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Mother and baby homes report ‘lacked political will’ to involve those affected

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Campaigner and human rights lawyer Dr Maeve O’Rourke has criticised the mother and baby homes report saying that it had not given the people affected the opportunity to participate in the inquiry beyond being treated like a witness.

There was a “lack of political will”, she told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland. There were many small steps that could have been taken that would have made “a massive difference”.

The inquiry into mother and baby homes did not behave like any ordinary procedure, she said. The people affected had suffered “gross and systematic constitutional and human rights violations, they were not given an opportunity to participate in this inquiry beyond being treated as a witness.

“Their evidence was taken and they were told to go away, not even allowed to have a copy of their evidence to check that it was recorded in its entirety, that it was correct and what they didn’t have was access to any of the evidence from the institutions across the board, from the State, the private institutions.

“They didn’t have access to testimony, to individuals who were in positions of responsibility or are in positions of responsibility — no access to the administrative files, to the State or the Church — that’s something that prevents them from getting to court properly now.”

Taoiseach Micheál Martin alongside Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman during a live video call with survivors after the publication of the mother and baby homes report. Photo: Julien Behal

Public hearings

Dr O’Rourke said that even though the inquiry had “a veneer of being a legal procedure” — it had not given reasons “for why it refused all those mothers their requests to have a public hearing, didn’t give us reasons why we couldn’t have a public hearing at the very beginning when we were making submissions about the need to consider rights violations under the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights.”

There could have been “a very flexible and inviting interpretation of the Constitution” applied, she said. “Inviting those to tell us how to understand those rights — we clearly didn’t implement them in the past, so how should we understand them now?”

Dr O’Rourke pointed out that nothing to date had given individuals access to their own files. “This has all been an exercise in talking to the public in general terms. There still are no statutory rights and in practice people’s rights are being denied — to their own information, to their own family files.

“We have a situation of enforced disappearance which is one of the most serious violations of international law — where someone is institutionalised with the involvement of the State following which their fate and whereabouts is not disclosed by the State to their family. That’s needs to be remedied by the Government.”

‘Very hurt’

Historian and campaigner Catherine Corless has said that mother and baby home survivors were very hurt by Taoiseach Micheál Martin’s comments on Tuesday.

Ireland

Mother and baby home survivors ‘very hurt’ by Taoi…

Ms Corless told Newstalk Breakfast that a broader apology was needed, highlighting the role of the Church and State rather than putting so much weight on the role of society in general.

“He specifically pointed out society in general, and the parents and grandparents of these survivors. They were very, very hurt over that. They all have their own stories. They gave their own stories, like how it was impossible for their mothers to stay in the village because of the Church and the attitudes they created at the time.”

Ms Corless said she would have preferred if the Taoiseach had said all were at fault and that there was a need for an apology “from all around.”

 

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Ireland

Man released without charge after seizure of gun and cannabis worth €2,000

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A man has been released without charge in Cork, after the seizure of a suspected gun and €2,000 worth of cannabis.

The discovery was made yesterday at around 5pm after the search of a home in the Cloyne area.

A man in his 30s was arrested at the scene and taken to Middleton Garda Station.

He has since been released without charge and a file is being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.

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Ireland

Children may not return to school until close to Easter

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Most children will not be back in school next month and may not return to the classroom until close to Easter, according to Government sources.

The Government’s Cabinet committee on Covid-19 is due to receive fresh guidance over the reopening schools from public health experts ahead of a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

As the Irish Times reports, while a full return to school is unlikely until mid to late March, sources say there remains a determination to reopen special education as a priority in February if virus transmission rates continue to fall.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said at the weekend that he believed schools will most likely reopen in a phased way, but not all students would be back at school by St Patrick’s Day.

Meanwhile, talks over contingency plans for the Leaving Cert are to intensify this week amid growing expectation that a formal decision on the future of the exams will be made shortly.

The Department of Education is due to meet with secondary education partners to discuss “further possible options” for the exams.

Leaving Cert

A spokesman for the Minister declined to comment on when a decision over the future of the Leaving Cert will be made beyond stating that the situation was “fluid”.

The Government is coming under pressure from opposition parties to clarify its plans for the Leaving Cert.

Labour Party leader Alan Kelly TD said he expects the exams will now be cancelled and has called for a decision to be made by February 1st.

Up until recently, Minister for Education Norma Foley said it was the Government’s firm intention to press ahead with a “traditional” Leaving Cert.

However, the continued closure of schools means this will be challenging given looming deadlines for oral and practical exams and concern over inequality of access to education.

Last year, the written Leaving Cert exams in June were cancelled and replaced by a system of calculated grades, which involved teachers assessing their own students.

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More transparency needed around frontline workers yet to be vaccinated, says IMO

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Consultant Matthew Sadlier of the Irish Medical Organisation has called for greater transparency about who has had the Covid-19 vaccine and how many frontline workers have yet to be vaccinated.

Speaking on RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland, Dr Sadlier said the issue was about trying to protect patients, vaccinating frontline workers would mean that hospitals could stay open.

At present there were 6,000 frontline workers off work because of Covid issues and it was not acceptable that there was not a plan for frontline workers to be vaccinated as soon as possible, he said.

With 2,000 Covid patients in hospitals at present, every ward was a Covid ward, he said. The concept that some wards were not Covid wards was not accurate as everyone was at risk.

Definitive list

There should be a “definitive list” for every hospital for vaccinations for frontline staff, he said. Dr Sadlier said he had some sympathy for the HSE because it was obvious there was a shortfall.

Protecting staff was important as it meant protecting patients so there needed to be transparency about where the vaccine would be going now. “Who is left to be vaccinated and how they are going to manage it going forward.”

When asked about the vaccination programme in the UK where the date for the second vaccine has been postponed for up to 12 weeks, Dr Sadlier said he thought it would be “a very high risk thing to do.”

On the issue of PPE, he said high grade masks needed to be guaranteed and available to all staff – not after risk assessment as was the situation at present. “All staff are at high risk.”

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