NI’s mother and baby homes come under the spotlight in UTV programme

Mother and baby homes in Northern Ireland will be the subject of an in-depth investigation on tomorrow’s (Thursday’s) episode of UTV’s current affairs programme ‘Up Close’.

Wednesday, 26th May 2021, 12:09 pm
Maria returns to the mother and baby home where she was born

These establishments were part of the fabric of life in Northern Ireland for decades, used for young pregnant unmarried women to have their babies, with most being given up for adoption.

Entitled ‘An Island’s Shame’, and presented by UTV’s Sharon O’Neill, the programme follows on from a damning report published in January about mother and baby homes, which was commissioned by the Department of Health and chaired by retired PSNI officer Judith Gillespie.

The report found that more than 10,000 women and children, among them rape and incest victims, were sent to mother and baby homes in Northern Ireland between 1922 and 1990.

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The Executive subsequently ordered a “victim-centred” independent investigation, with campaigners calling for a full statutory inquiry.

In the programme, Northern Irish children born in these homes talk about their own emotional journeys and searches, and a mother gives her account of her time in the home, and the memories that haunt her to this day.

We also hear from Judith Gillespie; solicitor and campaigner, Claire McKeegan; and criminologist and academic Phil Scraton who led the investigation into the Hillsborough Disaster, and who is now one of three experts leading the Truth Recovery Design Team, set up after the report to investigate the operation of the historical institutions.

The programme opens with Judith Gillespie who comments on the findings of the initial report, “This was not a marginal issue, this was thousands of young girls and women, who had babies in secret, and had all sorts of subterfuge and cover stories to hide what was going on from neighbours, friends, wider society and indeed family.

“This was mainstream on an industrial scale, and I find that shocking…... an appalling chapter of our island’s history”

Among those we meet is Maria, who goes with Sharon for the first time to Marianville in Belfast where she was born in 1969.

Her mother, then aged 21, was in a mixed religion relationship and fell pregnant, and was sent to the home to have the baby and give her up.

She said, “Babies like myself were treated as commodities. I know she had absolutely no choice.”

*‘Up Close – An Island’s Shame’ airs on Thursday, May 27 at 9pm on UTV.