Derry woman on new mother and baby homes panel

A senior social worker from Derry has been appointed to a new team which will work with victims and survivors of mother-and-baby homes in NI to establish terms of reference for an independent investigation.

Friday, 5th March 2021, 10:16 am
Deirdre Mahon.

Deirdre Mahon, who also has many years of experience in youth and community work, is one of three people appointed to the Truth Recovery Design Team.

She is joined by Phil Scraton, a professor emeritus at Queen’s University, Belfast, and Dr Maeve O’Rourke, a lecturer in human rights and a barrister.

In January, the NI Executive said it would establish a victim-centred independent investigation.

This will be into the operation of the historical institutions between 1922 and 1990. It followed the publication of a long-awaited report into the homes.

The report into mother-and-baby homes and Magdalene laundries in NI was commissioned by the Department of Health in 2018 and assessed the period from 1922 to 1990.

It examined eight mother and baby homes - one of them in Derry - a number of former workhouses, four laundries and sought personal testimony from women and children with “lived experience” of the institutions.

Mother-and-baby institutions housed women and girls who became pregnant outside marriage.

Throughout her 35 year career, Deirdre Mahon has had extensive experience in both direct work with service users and the management and development of staff. She has been described as “a driving force” in the roll-out of trauma informed practice across Northern Ireland.

She is currently Director of Women and Children’s Services and the Executive Director of Social Work with the Western Health and Social Services Trust.

Speaking about the appointments, Health Minister, Robin Swann, said: “I have asked the team to start its work immediately and to report within the six month timeframe set by the Executive for this work.”

First Minister Arlene Foster added: “All three individuals bring a wealth of experience and expertise in this area and I am confident that, through a process of engagement and working side by side with victims and survivors, the team will be able to shape an investigation that will have their confidence and deliver the truth and justice they deserve.”

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said: “The harrowing stories of the many women and children who suffered abuse in Mother and Baby Homes and Magdalene Laundries are truly heartbreaking. They were treated appallingly by these institutions and failed on every level. This is another significant step towards finally securing justice for the victims and survivors of this abuse, and it is vital that they are at the heart of the co-design process.”

The Health Department has also announced details of a dedicated phone line 0300 0200 789 and website to enable victims and survivors of the institutions to participate.