Statement from the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission

In recent weeks the survivors of Mother and Baby Homes have spoken powerfully of Ireland’s long and dark history of institutional abuse. They have shown the profound suffering this history has wrought throughout the lives of thousands of women and their children – many of whom had also been stigmatised and abused because of the colour of their skin or their disability, because they were Travellers or because they were poor.

Through their collective voice these survivors – with their friends and their families – have shown how still in 2020 so much needs to change. They have also powerfully demonstrated how change is possible – when ordinary people insist that their voices must be heard and that their rights and individual agency must be recognised.

That the Government now accepts the rights of the survivors to access their personal data in the records of the Commission on Mother and Baby Homes is welcome.  The Government must now move swiftly to clarify survivor’s rights of access to their personal data in the records of other investigations into historical abuse.  Crucially for those people who have been adopted, the Government must urgently legislate to address the outstanding issues of information and tracing

For the institutions of the State who are involved in dealing with these matters, this policy and legislative change must be accompanied by a cultural transformation – from a culture of institutional secrecy and suspicion of survivors, to one of acknowledged dignity, and illustrated empathy.

Sinéad Gibney Chief Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission stated:

The Commission wishes to acknowledge and to thank the survivors of the Mother and Baby Homes, and their advocates, whose efforts have secured this commitment from Government. Their courage, strength and expertise is driving a change, not only in immediate Government policy, but in a more embedded State culture and approach, which  needs to see the vindication of people’s rights as an opportunity rather than a threat.

“The coming weeks and months will be difficult for the survivors and their families and loved ones. Their rights and their wellbeing must be prioritised if further re-traumatisation is to be prevented.

“The State must learn from this experience – that the starting point for dealing with survivors of state wrongdoing must be that individuals and groups  – and it is disproportionately women –  are seen, heard, trusted and respected.”


For further information, please contact:

Brian Dawson – Communications Manager

087 0697095

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Notes to editor:

Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is an independent public body, appointed by the President and directly accountable to the Oireachtas. The Commission has a statutory remit set out under the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act (2014) to protect and promote human rights and equality in Ireland, and build a culture of respect for human rights, equality and intercultural understanding in the State.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is Ireland’s national human rights institution and is recognised as such by the United Nations. The Commission is also Ireland’s national equality body for the purpose of a range of EU anti-discrimination measures.


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