS, Scramogue, Co Roscommon.

I love visiting small, rural schools and will  always make the effort if I get an invitation. 

Thanks also to Roscommon County Council and hope the rest of Bookworms Children's Literary Festival went well.

Ballyfeeney NS, Scramogue, Co Roscommon.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Sinn Fein at the Clayton Hotel

 From The Galway Advertiser

Not really sure what the purpose of this meeting is at this particular point in time but will go along to the Clayton Hotel on Thursday at 8pm to find out. Strange, that issues relating to Tuam aren't going to be discussed in Tuam.
Issues arising from an investigation at the former mother and baby home in Tuam, which found “significant” quantities of human remains in structures designed to contain sewage, will be the subject of a public meeting in Galway this week.
Sinn Féin vice president Mary Lou McDonald will speak at the meeting, entitled In Searching For Truth, in the Clayton Hotel, Ballybrit, this Thursday [June 8] at 8pm. Survivors and their supporters, elected representatives, local authority, and State agency officials have been invited to attend.
The meeting will outline what the current state of play is in regards to issues around the interim Report of the Commission for Investigation; the Government response; and difficulties being experienced accessing information and records from local authorities and state agencies.
"This scandal has affected so many families in the west of Ireland and the State apparatus is frustrating the efforts of those people to find the truth about what happened to them, their loved ones, and why," said SF senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh, who will chair the meeting. "We need to help them find the truth. It is extremely important the public educate themselves in relation to the huge injustices that happened, and are still happening, to those who suffered in the mother and baby homes and this meeting will be an opportunity for the general public and others to show their support in a practical way."
Dep McDonald will also launch a discussion document compiled by Sen Ó Clochartaigh entitled Investing in the Public Hospitals Services in Galway. This will be in the Teach Solais Resource Centre at Victoria Place, Merchants Road, at 11am on Thursday morning. She will also be having a number of private meetings with different representative organisations while in Galway.

Friday, 2 June 2017

Minister Zappone's Statement on Mother and Baby Homes - Dáil Éireann, Houses of the Oireachtas 1st June 2017

From Oireachtas debates
Minister Katherine Zappone

Three years ago this week, a brave local historian shared her research with a discerning and intuitive journalist. A brave survivor was also willing to tell her story. We all read, watched and listened as the shocking details unfolded of a mass grave in the grounds of the former mother and baby home in Tuam, County Galway. In the intervening three years, we have received confirmation that the remains in Tuam are human and that they date from the same time the mother and baby home was open. I warmly welcome to the debate those who are here and those watching from afar. There are people, including survivors, advocates, family and friends, who would like to be here but who cannot attend. I admire greatly the courage of those who have shared very personal and compelling accounts of their experiences. With former residents, their loved ones, supporters and campaigners, I add my voice to the collective determination to dispel the secrecy and shame so unjustly experienced by vulnerable mothers and their children. I offer a special welcome to Catherine Corless whose incredible research and persistence in seeking the truth for those with no voice has been rightly applauded. Many of those on the site in Tuam never got to speak during their short lives. Through Catherine, the survivors and their advocates, they have now been given a voice. On a personal level, I am grateful for her generosity to me and many others in giving of her time to explain, advise and guide.

As the tragic discovery of infant remains at the site of the former home in Tuam continues to be absorbed, I am mindful that there are many deeply personal issues which those directly affected rightly want the Government to address. The Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes was set up as a direct response to the Tuam research. I record my sincere thanks to Judge Yvonne Murphy, Dr. William Duncan and Professor Mary Daly for their valuable contribution and commitment to the public interest in this sensitive work. They have my full support and that of the Government. I have visited the site in Tuam on a number of occasions and I am acutely aware that many people are experiencing a great deal of anxiety and anticipation about what might happen next at the site. Many of those in the Visitors Gallery and watching at home are the people who will be most impacted on by the decision on what we do next. Most importantly, I am determined that any action taken must respect the memory and dignity of the deceased children who lived their short lives in the home. I recognise the diversity of views on and concerns about how this might best be achieved.
My preference which I know is shared by most people is to encourage and support efforts to build towards a consensus on the next steps to be taken. We can only do this with full knowledge, or at least as much knowledge and information as we can garner. As I have said previously, we need expert technical guidance on international best practice in this highly specialised area. We need to know what is possible. If there is consensus to return the site to how it was before the commission undertook its test excavation and to erect an appropriate memorial, we will not require technical advice. If we decide to go for a full excavation, we will need advice on how to do it. If there is consensus that we should recover the infant remains and try to identify them, we will need to know if that is possible. We have made too many decisions in the dark in this country, but we are not going to do it again in Tuam. We need the experts to tell us what is possible. We need people who have done this type of very specialised work before. Therefore, I am very pleased to be able to say I have appointed Niamh McCullagh, forensic archaeologist, to lead the work. She will bring together a team of international experts in juvenile osteoarchaeology, forensic anthropology, DNA analysis and archaeology to provide us with the necessary advice. I am publishing the team's terms of reference today. Ms McCullagh is an Irish based expert with extensive national and international experience, including work with the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains in Ireland. Significantly, she already has a detailed understanding of the site as she led the commission team which located, identified and conducted the preliminary excavations in Tuam. The knowledge she already has of the site means that her work and that of her team will proceed quickly. Further details of the membership of the team are provided in the written text I have circulated to Members.
The expert team will consult additional experts, as it considers appropriate. It will arrange further geophysical surveys to examine the extent of potential burials on the site. We need to know, once and for all, if there are remains in the area outside that confirmed by the commission. I will receive an initial technical report by the end of June and a more detailed report on options for the future will be submitted to me by the end of September. The team will provide its technical advice in layperson's language in order that we can all understand the options for the site and what each such option would entail. Information is power and the expert reports will be available to everyone. When we are all speaking the same language, there will be a much better chance of reaching a consensus. There will be consultation and this will be a transparent process.
Improved communication is an area in which we need to do better. Survivors and their families have rightly been critical of hearing information in the media in advance of being alerted personally. I understand this and have tried to find a solution. Our proposed solution is to provide regular updates on the programme of work relating to mother and baby homes. This work raises issues which necessarily involve multiple Departments and agencies and we have asked them to co-operate with us. Our plan is to co-ordinate and centralise a number of communications initiatives to allow developments to be publicised in a timely manner. Starting from July, I will publish a monthly update which will be available on my Department's website on the first Friday of every month.
Following the publication of the second interim report of the mother and baby homes commission, I said I would hold detailed consultations with those who were resident as children without their mothers in mother and baby homes and county homes. I am pleased to announce that I have appointed an experienced qualified facilitator with an international reputation to help me with these consultations. He will help us to explore the nature of services and supports available in the area of health and well-being which may be of genuine and practical value. This series of consultations will provide a safe forum for former residents in which to raise their concerns directly with me and my officials.
Starting from tomorrow, my Department will issue an open invitation to former residents and those with personal connections to these institutions, seeking expressions of interest to participate in this process. The facilitator will hold meetings in Dublin and other parts of the country, depending on the level of expressions of interest from those involved. I have heard directly and indirectly of some ideas that people have, but this will be the forum to air these views and suggestions. The outcome of these meetings will inform my proposals to Government in order that we can have appropriate supports in place as quickly as possible. I want to start this process quickly and look forward to meeting stakeholders on 30 June.
I know that some people are trying to find out when they were in particular mother and baby homes. I have asked Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, to increase its capacity for the provision of this information to help former residents get access to it. We have put in place the necessary funding for Tusla to undertake this work. This new arrangement is separate to the ongoing legislative reforms that are before the Oireachtas to facilitate wider access to adoption records under the Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill 2016. I am working with colleagues on this Bill which will give people wider access to adoption records. I know that this is so important to so many people and hope my colleagues will support me in getting it through.
Recent months have taught me that we need to look beyond the legal questions surrounding mother and baby homes, important and all as they are. Finding the truth is crucial, but we need to deal with that truth when we find it. We need to process it and respond to it. I am very pleased that Dr. James Gallen of the school of law and government in Dublin City University is assisting me in this regard. We are working together on this and I will respond more comprehensively when we have Dr. Gallen’s final report which I hope will help us to find a new path forward. In the meantime, I am moving forward with one of Dr. Gallen’s excellent proposals. I am asking my Government colleagues to support me in inviting the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, reparation and guarantee of non-recurrence, Pablo de Greiff, to visit Ireland. Dr. de Greiff has extensive experience and insights which I believe will help me as a Minister and us as a Government to promote truth, justice and reparation, as he has done with a wide range of other governments. He could help ensure we are taking the right approach in terms of our response into the future.
I have said I am open to considering whether broader terms of reference for the commission would help to answer some of the questions which have been raised again in public debate. Over the summer months, I will undertake a scoping review on the possible extension of the terms of reference.
How we respond to the past is about much more than the Tuam or other mother and baby homes. It is about all of us. It is about us as people and the choices we make. These are personal choices or they are choices we make through the people we have elected. It is about our humanity. It is about our empathy. I sometimes wonder, if I am around in 2027 or 2037, what will I see being said about 2017 on “Reeling in the Years". Will 2017 be the year that the international media descended on Tuam as we once again declared our outrage at past deeds? Will it be instead the year when we faced up, womaned up and manned up, and decided that we will do things better? This is a defining moment for us. As a member of the Government, and the only Independent woman Member in Government, I feel a huge sense of responsibility to begin to heal the fractured trust between citizens and the State. It is time that someone shouted "Stop". It is time that we all shouted "Stop". I believe a model of transitional justice will help us move forward.

following contributions by other members of the House, Minister Zappone responded as follows:

 thank all of the Deputies for their comments, reflections and questions. As Deputy O'Sullivan and others indicated, we have discussed this issue many times in this Chamber. It is really important for me to listen to the issues that Deputies raise as we all try to identify the best way and what kinds of actions we need to do in order to move forward when we think about and try to uncover the meaning of the past. I am grateful for that. I will address some of the common themes that I have heard. If I do not answer all of the questions posed, I will be happy to do that in another forum.
One of the main themes coming through, on which we are all agreed, is that the people who have been most impacted by the issues that we are debating and discussing ought to be at the centre of everything that we do. That is why I am so grateful that so many of them have come to be with us today. I was struck by Deputy Catherine Murphy's comments about how we name the people who are at the centre. I know that lots of different language has been used, including victims, survivors, family, advocates of family and so forth. I hope that as we move forward - and that is what I have tried to indicate in terms of the actions that I have identified that we will be doing on the basis of a lot of work in the past few months to take these actions - that there will be more and more engagement with survivors and family in order that what it is that we decide to do as we move forward to the best of our ability will be as a result of bringing together as best we can a consensus in relation to whatever the issues are.
In terms of Tuam, the decision that we are taking as a Government to move forward, particularly in relation to the site, is a very big one. It is important to get technical advice on what it is that they are going to do. I met with Ms McCullagh before coming into the Chamber. She explained that this type of technical work has not been done anywhere else in the world. She described to me a lot of the technical, scientific and engineering complexities that are going to be engaged in this regard. That is why it was important to pull together a number of international experts in order to try to get as much information as we can in order to offer the information that comes in the most understandable language for all of us, so that we know what it is that these scientists are suggesting to us in terms of what is possible. Ms McCullagh spoke about what is possible from the least intrusive option, which is to do nothing and indeed there are some people who want that, to the most intrusive option, namely a fuller excavation and exhumation, with attempts to identify the remains. We need to know what is actually involved in that in order to understand what is possible. I asked for that initial report outlining some of the basics of those options by the end of June, which is pretty quick given the context, in order that we can have an outline of the options which can feed into the consultations that will go on in relation to the process in Tuam with the people and particularly the families and survivors, as well as the residents. Galway County Council will also be involved. That is relatively quick but it is important that the information is part of it as we move forward. I hope that even that kind of process is finally more respectful of dealing with the people who are at the centre of this.
Many Deputies spoke about the fact that I would like to invite the UN Special Rapporteur on transitional justice, reparation and truth to visit. I have indicated explicitly that I am going to ask my Cabinet colleagues to support that invitation. We have not yet issued the invitation but I am heartened to hear that Deputies agree that we should do so. I believe international expertise could be extremely helpful to us in terms of the wider responses to issues raised by the mother and baby homes and the commission of investigation itself. Dr. de Greiff, prior to becoming Special Rapporteur was director of research at the International Center for Transitional Justice. He has extensive experience on these issues in lots of countries. I believe such a visit would reflect the commitment of this Government to our people, both at home and abroad and will demonstrate that we are willing to work with the United Nations on our own territory in relation to issues of potential human rights abuses and also the ways in which we can respond to this. We do have some transitional justice measures already in place but more may be required in terms of moving forward, particularly in relation to a truth commission, which we debated in the context of a very helpful motion put forward by Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire previously. It is my personal wish that we could have something like that established. It would be very helpful for us to have some expertise to draw on in terms of the best possible way to do that, given the fact that we have a commission of investigation that is still ongoing. I hope that if we invite Dr. de Greiff he will help us to look at how we can move forward in relation to responding. While we are not exactly at the beginning, when the commission of investigation reports in February of 2018 that will be a big milestone. However, it is still perhaps an earlier period and there may be many more things that we need to do in order to truly respond to the issues that are being raised.
Many Deputies identified the issue of redress in the context of the second interim report. Let me be clear that what the commission was recommending was the opening up of the residential institutions redress scheme to children who were resident in the main mother and baby homes without their mothers, that is, to unaccompanied children. That is the language that was used. It was said that those children should have had access to the redress scheme, using the same logic as for other institutions that were included in that. As I have said before, I personally agreed with that analysis. However, I ultimately decided, with my Cabinet colleagues, that the redress scheme was not the best option for those unaccompanied children or children who were without their mothers in mother and baby homes and county homes. I outlined the reasons for that decision earlier. According to the residential institutions redress scheme, they would have to demonstrate a certain level of abuse and they would have to have been much younger - between the ages of zero and three years. Furthermore, there has not been any definite declaration by the commission of investigation of findings of abuse. That is not to say the commission will not do that. What I want to stress is that I was not at all ruling out redress. The commission of investigation will submit its report in February 2018. It may recommend redress in that report but equally, it may not. It is at that stage that we look at that issue more fully and learn from the ways in which the State has offered or attempted to offer redress in the past in various schemes. That is why, having said "No" for that particular group, we asked what we could do and whether there was a way to offer any other form of support, including health and well being support. We are beginning a consultation process with former residents to try to identify the most helpful forms of health and well-being supports.
I heard also that it would be useful to open that to a wider group of people. We will be taking a look at that. Deputy Clare Daly asked about the timeframe in that regard. We are beginning on 30 June. I hope to bring proposals to the Cabinet in the fall. We have not set an exact timeframe yet because we are not certain how many people want to be consulted. Where that is the case, we want to be as inclusive as possible.
As I think I am out of time, I cannot address all the other issues that have been raised. I have tried to identify a number of actions to move forward with the Government's ongoing response to the mother and baby homes issue. I will say in conclusion that I believe issues relating to the separation of church and State are critical. I acknowledge the great deal of work that has been done by Deputy Bríd Smith and her colleagues in that regard. We do not necessarily need to put down the church as we attempt to separate it from the State. However, this separation is necessary. I hope that will be part of this process as we move forward with it.


Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Article for the JOURNAL by Conrad Bryan

This article especially resonated with me as it encapsulates a plan of action which has already been tried and tested in other countries and gives a fantastic overview. I am also mixed race of South African heritage and don't often come across others with such a particular blend ;-) so that's cool too.

AS A FORMER child resident of a mother and baby home in the 1960s, I am very concerned at how “Institutional Ireland” is still failing survivors of residential institutions.
The announcement by the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, that he is planning to give ownership of the new National Maternity Hospital to the Sisters of Charity order is deeply disappointing. This Order was named in the 2009 Ryan Report on child abuse which stated that they “never issued a general public apology in respect of child abuse” and it still has not fully paid its 5 million debt to the redress scheme.
The Minister for Children, Katherine Zappone, also said recently that she would not consider redress for survivors under the 2002 redress scheme. This is despite there being unaccompanied children who spent their whole childhood lives in these and other institutions, after exiting mother and baby homes, who were not in the previous redress scheme.
Others were in institutions that are being excluded from the list for investigation. Mothers of forced/illegal adoptions also have genuine grievances.
Transitional Justice
The Minister for Children also said that she is considering “Transitional Justice” as a means of giving voice to former residents of the mother and baby homes and to raise public awareness and understanding of this sad period in our history. While I welcome this initiative, I am not aware of anyone who simply wants to give “voice” to their stories in public. They just want truth and justice.
Presently, there seems to be a deep frustration with institutional Ireland who simply do not know how to deal with survivors and the trauma and legacy of institutional abuse and neglect. There seems to be a “them and us” mentality between State and survivor, leading to a real sense of hopelessness as to what to do and how to move forward.
The reason I welcomed the transitional justice idea is that I know it means much more than just giving victims a “voice”. Historically, it has always been about seeking truth and justice for past wrongs and human rights abuses. More importantly, it has also been about accountability, healing and reconciliation. We can learn a lot from the transitional justice model of the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions (TRC) in Canada and South Africa.
This proposal reminded me of my black grandparents in South Africa. During the Apartheid regime they were forcefully removed from their home in Sofiatown, Johannesburg, as their township was regarded by the State as a “black spot in a white area”.
The TRC raised many questions for me about the long-term value of it to black people in South Africa. Some of my relatives feel too many people got away with impunity as the TRC granted amnesties and some people are still looking for the remains of their loved ones even to this day. However, the TRC has been credited with bringing stability and enhanced understanding of the human rights abuses in South Africa.
In Canada, the Truth and Reconciliation commission made significant recommendations about how to deal with national reconciliation with their aboriginal people. Many were placed in residential institutions where they were abused or neglected. Their cultural identities were erased as a way of assimilating them into a European Christian culture. Stories of our own Irish children of African/mixed-race and Traveller heritage who were put into institutions resonate.
I believe we too could benefit from some form of national reconciliation process. One that would include all parties: the State, the Church, and family relatives and the public. Many knew what was happening back then.
What would this reconciliation process look like?
If we look to the Canadian experience, we would set up the Irish Museum for Human Rights to reflect stories and histories of mother and baby homes, Magdalene laundries, industrial schools etc. The design and management of it would take full account of the views and sensitivities of survivors. It would also include a separate space for histories of other human rights struggles like Traveller, LGBT, and women’s rights. The Church and State would also be reflected, for example I would like to know stories from nuns about pressure to enter convents, and stories about the role of politicians.
This museum would act as a space for public learning and reflection so these abuses do not happen again. It would also hold death registers and information on cemeteries at the institutions around Ireland and provide genealogy service for relatives and descendants. The design of the museum  would take full account of the wishes and views of survivors.
There would also be a National Research Centre or Truth and Reconciliation centre where people and former residents can do research on residential institutions. It would hold archives from all investigations. It would also act as a learning centre. There would be a commitment from State and Church authorities that this past would be written into the history books at schools, colleges and seminaries.
Finally to show it is serious about this issue, the government could take ownership of the last Magdalene Laundry site on Sean McDermott Street in Dublin for the above Museum, T&C Centre and memorial. This would go some way towards healing and mutual understanding as well as putting human rights at the centre of Irish life.
Conrad Bryan is a board member and treasurer of the charity Irish in Britain which represents and supports the Irish community across the UK, particularly vulnerable groups. He is also on the board of AMRI , the Association of Mixed Race Irish, which works to raise awareness of this small community of people with mixed parentage. Outside his charitable activities Conrad is employed in the travel technology sector and is currently living in London. He was born in Ireland of Irish South African heritage.


See below the objectives of Transitional Justice according to Wikipedia


The primary objective of a transitional justice policy is to end the culture of impunity and establish the rule of law in a context of democratic governance. The legal and human rights protection roots of transitional justice impute certain legal obligations on states undergoing transitions. It challenges such societies to strive for a society where respect for human rights is the core and accountability is routinely practiced as the main goals. In the context of these goals, transitional justice aims at:
  • Halting ongoing human rights abuses;
  • Investigating past crimes;
  • Identifying those responsible for human rights violations;
  • Imposing sanctions on those responsible (where it can);
  • Providing reparations to victims;
  • Preventing future abuses;
  • Security Sector Reform;
  • Preserving and enhancing peace; and
  • Fostering individual and national reconciliation.
In general, therefore, one can identify eight broad objectives that transitional justice aims to serve: establishing the truth, providing victims a public platform, holding perpetrators accountable, strengthening the rule of law, providing victims with compensation, effectuating institutional reform, promoting reconciliation, and promoting public deliberation.