Panel calls for independent investigation into Mother and Baby Institutions, Magdalene Laundries and Workhouses

The Truth Recovery Design Panel appointed to work with victims and survivors has recommended an independent investigation into Mother and Baby Institutions, Magdalene Laundries and Workhouses in the north.

From left, Dr. Maeve O’Rourke, Deirdre Mahon and Professor Phil Scraton.
From left, Dr. Maeve O’Rourke, Deirdre Mahon and Professor Phil Scraton.

The primary recommendation in a report published today is to establish an ‘Integrated Investigation’ by a non-statutory Independent Panel feeding into a statutory Public Inquiry.

There are also further recommendations for supporting measures to ensure that victims-survivors can participate in the investigation: these include Access to Records legislation and urgent Redress payments.

Following all-party agreement in January 2021, the Northern Ireland Executive invited victims and survivors of Mother and Baby Institutions, Magdalene Laundries and Workhouses, to contribute to designing the framework for an independent investigation into the institutions where thousands of girls and women were held and forced into unpaid labour, with many forcibly separated from their babies, during the 20th Century.

Following a six-month period of extensive engagement and work by the Truth Recovery Panel, the full report was today launched at Stormont in Belfast, entitled ‘Mother and Baby Institutions, Magdalene Laundries and Workhouses in Northern Ireland - Truth, Acknowledgement and Accountability’.

Chair of the Truth Recovery Design Panel, Deirdre Mahon, said: “For six months we have worked closely with victims-survivors and relatives who have shared their heart-breaking stories with us and we thank them for their dedicated and tireless pursuit of truth and justice.

"The Executive’s decision in January, on the Inter-Departmental Working Group’s advice, to decide to set up an investigation and involve victims-and survivors centrally in designing the investigation was a hugely positive step. Nevertheless this decision has come too late for many, and it is essential that these recommendations are acted on without delay.”

Truth Recovery Design Panel member Professor Phil Scraton said: “The Executive required the Panel to recommend a framework of investigation—from the breadth and depth of testimonies we received, we propose an unprecedented process, integrating an Independent Panel and a statutory Public Inquiry, alongside access to personal records.

"We also make recommendations for redress and reparation. Lives and futures lost through the cruelty within these institutions cannot be recovered, but we must acknowledge the inter-generational pain and suffering inflicted on victims, survivors and families. It is now time for that to be recognised and the full truth revealed.”

Dr. Maeve O’Rourke, Truth Recovery Design Panel member, said at the launch of the report: “The University of Ulster/Queen’s University Belfast academic research report preceding our work contains clear evidence of gross and systemic human rights abuses in the institutions and related adoption system, including arbitrary detention, degrading treatment, serious infringements of the right to respect for private and family life and discrimination.

"Victims and survivors continue to describe ongoing abuse, including the disappearance of family members and the denial of identity. It is essential that the human rights of victims, survivors and relatives are at the heart of the forthcoming investigation. Human rights law also requires full access to records and urgent redress and reparation.”

The Victims and Survivors Service (VSS) is available to provide interim emotional support to victims and survivors impacted by Mother and Baby Institutions and Magdalene Laundries. Visit: https://truthrecoverystrategy.com/support/