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Irish government acts to hasten reparation payments to survivors of mother-and-baby homes

05 January 2024

Alamy

Silhouettes of children and the names of those who died in Bessborough Mother and Baby Home in Cork are projected on to Sean Ross Abbey, in County Tipperary, in 2021

Silhouettes of children and the names of those who died in Bessborough Mother and Baby Home in Cork are projected on to Sean Ross A...

THE Irish government is to carry out its own assessment of the assets held by church organisations, in a bid to speed up negotiations over reparation payments to survivors of mother-and-baby homes.

Discussions about who should contribute to compensation packages for the women and children who survived the homes, which operated from 1922 to 1998, have been under way for three years. So far, only one Roman Catholic order has said that it will contribute to payouts.

The €800-million redress scheme was announced by the Irish government in 2021; it is estimated that 34,000 former residents will be entitled to compensation. The scheme followed a five-year investigation into the homes, in which women who became pregnant outside marriage were sent, many under duress, to avoid what was then seen as scandal (News, 15 January 2021).

The Commission of Investigation report, dated October 2020, found that the harsh treatment of residents was “supported by, contributed to, and condoned by” the institutions of the State and Churches.

Seven RC bodies and one Protestant organisation that ran homes or were linked to them have been asked to contribute financially to the redress scheme. The Church of Ireland has been asked for a contribution on behalf of the Protestant-run Bethany Home, although the Church said that it “neither owned nor operated any of the homes”.

The order to examine financial assets was requested by the special government negotiator, Sheila Nunan, who has been in charge of talks with religious bodies since the commission released its report.

The Office of the Department for Children confirmed that Ms Nunan had asked for a financial assessment. “The Minister and his department is committed to the process of assisting the independent negotiator in her work and as part of this process, the requirement for financial assistance was identified,” a statement said.

Only one RC organisation, the Bon Secours order, has so far said that it will contribute financially to the redress scheme, but has not disclosed how much.

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