VEN though the terms of reference for the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes and Certain Related Matters, announced by Minister for Children, Dr James Reilly, are pretty comprehensive and make provision for inquiring into related matters it deems necessary, it is vital that it does not ignore private institutions where unmarried mothers were sent to have babies with adoption the ultimate fate of the children.
Unfortunately, it has taken almost seven months since the time it was decided to set up the inquiry to publish the terms of reference, which still have to be ratified by the Oireachtas, before it gets under way. All mothers and the babies they had in the homes are not getting any younger, so there should be a greater urgency in getting it started, especially as it is expected to last three years.
The three-person commission of inquiry will be chaired by Judge Yvonne Murphy, who has extensive experience in these types of investigations and whose work has always been thorough and incisive. First and foremost, they need to establish definitively why mother and baby homes had such high infant mortality rates and establish with whom the blame for this lies.
Seemingly, inspections by the health authorities revealed instances of malnutrition and retarded development in mother and baby homes, but nothing was done about it. Why? There are also questions to be answered about where children who died in them were buried.
Any evidence uncovered of secret forced adoptions which the commission comes across should be referred to the Gardai for criminal investigation, as such practices were akin to modern day people trafficking, and anybody who can be held to account for any of this – even at this late stage – should be made to.