Irish Birth Moms Appeal To UN Human Rights Committee

Professor Sir Nigel Rodley
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
20 July, 2014

Professor Rodley,

We are a group, scores in number of Irish mothers who gave birth in circumstances of exclusion and coercion within religious homes, state homes and other ad hoc facilities. 

We share and support each other in a Facebook group. We have met with Irish government ministers north and south as part of their public consultations regarding so-called "mother and baby homes".

We write to alert you and committee members that we rebut [see below] many specific claims made by the Irish government when responding to your committee's recent questions put to it.

We write to alert you that the planned unwed mothers and babies inquiry is taking the same shape as have previous "inquiries" - with the same defects you and the committee members have already identified in previous inquiries.

We urge you to note these reservations in your concluding remarks in re Ireland and to impress your concerns on the Irish government before terms of reference are set early this autumn.

Finally we thank you for your public comments on our human rights issues.

FOR Irish First Mothers group


The Irish government has replied to the Human Rights Committee (CCPR) questions.


IRISH GOV: "The process of developing a detailed terms of reference for the Commission is being led by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs who is being supported by a high level Cross Departmental Review Committee."

WE REBUT: The government minister in place during government's 30-day, wide public consultation period, lost his role in a cabinet reshuffle and was replaced just days before he was due to announce terms of reference for the inquiry. Days later the terms of reference announcement was deferred to the autumn legislative period. 

Now the sparse interim report of the government interdepartmental group to coordinate it's response makes no mention of a wide array of human-rights-related concerns expressed to it.

In the report's conclusions (page 32) there is much talk of an "historical survey" leading to a "social history... of enduring significance." Justice and accountability are absent mention.

We REBUT: that despite early promise, the government inquiry is on course to replicate the defects your committee has already identified in previous inquiries.

IRISH GOV: "The Minister announced on 16 July 2014 that Judge Yvonne Murphy has agreed to Chair the Commission of Investigation into matters related to mother and baby homes."

WE REBUT: Note that in appointing a local rather than an international judge, the government has declined the advice of its own statutory human rights commission: the IHRC. 

In their formal submission to the interdepartmental group, the Irish Human Rights Commission had recommended: "that consideration be given to inviting an independent international human rights expert to chair the Commission of Investigation". 

Also, without reflecting on the judicial merits of Judge Murphy, she is the same judge who reviewed symphysiotomy material for the government. 

We contend that this appointment signals the government's intent to follow the symphysiotomy model of an ex-gratia redress, no-fault, no accountability inquiry --which model UN-HRC has already queried.

WE REBUT: that Judge Murphy should recuse, else she bolster a flawed status quo and fail victims.

IRISH GOV: "The Government wishes to work on an inclusive basis on this important initiative and is seeking to put an effective Commission in place"

WE REBUT: Neither inclusive, nor effective. For example, our group impressed on the government the need to anticipate that within the cohort of women who are the focus of the statutory inquiry there would be a disproportionately high percentage who are undisclosed victims of rape, incest and other criminal abuses. 

We advised a criminal co-track to the inquiry and that prosecutions might finally become possible due to an emerging social-attitudinal shift (In the same manner, the Jimmy Savile scandal in the UK made possible a new wave of criminal prosecutions).

The minister dismissed our advice and the government's interdepartmental report makes no "inclusive" mention of these criminal issues. The proposed justice "effectiveness" of the inquiry seems marginal. 

WE REBUT: Inclusiveness is shallow, and effectiveness narrow.

IRISH GOV: " is intended that the scope of this Investigation will go beyond the home operated by the Sisters of Bon Secours in Tuam and will deal with other Mother and Baby Homes, including the Bethany Home. There have been calls for inclusion of a range of other institutions and concerns and these will be given consideration as part of the process underway."

WE REBUT: A government minister has already signaled the outcome of further consideration - when describing a broadly scoped inquiry as a potential "quagmire". We warn of an intent to restrict the scope of the inquiry.

IRISH GOV: "Arrangements have also being put in place to provide further public information, including counselling for those affected by these matters."

WE REBUT: Irish public health and especially psychological health services are overburdened and subject to waiting lists. A telephone counselling service is the only specific service the government has provided. The service lacks staff with direct experience of mother and baby home issues. 

IN CONCLUSION: In shaping the forthcoming inquiry, the Irish Government shows no sign of heeding the very recent criticisms of its past record by UN-HRC. 

We urge the UN-HRC to note our counterpoint and to impress any concerns it may have on the Irish government before terms of reference are set - early this autumn.


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