Derry City and Strabane District Council calls for mother and baby home probe

Patricia Logue.
Patricia Logue.

Members of Derry City and Strabane District Council have called for a human rights-compliant public inquiry into alleged abuses at former mother and baby homes in the North and the rest of the country.

Sinn Féin Councillor Patricia Logue raised the issue by tabling a motion calling for the a probe into allegations of "forced labour, arbitrary detention, ill treatment and the illegal adoption of babies" at homes in the North.

The motion was amended by Independent Councillor Gary Donnelly to expresse concern over "similar injustices in the rest of Ireland" and ultimately passed with unanimous support.

Moving the proposal Colr. Logue said: "Involuntary detention, rape, torture, severe beatings, food and sleep deprivation, solitary confinement, drug and vaccine trials, coercion, malnourishment, neglect little or no pre or post-natal medical care, humiliation, long hours of manual unpaid labour at all stages of pregnancy, forced and illegal adoptions, fraud, corruption, human trafficking, falsification and withholding of information, records, files and documents.

"You would be forgiven in thinking I was describing concentration camps of Guantanamo Bay of Kosovo. No, this is all part of our shameful past and present history.

"Mother and baby homes were run by many organizations including The Catholic Church, The Church of Ireland and the Salvation Army until 1996. The conditions that those woman and young girls some as young as thirteen years of age and their babies were made to endure would in the words of the campaign group “Shock this Society to its Core”

She added: "What has been disclosed in places like Dublin, Galway, Donegal and Tuam raises the question of whether such abuse has not occurred in Belfast, Newry and our own city of Derry. Hence the need for answers to the questions now being asked by the survivors and relatives of those detained in such places."

SDLP Councillor Tina Gardiner called for “value and respect” for abuse sufferers in mother and baby homes that operated in Derry and across the North up until the 1980s.

She said: “Reading reports and accounts of victims’ experiences in the mother and baby homes is gut wrenching. We are talking about neglect; abuse, both emotional and physical; denial of liberty and forced labour. And the high rate of infant mortality is well documented.

“The Government in Dublin is proceeding with an inquiry in the Republic and we feel this should happen in the North too. Not including mother and baby homes in the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry was a missed opportunity and the victims deserve much better.”

Councillor Gardiner concluded: “We now have a significant number of women who need answers. We need to show them that they are valued and respected and the proper way to do that is through a full public inquiry.”

Colr. Donnelly said what happened to the women affected was appalling.

He said some of the homes were "more like prison camps than homes" and that "no shame was attributed to the fathers of these children, indeed their crimes were covered up by society."