Mother and Baby Homes History in Ireland

Coleman Legal provides an overview of the history surrounding the Mother and Baby Homes in Ireland, beginning with the setting up of the Commission and up to and including the events surrounding the delivery of the Commission’s long-awaited report and the controversy surrounding it.

How can we help?

Norman Spicer is the lead solicitor assisting members of the survivor community with all matters surrounding the mother and baby homes redress and adoption

Free Phone: 1800 844 104
Email: [email protected]

Mother and Baby Homes History in Ireland – Introduction

To appreciate how, and more importantly, why there is such controversy over the findings in the report, we must go back to the formation of the Commission and its terms of reference.

The terms of reference are the roadmap within which the Commission was to navigate its work. This gave authority to the Commission to carry out its function, namely to investigate and to report its findings to the Government on the institutions and wider society at the time.

One of the many powers and objectives the Commission had was to set up a confidential committee. This was to operate in tandem with the Commission and operated as a mechanism whereby survivors could give their evidence while remaining unidentified in the report

However, it later emerged that the commission gave little (if any) weight to the hundreds of accounts given to it by former residents of the institutions. This will be discussed in detail below.

Commission and Report

In January 2021, the Commission of Inquiry into Mother & Baby Homes released its final report.  A number of the findings and conclusions of the report have been marred by controversy and public outcry.

The long-awaited report took six years to be published. Following several controversial extensions, the Commission immediately set about seeking to close the book on this tragic and often cruel chapter of Ireland’s history.

However, it appears that the members of the commission and indeed the government failed to appreciate immediately just how significant some of the omissions in the report are or were to become soon after.

The omissions discussed in this piece go to the root of the findings of the report and place a serious question mark over its credibility and, indeed over a significant number of its conclusions.

The Commission failed to appropriately manage communication to and with the survivors, particularly when it came to the testimony given to them over the years.

That coupled with their refusal to appear before the Oireachtas, have rightly cast a significant shadow over not only the individuals who made up the Commission, but also the Government itself.

In this piece Norman Spicer, a solicitor representing a number of survivors discusses the problems with the report and provides an update on where things stand at present.

The Commission & Tuam

We have more than 30 years of collective experience pursuing claims for those affected by the legacy of Ireland’s shameful past.

One of the reasons the Commission was set up was due to the considerable efforts of local historian Catherine Corless.

Ms. Corless first raised the alarm regarding deaths and burials on the grounds of the former mother and baby home that was operated by the Bon Secours order in Tuam Co. Galway.

The Commission was made up of 3 members. These included Judge Yvonne Murphy (Chair), Professor Mary Daly (Retired Professor of History), and Dr. William Duncan (retired Professor of Law). It took almost 6 years to deliver its report at a cost of around €13.5 million.

The report was delivered on the 12th of January 2021 [1] after several delays.

How we can help?

Coleman Legal has been working with many clients over the past five years who have been residents in Mother and Baby Homes and County Homes, both as mothers and as children.

We are currently liaising with our clients on the recent announcement and are reviewing documents received from our clients. Anybody who has not filled out paperwork will be asked to do so. These forms can be emailed or posted out to you for convenience. This will allow us to get your paperwork ready so that no time is wasted when the scheme opens. We will prepare your application to the Scheme on your behalf and submit it to the State body administering it.

Applications & Documents

It is also important to note that records evidencing your time at the institution will be needed as part of the application. These are generally available through Tusla at this link.

Legal Fees

Coleman Legal will not charge our clients a fee for handling their applications to The Mother and Baby Institutions Payment Scheme or for any other associated work or advice.

Contacted us at:

Coleman Legal LLP

84 Talbot Street, Dublin 1
D01 YX60
DX 112002

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Norman Spicer

Norman Spicer

Senior Solicitor

(1800) 844 104
[email protected]

”Norman Spicer is the lead solicitor assisting members of the survivor community with all matters surrounding the mother and baby homes redress and adoption.”

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Timeline Mother and Baby Homes Redress in Ireland

Below is a timeline with links to the various reports and articles discussed in the piece.

17th February 2015

The Commission of Investigation is established and is chaired by Judge Yvonne Murphy. The Commission is set up to examine records from 14 mother and baby homes and 4 County homes. The Commission has a final report deadline of February 2018.

12th June 2016

The first interim report is published.

30 January 2017

The first test excavation takes place at Tuam.

11 April 2017

The second interim report is published.

5th December 2017

The Government approves a 1-year extension for the Commission to deliver its final report. The new deadline is now February 2019.

Read More

10th July 2018

Coleman Legal initiate proceedings on behalf of a former child resident of St Patrick’s Navan Road.

12 January 2021

The final report of the Commission is released. It reveals some disturbing statistics that approximately 15% of all infants who spent time in the homes died. The immediate concern is raised about the limitations in the Commission’s recommendations. Namely, the recommendation by the Commission that mothers who entered the homes after 1974 when the unmarried mother's allowance came on stream, should be excluded and that the duration of the stay which would give rise to redress should be 6 months.

It is believed by Norman that these two restrictions would bar entry to the scheme by many survivors of the mother and baby institutions and that it would be extremely unfair to do so.

Norman Spicer of Coleman Legal is quoted in the below piece raising these concerns.

Read More

13 January 2021

The Taoiseach Michael Martin issues a public apology in the Dáil.

11 June 2021

The Commission writes to the government advising of their intention not to appear before the Oireachtas.

Read More

1 July 2021

Coleman Legal call on the State to ensure the congregations contribute to the redress scheme.

Read More

14 July 2021

Alternative report findings are Published by academics and legal experts.

Read More

21 September 2021

The restrictions in the Commission’s recommendations to Government appear to widened to include those who went in after 1974 and those who spent less than 6 months resident.

Read More

The Report is Published & Immediate Controversy #2

On the 12th day of January 2021, the long-awaited report of the Commission was published.

The report, which ran to over 4000, pages made a number of shocking findings of the infant mortality rate and vaccine trials. Sadly, many knew of these already.

Equally shocking was their finding that there was ‘little evidence of forced adoptions’ in the so-called homes.

To many, this ‘finding’ did nothing but insult the community, particularly the mothers, many of whom gave what they understood was evidence to the Commission about that very thing and which was entirely at odds with the report.

  • Furthermore, the report was criticised for the use of language and how, in essence, society as a whole and their respective communities were blamed for failing young mothers/women by not supporting them through their pregnancies and beyond.
  • This oversimplified conclusion entirely overlooked the failings of the State in not bringing inappropriate measures to support these young women. It failed to highlight that the State had become completely entwined with the religious orders, to the detriment of the Irish people.
  • Understandably, this was seen by many as an attempt by the Commission to absolve the Religious Orders who received payment from the State to operate these institutions. It also appeared to absolve the State of any blame for facilitating the confinement of young women and girls when they were at their most vulnerable.
  • Within days of its publication concerns began to be raised about how the conclusions regarding forced adoptions could have been reached. Given the fact that some 550 accounts, many of which addressed forced adoptions, had been given to the Commission.
  • The accounts of these survivors did not appear to have been given any weight. The report in many ways, while painting these institutions as unsavory, otherwise tended to characterise them as being a sign of the times. This was insulting to many.
  • Another significant concern was the fact that evidence given to the Commission appeared to be shoehorned into a set of questions that in fact were never asked.
  • How the commission could have ever thought this was appropriate is not understood.  They have failed/refused to appear to answer questions about this time and again.
  • The Commission did not consult with survivors prior to publishing the report which would have guaranteed certain rights under the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004.  Litigation is before the Courts on that in November.
  • It was not until one of the Commission members delivered a talk in early June 2021 at Oxford University that the failings of the report became apparent. Astonishingly, Professor Daly essentially revealed that some 550 accounts given to the confidential committee were not incorporated into the report because of what Daly described as having not met ‘robust legal standards of evidence’.
  • This left the commission with only 19 accounts having been given to it which would have met the Commissions self-imposed strict criteria surrounding the standard of evidence.
  • This begs the question, did the Commission explain to people who appeared before the confidential committee that their evidence would not be used in the report? According to many, this was not explained. Most thought that it would only mean their names would not be included.
  • Surely the commission should have raised concerns with the government at the time if they felt that the terms of reference were restricting their ability to make findings and determinations. It seems from reading Professor Daly’s comments that fear of litigation from the religious orders hampered their work and they decided at some point to place a self-imposed high threshold on the legal standards of proof.
  • They decided not to reflect in the report any evidence given to it by survivors where they were not subjected to cross-examination. This decision was significant and one that the author cannot agree with.
  • A lower burden of proof should have been set per the terms of reference, whereby even confidential evidence given to it could have been given its rightful place in the report.
  • The Commission tied their own hands much to the anguish of the 550 people who appeared before it and were not properly listened to.
  • What happens next is unclear.  What is clear is that the report cannot be simply left to stand as it is. The author believes permission should be sought to allow a new panel to review the 550 accounts and the report is amended to reflect these accounts.

To speak with one of our mother and baby homes redress solicitors, call (Free Phone) 1800 844 104 or complete our online enquiry form.

Mother and Baby Homes History in Ireland

The Report is Published & Immediate Controversy #1

In July of 2018, Coleman Legal issued proceedings against the State and the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul on behalf of an adoptee who spent several years in St Patrick’s on the Navan road.

  • The Plaintiff in this action was unaware that the earlier 2002 Residential Redress Acts had added St Patrick’s to the list of institutions in 2004 thereby making him eligible to apply.
  • This action is before the Courts at an advanced stage in the proceedings.
  • This is an issue that Coleman Legal continue to come across. Coleman Legal have been contacted by a significant number of individuals since January who spent time in St Patrick’s but were never aware that they were entitled to apply to the redress scheme which closed in 2011.
  • It should be noted that this exclusion should not apply to mothers who resided in this institution.
  • Interested parties were invited to provide a written submission to the Governments chosen consulting company (Oak Consulting) earlier this year.
  • Coleman Legal made a submission and strongly encouraged the government to re-open applications for former residents of St Patrick’s. The earlier scheme was not properly publicised and the State failed to explicitly mention St Patricks was being added to this scheme at the time.
  • The State failed to properly inform former residents of their entitlements to apply to the scheme based on their residency at that institution.
  • It is still not known whether the State will re-open the scheme for adoptees/child residents but it seems that it would be entirely unfair if the State made a saving because of their own failure to publicise the scheme appropriately.
  • To see a link to the submission of Coleman Legal to Oak Consulting in March 2021, please click on this link:

To speak with one of our mother and baby homes redress solicitors, call (Free Phone) 1800 844 104 or complete our online enquiry form.