Time to turn mother and baby homes recommendations into action: O’Neill

·3-min read

Recommendations over mother and baby homes in Northern Ireland now need to be turned into action, deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill has said.

It comes after Ms O’Neill and First Minister Paul Givan reached agreement on the shape of a public inquiry to investigate the institutions.

Earlier the deputy First Minister had called on the DUP to back proposals for a public inquiry without delay.

It is understood action on the recommendation for a public inquiry had been held up by internal wrangling between Sinn Fein and the DUP on whether the Executive Office should be the lead Stormont department in organising the investigation.

At the start of last month a panel of Stormont-commissioned experts called for a public inquiry into the “great scandal” of mother and baby homes, Magdalene laundries and workhouses in Northern Ireland.

They also recommended a non-statutory independent panel that would run in parallel to the inquiry and allow those who were sent to the institutions, and their families, to give evidence in a less adversarial format.

Other recommendations included immediate redress payments for survivors at the outset of the twin-track investigatory process.

Mother and baby homes
Dr Maeve O’Rourke, Deirdre Mahon and Professor Phil Scraton outside Stormont, at the official launch of Truth Recovery Design Panel Report last month (Truth Recovery Design Panel/PA)

Ms O’Neill told the PA news agency: “Women and girls have been failed, their babies have also been failed, for far too long, so it is now time to turn the recommendations into action and I am determined to do that.

“I have today made a proposal that the Executive Office leads on the public inquiry and I am glad to see that that has now been endorsed.

“I hope now that we can move at speed to respond to the asks of the panel, the asks of the victims and survivors because fundamentally they are crucially important, they are at the centre of this.

“I want to speak to them over the course of the next number of days and then make an Assembly statement in terms of the next steps.”

She continued: “The report was launched some five to six weeks ago and it has taken some time just to work out where each responsibility sits, but I am glad that work has now happened.

“I do think it was too slow, that is why I today announced that I wanted the Executive Office to take on the public inquiry element of it and for us to proceed at pace and I am glad that is now the agreed position.

“Now is the time to turn all the recommendations into action and for us to turn a corner for victims and survivors who have been failed for generations on many, many fronts and I want this Executive to actually lead by example and to do the right thing.”

Coronavirus – Thu Sep 23, 2021
First Minister Paul Givan said he wanted the mother and baby homes report recommendations to be expedited as soon as possible (David Young/PA)

First Minister Paul Givan said that since the expert report was published he had wanted to see the matter “expedited as quickly as possible”.

He told BBC Radio Ulster: “I’m absolutely clear this requires decisive action and the Executive Office should lead on this and that will be my recommendation that both in terms of the inquiry and when it comes to the redress that we will lead on that because those that have suffered cannot tolerate any further delay.

“So I agree and have engaged with the deputy First Minister on this issue over the past number of days and that’s something now that we’ll jointly be making a recommendation to the Executive.

“We can’t have any further delay as to what departments should be doing what.

“Ultimately, the Executive acts collectively and it’s the responsibility of both me and the deputy First Minister to give that leadership to the broad Executive and all of the ministers that are on it, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

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