Amnesty today responded to recent comments by a former member of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes, indicating that survivors’ testimonies given to its Confidential Committee did not inform its final report findings.
“This report is now clearly so fundamentally flawed that can no longer be defended by the Government as ‘the truth’. In fact, the report is itself an impediment to truth and justice, and at some points harms survivors,” said Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland.
“The right to truth is a critical component of survivors’ right to redress. Without full truth, justice will be impossible.
“We wrote to the Taoiseach and Minister O’Gorman in April expressing concern at the serious gaps in the information uncovered by the Commission in its final report, the findings made and their analysis. We noted that many of the Commission’s conclusions are contradicted by survivor testimonies to the Confidential Committee. Recent comments that this evidence was effectively disregarded are shocking. This would be a betrayal of all those who give evidence to the Confidential Committee.”
Amnesty also called on the government to acknowledge that the report cannot stand as an official record, to make the archive available to survivors and to also recognise that a rejection of this report is not an impediment to progressing the redress scheme.
“It remains the Government’s legal obligation to ensure full truth, justice and reparation for all survivors of human rights abuses in these ‘homes’. This report is far from a full and comprehensive account of what happened to women and children in these institutions. We call on the Government to finally acknowledge that it cannot and will not stand as the official record of what women and children experienced. It must put in place measures to address the harm done by these gaps and weaknesses. This includes making the Commission archive available to survivors,” said Colm O’Gorman.
“Despite the serious shortcomings in the Commission’s report, the Government can and must progress its redress scheme for the harms that have been identified. It should not use that as a reason to delay redress. It must, of course, also ensure the full range of human rights violations is investigated.
“The report’s recommendations on redress and financial reparation are extremely limited though, and must not be followed. Survivors must be able to participate effectively in this process and be consulted. They must be treated with full respect for their rights and dignity this time.”
Amnesty also highlighted that lessons must be learned from this Commission process, or the state will again fail survivors of institutional human rights abuses like it did with the Magdalene Laundries.
“In 2014, we wrote to the then Taoiseach asking that the Commission be mandated to conduct its investigation through a fully human rights compliant framework, and that the process respect the rights of survivors to an effective remedy. This did not happen. The government must now put this right. Otherwise, like with the Magdalene Laundries, Ireland will again be repeatedly criticised by UN human rights bodies for failing survivors.”
The 2013 McAleese report of an interdepartmental review of state interaction with the Magdalene Laundries has been presented by successive governments as something it was not. There still has not been a thorough and independent investigation into the entirety of human rights abuses experienced by women and children in those institutions.