Enacting mother and baby home proposals will take time, MLAs told

Work on implementing the recommendations of an expert panel into the mistreatment of women and children in mother and baby homes in Northern Ireland will take a “sustained period of time”, MLAs have been told.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 20th January 2022, 8:07 am
The research report on Mother and Baby Homes and Magdalene laundries in Northern Ireland
The research report on Mother and Baby Homes and Magdalene laundries in Northern Ireland

An Executive Office official told a Stormont committee that completing the recommendations would not be possible before the current Assembly mandate concludes later this year.

In November, Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill confirmed the Executive was committed to the “unequivocal and full implementation” of a series of recommendations proposed by the expert panel, including a public inquiry and redress scheme.

The practices within mother and baby homes, Magdalene laundries and workhouses and the experiences of the thousands of women and children held in the institutions over decades will be examined.

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As well as a public inquiry, the expert panel also recommended the creation of a non-statutory independent panel to allow those who were sent to the institutions, and their families, to give testimony in a less adversarial format.

Legislation to preserve and ensure access to the records of the institutions under scrutiny was also recommended.

Updating the Executive Office scrutiny committee yesterday, department official Colin Moffett said: “On November 15 2021, the Deputy First Minister made a statement to the Assembly on behalf of the Executive in which it was agreed that the recommendations of the Truth Recovery Design Panel’s report would be implemented in full.

“This was a highly significant step for victims and survivors.

“For some it has come after many years of campaigning and I am sure it was a day or relief.”

He said what the panel had recommended was a comprehensive package which “goes beyond just an inquiry”.

He added: “Some of the recommendations are relatively straightforward while others will require significantly more work, some of which will require collaboration of a north/south or east/west basis.

“The intention is that all of the recommendations will be progressed, as far as possible in parallel, rather than in series.

“Even so it is anticipated that it will take a sustained effort over a sustained period of time to implement all of the recommendations in full.

“It is just not possible to progress some of what is required within the current mandate given the time available to us.”

Independent MLA Trevor Lunn asked: “In terms of what happens around the end of the mandate and the beginning of the next one, this process can straddle that period of about seven or eight weeks?

“Also, there is no guarantee this place will get up and running again immediately, it has been known to take quite a while.

“Would that have an effect, if the Assembly wasn’t sitting for a long time?”

Department official Gareth Johnston said: “In terms of any gap that there might be, and I can’t speak to the politics of that, we are helpfully in a position where the Executive has agreed the main recommendations and that means that all the work has been continuing and will continue.”