OPINION: The scandal of the dreadful mother and baby homes, with a mass burial of babies in a septic tank, has exposed dark days for this country. Women were treated shabbily from the start by parents, religious orders, different governments and health boards and now the State must seen to do the right thing by looking after all the survivors in a proper and fully inclusive manner, says Kerry TD Danny Healy-Rae (pictured)
THIS has been a terrible time in the history of our State. It is 11 months since the commission of investigation delivered its final report on the mother and baby homes scandal and the payment scheme was finally published on Tuesday, 16 November.
It involves an €800 million redress payment for 34,000 survivors of mother and baby homes and county homes. However, we know from the response of the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth in the Dáil last week that an estimated 58,000 survivors of mother and baby homes are alive today. This means that the compensation scheme will not be available to 24,000 other survivors, including babies and women, who were in these homes.
These women were treated shabbily from the start by parents, religious orders, different governments and health boards. Many babies died from neglect and not getting the medical care or interventions that would have kept them alive.
Clearly, for the religious orders in the mother and baby homes, the money that they made was more important to them than keeping babies alive. Many babies were taken from their mothers and sold into adoption. Can you imagine that?
Last year, there was an effort made to keep the records from those trying to contact sons or daughters and, likewise, sons and daughters trying to find their mothers, and it was stated that they had been destroyed. It must be a divine right that a child is not impeded from finding out the identity of his or her mother or father. No arm of the State should in any way impede a person trying to get that information, if available.
What happened to the babies in Tuam, by way of mass burial in a septic tank, was absolutely terrible. I watched the RTÉ programme a week or so ago. It was horrific.
The government now wants survivors to put their signatures to what it is offering them by way of redress and is trying to ensure that there can be no further claims. This tells me that the government knows that what it is offering is in no way adequate. Why else would it be trying to get survivors to sign on the dotted line?
The scheme provides that unless a person was resident in a mother and baby home for more than six months prior to his or her being adopted, no redress will be payable. Who decided that a child would have to have been in a mother and baby home for six months or more?
A group of women contacted me in the past few days. They were outraged because one of them was in Bessborough for four months and another was there for five. They are being denied any redress. I would like to meet the person who set that time limit. Those who were boarded out to other homes are also not entitled to redress.
The government is not even halfway there. It must do right and be seen to do right. It must rectify the wrong that has been done, a savage wrong has been done to these survivors.
It is wrong that people would be left out regardless of whether they were there for a short period or for much less than six months. I cannot understand how the government thinks it is going to get away with this. What is on offer is not adequate.
I appeal to the minister to look at this again and ensure that all survivors, male or female, are looked after properly. The manner in which the government is going about this, in terms of requiring these people to sign on the dotted line that they are happy with what they are getting, leaves me in grave doubt as to what it is doing. I am very worried about it and I cannot stand over it.
I am glad to have the opportunity to speak on behalf of these misfortunates who have been treated so badly in our State and by many people in our State, and not that long ago. Many of them are still alive.
I am asking the minister to look at this again. I am not shouting or roaring – I am appealing to him to look at this in a fair way because what is happening in regard to denying those who were in the homes for less than six months is wrong.
I appeal to the minister to do what is right for those survivors. Now is the time – do not let it pass. Do not delay because many of these people are on their last legs.
Medical cards should be awarded to each and every one of them to ensure that while they did not get proper medical treatment at the time they were born into these homes, they will at least get it for the remaining days of their lives.