Mother and Baby Commission yet to decide on extending inquiry

It is beyond comprehension how you can examine 14 Mother and Baby Homes while excluding adoption agencies like St Patrick’s Guild – particularly considering what it has admitted in terms of illegal birth registrations

 

The Mother and Baby Homes Commission has yet to decide whether to ask for an extension of its remit to examine other institutions.
It comes as adoption groups have reiterated calls for a number of adoption agencies as well as a range of State and private maternity homes to be included in the investigation.
Under its terms of reference, the Mother and Baby Homes Commission will investigate how unmarried mothers and their babies were treated between 1922 and 1998 at 14 State-linked religious institutions.
The three-year inquiry — which has a €23.5m budget — will examine mother and baby homes, county homes, vaccine trials on children, and illegal adoptions where babies were trafficked abroad.
In a statement to the Irish Examiner, the Commission said it “not yet made any decision about recommending any extension of its terms of reference”.
St Patrick’s Guild has been commonly cited by campaigners as a glaring omission from the inquiry. The agency holds 13,500 adoption files — one-quarter of all adoption files in the country.
Last year, the Irish Examiner revealed that the agency was excluded from the scope of the inquiry despite the Government being told in June 2013 by an Adoption Authority (AAI) delegation that the agency was aware of “several hundred” illegal birth registrations.
A note of a meeting between two nuns from the agency and representatives of the Child and Family Agency, Tusla, on February 3 last year also revealed that  St Patrick’s Guild’s records contained “some illegal registrations” and that “full details are available on the majority of cases”.
The AAI also named St Rita’s private nursing home – also excluded from the inquiry – as a “huge source of illegal registrations”.
Claire McGettrick of the Adoption Rights Alliance (ARA) and Justice for Magdalenes Research (JFMR) said she expected the Commission to add to the current “short list” if institutions it is examining.
“The legislation makes an express provision for the Commission to add to the initial list and it has resourced the Commission very well with a team of historians led by Prof. Mary Daly, President of the Royal Irish  Academy.”
“Historians realise there were many institutions and agencies involved in the Mother and Baby home sector in Ireland – JFMR and ARA have given a list to the Commission of some 170 institutions, agencies and individuals which our organisations and academic historians are also investigating,” she said.
Paul Redmond of the Coalition of Mother and Baby Homes (CMABS) said it was a “national disgrace” that so many people were being excluded from the inquiry when so little effort is required to include everyone.
“If the Inquiry ‘sampled’ as little as four or five further institutions and a home birth, then all survivors would be included. The sample would include a holding centre such as Temple Hill, a public Maternity Hospital such as Holles Street, a so-called orphanage such as Westbank or Saint Philomena’s, a private nursing home such as St Rita’s and a home birth where the baby was forcibly removed by a social worker or a member of the religious acting on behalf of an adoption agency which would be investigated,” he said.
Kathy McMahon of the Irish First Mothers group said the Commission needed to adopt a “fully inclusive model”.
“Otherwise, we are on track to cherry-pick the truth so as to exclude the majority of women from consideration,” she said

No probe into illegal adoption files – 2010

I wrote this in 2010 – almost five years before we get a State inquiry. It also came years before I obtained material showing the Adoption Authority of Ireland was warning the Government that there could be “thousands” of illegal adoptions. The HSE took three months to issue me a response. It answered none of the questions I asked.  The full audit of all adoption records, which I have written about so many times before and since, has yet to happen

 

THE Adoption Board has said it has no intention of inspecting all adoption files held by the HSE and private adoption agencies, despite the HSE admitting some files contain evidence of illegal birth registrations.

The revelation comes after the Irish Examiner queried the HSE concerning an entry on its website.

“After the introduction of legal adoption in Ireland in 1952, some children’s births were registered directly into the name of the ‘adoptive’ parents. This practice had the effect of removing all reference to the natural parents from the official record and also meant the Adoption Board had no record of the case, as there had been no legal adoption. Some adoption agencies have records in relation to these,” states the entry.

It is a crime to falsely register a birth. The result of such practices meant some children were raised believing they were the natural child of their ‘parents’ when, in fact, they were falsely registered and illegally adopted.

In some cases, this was facilitated by adoption agencies, some of which remain accredited by the Adoption Board to this day.

The Irish Examiner asked the HSE if any of the files showing illegal birth registrations were now in the possession of the HSE and, if so, had it informed the Adoption Board about such files.

A response was issued by the HSE after three months, in which it failed to answer any of the questions put to it.

“The HSE did receive files from a number of agencies when they ceased to operate. These files have been stored and are available to be reopened, as required. If the HSE receives a request to access the file from an individual who was adopted, this can be facilitated. Similarly, if information comes to light to suggest that an adoption was illegally registered this can be investigated further. However, it is important to note that if an adoption was illegally registered, this fact is not normally noted in the adoption file,” a statement read.

Despite its knowledge that some adoption files contain evidence of illegal registrations, the Adoption Board said it had never contacted or inspected any files held by the HSE.

The Adoption Board also said it has “no plans” to inspect the files of all adoption agencies and the HSE “within its current work schedule”.

Susan Lohan of the Adoption Rights Alliance said the Adoption Board’s response to the issue was grounds for every member of the authority to resign.

“The fact that the HSE knows the details of adoption agencies which participated in illegal adoptions and that the Adoption Board has no intention to inspect these files to even quantify the extent of the problem is surely grounds for every single member of the board to resign,” said Ms Lohan.

Chairwoman of Adoption Loss – The Natural Parents Network of Ireland, Bernie Harold, called for a full audit of all the files in each of the private and HSE adoption departments in the State to discover the extent of such practices.

“The only body which has the right to inspect every single file in any registered adoption agency is the Adoption Board. We hereby call on the Minister for Children Barry Andrews to issue an instruction to the board to carry out a complete audit of all the files in each of the private and HSE adoption departments in the state,” she said.

 

http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/icrime/no-probe-into-illegal-adoption-files-133262.html

No probe into illegal adoption files

I have been asking about an audit of adoption files for six years now. Despite revelation after revelation, the HSE, AAI, DCYA and Tusla deem these records not worth auditing. I wonder why. Here in 2010, the HSE took three months to respond – even then not answering the specific questions I posed. This is four years before Tuam.

 

THE Adoption Board has said it has no intention of inspecting all adoption files held by the HSE and private adoption agencies, despite the HSE admitting some files contain evidence of illegal birth registrations.

The revelation comes after the Irish Examiner queried the HSE concerning an entry on its website.

“After the introduction of legal adoption in Ireland in 1952, some children’s births were registered directly into the name of the ‘adoptive’ parents. This practice had the effect of removing all reference to the natural parents from the official record and also meant the Adoption Board had no record of the case, as there had been no legal adoption. Some adoption agencies have records in relation to these,” states the entry.

It is a crime to falsely register a birth. The result of such practices meant some children were raised believing they were the natural child of their ‘parents’ when, in fact, they were falsely registered and illegally adopted.

In some cases, this was facilitated by adoption agencies, some of which remain accredited by the Adoption Board to this day.

The Irish Examiner asked the HSE if any of the files showing illegal birth registrations were now in the possession of the HSE and, if so, had it informed the Adoption Board about such files.

 

A response was issued by the HSE after three months, in which it failed to answer any of the questions put to it.

“The HSE did receive files from a number of agencies when they ceased to operate. These files have been stored and are available to be reopened, as required. If the HSE receives a request to access the file from an individual who was adopted, this can be facilitated. Similarly, if information comes to light to suggest that an adoption was illegally registered this can be investigated further. However, it is important to note that if an adoption was illegally registered, this fact is not normally noted in the adoption file,” a statement read.

Despite its knowledge that some adoption files contain evidence of illegal registrations, the Adoption Board said it had never contacted or inspected any files held by the HSE.

The Adoption Board also said it has “no plans” to inspect the files of all adoption agencies and the HSE “within its current work schedule”.

Susan Lohan of the Adoption Rights Alliance said the Adoption Board’s response to the issue was grounds for every member of the authority to resign.

“The fact that the HSE knows the details of adoption agencies which participated in illegal adoptions and that the Adoption Board has no intention to inspect these files to even quantify the extent of the problem is surely grounds for every single member of the board to resign,” said Ms Lohan.

Chairwoman of Adoption Loss – The Natural Parents Network of Ireland, Bernie Harold, called for a full audit of all the files in each of the private and HSE adoption departments in the State to discover the extent of such practices.

“The only body which has the right to inspect every single file in any registered adoption agency is the Adoption Board. We hereby call on the Minister for Children Barry Andrews to issue an instruction to the board to carry out a complete audit of all the files in each of the private and HSE adoption departments in the state,” she said.

Garda probe of baby deaths discrepancy in Bessborough sought

Campaigners have called for a Garda investigation into why the religious order which ran Bessborough Mother and Baby Home reported significantly higher numbers of infant deaths to state inspectors than it recorded privately.

An Irish Examiner investigation found between March 31, 1939, and December 5, 1944, Department of Local Government and public health inspector Alice Litster had been informed 353 infant deaths occurred at the Cork-based institution. The figures are contained in a inspection report from 1944 obtained by this newspaper.

However, the Bessborough Death Register revealed the nuns had recorded just 273 infant deaths in that period — a discrepancy of 80.

The discrepancy in the recording of deaths comes just months after this newspaper revealed an unpublished 2012 internal HSE report had raised concerns death records had been falsified in Bessborough Mother and Baby Home so children could “be brokered in clandestine adoption arrangements” at home and abroad.

Susan Lohan of the Adoption Rights Alliance said the gardaí now needed to become involved in order to ascertain why such a large discrepancy in the figures exists.

“We have been advised on numerous occasions by both the Minister for Children James Reilly and chairman of the Adoption Authority Geoffrey Shannon that if we believed there was evidence of wrongdoing to report it to the relevant authorities. It’s now time the gardaí investigate where these 80 infants are,” she said.

Ms Lohan said her organisation was regularly contacted by people who believe they were adopted from Ireland but when they contacted the Department of Foreign Affairs, they had been told they did not appear in the records relating to the export of babies to the US found in the National Archives in 1996.

Paul Redmond of the Coalition of Mother and Baby Homes Survivors has also called for a garda investigation into the issue of how deaths had been recorded at Bessborough.

“The Bessborough Death Register is another example of the Sacred Heart nuns’ complete disregard for the lives of babies and children in their care who died from neglect and indifference. The missing babies should be reported to the Garda and a full criminal investigation is necessary,” he said.

Independent senator and former Children’s Rights Alliance chief executive Jillian van Turnhout said she was “hugely concerned” at the discrepancies.

“If there is no register, as the order have said, then where are the other 80? We know that clandestine adoptions happened. It is reasonable to ask the question: ‘Is there a chance that there are people out there in their 70s that are adopted and do not know?’”

The Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes has said it will investigate the discrepancy in the figures.

The Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary said it was dealing directly with the commission on all such and related matters — and it “would not be appropriate to enter into communication, other than with the commission at this time”.

http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/state-feared-public-scandal-over-infant-deaths-at-mother-and-baby-homes-366523.html

HSE fear of legal threat at Bessborough nuns’ past actions

The HSE expressed repeated concerns that the past actions of Bessborough adoption agency meant it had to be indemnified against any legal action taken by people seeking their records.

The concerns were raised throughout 2009 and 2010, in material released under Freedom of Information Act, as the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary prepared to cease operating Bessborough as an adoption agency and transfer some 15,000-plus files to the HSE.

An undated memo of a meeting the HSE held with the management group from the religious order notes its desire to “manage liability for past Bessboro responsibility and ongoing re their activities as an adoption agency when and if it arises”.

In a letter on February 8, 2010, to solicitors representing the order, childcare manager in the HSE South region, Mike van Aswegen, said the HSE needed this assurance, as it had reason to believe that the past practices of the agency had “not always been exemplary”.

“In your correspondence, you refer to the need for providing an indemnity. I believe that in this case we will need to be provided with this comfort, as we have good reason to believe that the practice from the agency has in the past not always been exemplary,” he wrote.

Another memo from 2010 referenced legal advice that such indemnity would be required to protect the HSE: “Following legal advice to the HSE a further meeting took place on October 5, 2010. At this meeting matters concerning previous practice in the Society was discussed, and the issue of the Society indemnifying the HSE in the event that any claims would be made against the Society for past activity. The legal advice from the HSE solicitors had been that to safeguard the HSE this would be advisable.”

However, a non-dated service agreement briefing note, which appears to be from 2010, reveals that the order were initially not keen to indemnify the HSE.

“The Society stated they were not in a position to continue the arrangement of employing the staff nor were they prepared to indemnify the HSE should the HSE take over the files and the work involved in Search and Reunion,” read the memo.

An agreement was eventually reached with the order whereby it agreed to indemnify the HSE against “all liabilities, claims, charges, expenses, wrongdoing, losses or demands for an indefinite period”.

The order is also obliged to notify the HSE immediately when it becomes aware of any claim or potential claim being made against it.

In November of last year, an Irish Examiner investigation revealed the religious order which ran the Bessborough Mother and Baby Home reported significantly higher numbers of infant deaths to state inspectors than it recorded privately.

This came just months after another investigation revealed an unpublished 2012 internal HSE report raised concerns that death records were falsified in Bessborough Mother and Baby Home so children could “be brokered in clandestine adoption arrangements” at home and abroad.

In a statement, the order declined to comment on the HSE concerns about its past actions, stating it was dealing with the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes “on all such and related matters” and that it would “not be appropriate to enter into communication, other than with the Commission at this time”.

http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/hse-fear-of-legal-threat-at-bessborough-nuns-past-actions-374560.html

SPECIAL INVESTIGATION: An Grianán and High Park Magdalene laundry ‘one and the same’

Evidence that An Grianán training centre and High Park Magdalene Laundry were “one and the same thing” was uncovered by the HSE in 2012 — yet An Grianán was excluded from the Magdalene redress scheme.

The revelation is contained in a memo sent from the then assistant director of the Children and Family Services, Phil Garland, to the Department of Children and Youth Affairs representative on the McAleese committee, Denis O’Sullivan, and the national director of the Children and Family Services at the HSE, Gordon Jeyes, on June 26, 2012, while the HSE was examining the laundries issue as part of the McAleese inquiry.

Mr Garland points out that the HSE had uncovered evidence that showed “quite categorically” that An Grianán and High Park Magdalene Laundry, which were on the same site in Drumcondra in Dublin, were “one and the same thing”.

He said evidence “describes the functions of the laundry and the training centres and states quite categorically that all of the girls underwent some degree of training in the laundries, in addition to other tasks of ‘housewifery’, that is cookery classes and domestic science”.

However, former residents of An Grianán, which was excluded from the scope of the McAleese inquiry, were denied access to the redress scheme as it was not considered a Magdalene laundry. Residents of High Park Magdalene Laundry were included in the scheme.

Two other institutions not previously considered laundries — St Mary’s Training Centres in Stanhope St, Dublin; and Summerhill — were included in the Magdalene redress scheme.

Draft minutes of a meeting held by the McAleese committee on the same day the HSE evidence was uncovered indicate that, as An Grianán was previously included in the Residential Institutions Redress Board scheme, it would not be examined.

“Mr O’Sullivan raised the question of An Ghrianán [sic]. A significant volume of records had been uncovered in respect of that institution. There was discussion of that, with [Mary] McGarry noting its inclusion in Redress,” the minutes state, referring to a committee member.

“It was agreed that [committee adviser Nuala] Ní Mhuircheartaigh would secure the date of separation of An Ghrianán from the High Park campus — the committee would not be examining the institution after that point.”

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald told the Dáil last June An Grianán “served a different purpose” to the High Park laundry and there were “a number of different institutions on that site”.

The Government has repeatedly defended the exclusion of An Grianán from the Magdalene redress scheme by stating it was included in the Residential Institutions Redress Board scheme.

All women admitted to An Grianán were entitled to full compensation for the entire duration of their stay under the scheme. Those who did apply for redress under the Magdalene scheme were refused. It is understood a number of these women have appealed to the Office of the Ombudsman.

Claire McGettrick of Justice For Magdalenes Research said she was “shocked but not surprised” that the HSE revelations had been “completely ignored”.

“Given the fact that the Inter-Departmental Committee (IDC) on the Magdalene Laundries was made aware of this evidence, it is inexplicable that the Government included Stanhope St and Summerhill Training Centre in the redress scheme, but chose to exclude An Grianán,” she said.

Ms McGettrick called on the Government to “make immediate arrangements” for An Grianán’s inclusion in the Magdalene scheme.

“We have consistently pointed out that the IDC investigation was not the prompt, thorough independent inquiry called for by the United Nations Committee Against Torture. This evidence strongly reinforces our contention and we reiterate our call for the Magdalene laundries (and all related institutions) to be included in the mother and baby home inquiry.”

In a statement, the Department of Justice reiterated its view that An Grianán “served a different purpose” to the High Park laundry and that, as a result, it was included in the Residential Institutions Redress Board scheme.

“We are aware that some of the girls may have done some hours in the laundry while resident in An Grianán, however, the different nature of An Grianán was recognised by its inclusion in the Residential Institutions Redress Board scheme. Girls who were admitted to An Grianán were entitled to full compensation for the entire duration of their stay under the Residential Institutions Redress Board scheme.”

It says including residents of An Grianán in the Magdalene scheme would mean “those who were present there and have received compensation would receive double compensation for the same institution”.

http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/special-investigation-centre-and-laundry-one-and-the-same-334498.html

Mother and Baby Homes: Revelations put State in uncomfortable position

The reaction of the Government to a shocking 2012 HSE report on Bessborough Mother and Baby Home has been instructive.

The revelations contained in the report have clearly put it in an uncomfortable position. Despite the shock displayed once the Tuam babies story went global — it is now clear that the Government had possession of a report showing a higher death rate in Bessborough almost two years earlier.

When the report, compiled as part of the HSE’s examination of the State’s role in the Magdalene Laundries as part of the McAleese inquiry, was made public by the Irish Examiner in June, along with equally disturbing material relating to Tuam Mother and Baby Home, the reaction of Government was to first deny it had ever seen it, then admit that, in fact, two departments had the report before finally labelling the entire study “conjecture”.

Even if you accept the “conjecture” line, it is impossible to get away from the finding on the number of infant deaths at Bessborough.

They are worth repeating. Between 1934 and 1953, Bessborough’s Registration of Deaths ledger records a “shocking” 478 children as having died at the institution.

To put this into context, this death rate is higher than that found by Catherine Corless in Tuam almost two years later – research which led directly to the State inquiry.

If the Government was so horrified by the death rate found in Tuam that it felt compelled to launch a State inquiry, then why was it not similarly moved in 2012?

When the Irish Examiner first revealed details of the HSE report, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs said it had no knowledge of the report. The department has since altered this position, stating that not only did it have a copy of the report, but so did the Department of Health. In a series of responses to parliamentary questions, children’s minister Dr James Reilly has sought to defend the lack of action on the deaths – which are described as “wholly epidemic”, “shocking” and a “cause for serious consternation” – by stating the 2012 report’s findings are “a matter of conjecture”.

It is important to put this “conjecture” line to bed. Firstly, the 2012 HSE report is based on an examination of Bessborough’s own records spanning from 1922 to 1982. These were transferred to the HSE by the order that ran the home — the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary — in 2011. The 478 deaths recorded are taken directly from the order’s own death register. Based on the records, the author outlines a “narrative of patterns and practices of the Sacred Heart Order in the provision of adoption services at Bessboro”.

The records reveal an institution where women and babies were considered “little more than a commodity for trade amongst religious orders”, where “institutionalisation and human trafficking” took place among various religious orders and state-funded institutions and where women were provided with “little more than the basic care and provision afforded to that of any individual convicted of crimes against the State”.

The report is rock solid on the number of deaths listed, but says the question of whether or not all these children died but were instead “brokered” in clandestine adoption arrangements both at home and abroad was one which needed to be examined as part of a forensic investigation. It also says “further investigation is warranted” into the order’s accounting practices.

The records reveal clearly that the order requested payment from adoptive parents for the children they were adopting, while also requiring payment from the natural mothers for the care both they and their children received at the institution.

The author of the HSE report does state that the conclusions of the report were conjecture but, as always, context is everything.

The remark was in reference to establishing the interaction between the state, the order running Bessborough and the order operating the two Magdalene Laundries in Cork, and clearly indicates the Bessborough files reveal enough disturbing information to warrant a full forensic investigation.

“In order to conclusively verify interaction between the State and the Good Shepherd Sisters (who operated Magdalene Laundries in Sunday’s Well and Peacock Lane, Cork) and the Sacred Heart Order, it is imperative that full disclosure of any and all case files, records, institutional accounts and communications between the State and the religious orders be subject to forensic investigation. Until such time the conclusions of any such examination,” states the report.

None of the concerns raised in the Bessborough report are mentioned in the McAleese Report, nor does it appear any further investigation was done into the report’s findings.

The 2014 inter-departmental report on Mother and Baby Homes listed just 25 infant deaths at Bessborough, despite two Government departments being in possession of the order’s own figure of 478.

Dr Reilly has defended these omissions stating the findings were not “validated” and Mother and Baby Homes were outside the remit of the McAleese Committee. “As the issues raised in this draft report regarding death rates in Bessborough were outside the direct remit of the McAleese Committee, the HSE advised that these and other concerns would be examined separately by the HSE. At that time my department advised the HSE that any validated findings of concern from this separate process should be appropriately communicated by the HSE. My department is not aware of any subsequent report on this matter by the HSE,” he said.

This indicates that the department does not feel that a figure of 478 deaths taken directly from Bessborough’s Registration of Deaths transferred to the State by the order constitutes a “validated finding”.

While it is true that Mother and Baby Homes were outside the remit of the McAleese inquiry, that report points out that the committee uncovered material that was, “strictly speaking, outside its core remit” but chose to include it “in the public interest”.

This was because some of this material “may challenge some common perceptions” about Magdalene Laundries.