IHREC response to publication of the Terms of Reference of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes and Certain Related Matters

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) welcomes the publication, today, of the Terms of Reference for the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes and Certain Related Matters by Mr James O’Reilly T.D., Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, and the thorough consultation process that informed the drafting of the Terms of Reference.

The IHREC had recommended in its submission on the Terms of Reference and in a subsequent meeting with the Minister that the Commission of Investigation should meet Ireland’s human rights obligations and ensure effective remedies, including redress for victims. 

Emily Logan, Chief Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) said “The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission welcomes the publication of very comprehensive Terms of Reference for the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes and Certain Related Matters. The IHREC in its submission to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs and in a subsequent meeting with the Minister, stressed the importance of the independence, impartiality, transparency and expertise of the Commission of Investigation. In this regard, the IHREC considers the appointment of Judge Yvonne Murphy to lead the investigation and Professor Mary E. Daly and Dr William Duncan, to contribute their expertise to the investigation, as significant. The emphasis on an examination of the social history is very valuable.  It is also important to emphasise that discrimination against single mothers and children should not be accepted at any time regardless of social context.”

Ms Logan continued “The IHREC has stressed that the State should ensure a human rights and equality framework is applied to the Commission of Investigation; meaning that the Terms of Reference, the process of investigation and redress are informed and fully compliant with Ireland’s human rights obligations.  The inclusion of a provision to examine systematic discrimination against particular groups on any grounds including religion, race, Traveller identity or disability provides an additional equality focus. Another key component of such a framework is an effective investigative mechanism capable of establishing the facts and the truth. As stated in our recommendations, it is vital that victims are consulted during the investigation and given a voice in the process, in private and in public, at their request. The Commission of Investigation has full powers of compellability under statute, in the Commission of Investigation Act 2004. This can enable the Commission of Investigation to source all information and documentation to establish and properly test allegations of human rights abuses.”

Ms Logan said “We have recommended that the scope of the Commission of Investigation should be broad. Therefore we note the inclusion of both Catholic-run and Protestant-run Mother and Baby Homes, including Bethany Home, and County Homes. We welcome the commitment to thoroughly investigate the ‘pathways’ between Mother and Baby Homes and Magdalene Laundries. We also acknowledge the flexibility of the Commission of Investigation to seek the inclusion of other institutions. The IHREC has previously published its outstanding concerns in relation to the Magdalene Laundries. The examination of relevant issues including mother and child mortality, burial arrangements, adoptions and vaccine trials which took place in, under the auspices of, or following residence in the Homes strengthens the scope and depth of the investigation.”

In relation to consequences of the Investigation, Ms Logan noted the fact that “under the Terms of Reference the Commission of Investigation ‘can make any recommendation that it considers appropriate’. Where human rights violations are established, it is important that the investigation leads to effective remedies including redress for victims and measures to ensure that these violations do not occur in the future.” 

ENDS/

For further information please contact, Fidelma Joyce, IHREC Mobile 087 783 4939 

Notes to Editor

All members of the Commission being appointed on 31 October 2014 by President Michael D. Higgins, the Commission reports to the Oireachtas for its statutory functions and to the Public Accounts Committee on its financial expenditure.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) was established by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act 2014. The Commission has a statutory remit to protect and promote human rights and equality in the State, to promote a culture of respect for human rights, equality and intercultural understanding and to promote understanding and awareness of the importance of human rights and equality.[1] The IHREC is tasked with reviewing the adequacy and effectiveness of law, policy and practice relating to the protection of human rights and equality and with making recommendations to Government on measures to strengthen, protect and uphold human rights and equality accordingly.[2]

The IHREC set out in its submission a range of human right standards pertinent to the investigation and to determining human rights violations. Prohibition on discrimination is significant when considering the pervasive societal discrimination against women and girls who became pregnant outside of marriage and the stigmatisation and discrimination experienced by ‘illegitimate’ children. Serious issues arise in relation to the right to life, the right to liberty, the right of children to be protected by the State, the right to bodily integrity, privacy and family life as well as freedom against torture and inhuman or degrading treatment as set out in the Constitution, the European Convention on Human Rights and the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment among others.

The IHREC Designate Submission on the Commission of Investigation to inquire into Mother and Baby Homes, June 2014

The IHREC Designate published its Report on Ireland’s 4th Periodic Report on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in June 2014.

The Irish Human Rights Commission published an Assessment of the Human Rights Issues Arising in relation to the “Magdalen Laundries” Report in November 2010.

The Irish Human Rights Commission published a Follow-up Report on State Involvement with Magdalen Laundries in June 2013.

 

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