Mother and baby home survivors urged to come forward to design probe

Thousands of women and girls were sent to institutions when they became pregnant.
Mother and baby home survivors urged to come forward to design probe

By Rebecca Black, PA

Survivors of mother and baby homes in Northern Ireland have been urged to come forward to help design a probe into practices at the institutions.

Thousands of pregnant women and girls passed through the homes, where Stormont-commissioned academic research found many suffered degrading treatment.

The Stormont Executive agreed to establish an investigation into the institutions, with the nature of the inquiry to be determined by the women who were sent to the institutions and the children to whom they gave birth.

Mark McCollum, who was born in the Marianvale home in Newry before being adopted by a couple in Donegal, said by the time he tracked down his birth mother she had died.

He is urging other survivors to come forward to help design a public inquiry into mother and baby and Magdalene Laundry institutions in Northern Ireland.

“Survivors have won the first long battle in getting the Executive to agree to an inquiry,” he said.

“Now we need to ensure the inquiry is fit for purpose, and that justice is seen to be done.

“I would urge women who were forced into these institutions and others, like me, who were born there, to get involved in shaping the inquiry which we’ve been promised.

“We have one chance to get this right; I don’t want to look back in a few years’ time and see this as a missed opportunity.

“Let’s not make the same mistakes which happened with the inquiry in the Republic of Ireland.

“Let’s learn from those design errors.

“The best way to do that is by as many survivors as possible coming forward to have their voices heard.”

Mr McCollum was speaking at an information event for survivors, organised by Amnesty International and Ulster University, to help learn the lessons of past inquiries when designing the new investigation into Mother and Baby institutions in Northern Ireland.

Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland programme director for Amnesty added: “As we have seen with previous inquiries, it is all too easy to get things wrong and to leave survivors feeling hurt and undermined as a result.

“Northern Ireland now has an opportunity to design a model inquiry into human rights abuses of this sort.

“The more participation by survivors in the design of the inquiry, the better chance the inquiry has of doing the job right.”

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