Protest held to mark winding up of Mother and Baby homes commission 

Protest held to mark winding up of Mother and Baby homes commission 

Baby shoes with black mourning ribbon were laid on the railings of the Commission office today. Photo: Leah Farrell/

A protest has been held outside the Mother and Baby Homes Commission office to mark the end of its term.

Mother and baby home survivors and campaigners lay baby shoes in a symbolic protest against the winding up of the commission and its controversial report.

Pairs of shoes were tied with black ribbons to the railings of the commission's building in Dublin.

Among the small gathering of protestors was the Baby Shoes Remember group, which protests against clerical abuse.

Mother and Baby Homes survivor Sheila O'Byrne at the protest.
Mother and Baby Homes survivor Sheila O'Byrne at the protest.

The commission's report into the mother and baby homes found that the institutions for women produced high levels of infant mortality, misogyny and stigmatisation of some of society's most vulnerable.

Many mother and baby homes were run by Catholic nuns.

Its findings, published last month, have drawn widespread criticism from survivors, campaigners, academics and opposition parties.

Earlier this week, the Social Democrats tabled a Private Member's Bill to extend the commission's term by a year to answer questions about the deletion of tapes containing testimonies from survivors.

A total of 550 people gave their testimony as part of the commission investigations.

The commission confirmed to the Department of Children earlier this week that the backup tapes were retrieved.

Among those protesting was former Dublin West TD Ruth Coppinger.

Ms Coppinger said the Mother and Baby Home Commission has been a "kick in the teeth" for survivors and adoptees of the homes.

"It's negated their real life experiences," Ms Coppinger added.

"With the pandemic it's extremely difficult but we wanted to do some sort of socially distanced and safe protest.

"People are hugely disappointment at the state's response - this has been a really sorry chapter, yet again, for women and children abused by the church and state.

"If we didn't have a pandemic there would have been tens of thousands of people protesting on this issue as I really have noticed such a change in attitudes in our society in relation to this.

"Nobody is buying the commission's narrative that the whole of society was to blame, rather than pointing the finger to where it should be.

"We laid the baby shoes as a reminder of the crimes of the so-called 'mother and baby homes'.

"There must be financial compensation and if the church doesn't do so willingly, their land and assets should be taken over by the state as redress for survivors.

"There must be emergency legislation for adoptees' rights to identity and birth certs - not next year but immediately."

Social Democrat TD Jennifer Whitmore, who tabled the Bill in the Dail, said the decision by the Government not to ensure the term was extended was a "really poor decision".

"They didn't object to the motion but they didn't do anything to extend it, and I think that was a really cynical move and I think the survivors deserve a lot better than that," Ms Whitmore added.

"I think it was really poor on their behalf to play political games with this, it was really frustrating.

"By not extending the Commission, the (Children's) minister (Roderic O'Gorman) has taken on the responsibility for whatever questions about issues that arise.

"This is the complete opposite of survivor-led.

"Once the commission is closed we will start seeing real issues arising because it was done in a rushed manner and they are not prepared for the files being dealt with properly."

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