Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill has said she will make the case for a full public inquiry into institutions for unmarried mothers in the North, stating that women were treated in a “barbaric way”.

Ms O’Neill added that she accepted all of the recommendations of an expert panel into mother and baby homes, Magdalene laundries and workhouses.

The panel has recommended an “integrated investigation” by a non-statutory independent panel, feeding into a statutory public inquiry.

First Minister Paul Givan, Ms O’Neill and Health Minister Robin Swann have undertaken to consider the recommendations and said the Executive would set out their next steps as soon as possible.

 

Speaking to the media at Stormont, Ms O’Neill said the publication of the panel’s report was a “major step forward for victims and survivors”.

“If you reflect on what has happened, the barbaric way in which women and girls were treated over many decades is utterly shameful.

“I do think today is significant in moving things forward and today is a step forward in terms of recognition, a step closer to the truth.

“Women were abused in a barbaric way, they had their babies stolen from their arms and moved without their consent.”

Ms O’Neill added: “I very much welcome the proposals. I’ve said from the very outset that I accept all of the proposals which are brought forward by the victims and survivors, and in this case I support the recommendations and I will make that case to the Executive, including a full public inquiry.”

The North’s First Minister Paul Givan said decisions on a way forward over mother and baby homes could be made within weeks (David Young/PA)

Mr Givan suggested decisions on the way forward could be made within weeks.

“The Executive will need to take that (the recommendations) on board but we do need to get that advice now from the independent working group chair, Judith Gillespie,” he said.

“That advice will come to ministers and I would hope that within the next number of weeks the Executive will then be able to take decisions, and at that point give a definitive response to those particular recommendations.”

Mr Givan said the organisations involved in the mother and baby homes should be involved in reparation payments.

“Obviously we’re at a premature stage in terms of what would a reparation look like, that’s more than just financial, it’s also having an apology which is meaningful, and there needs to be work done around that,” he said.

“Those are issues that will need to be considered. We’re at the early stages of trying to have a proper investigative process set now and flowing from that obviously those recommendations included, things like reparation, acknowledgement, the ability for victims and survivors to be able to tell their story, do all need to be taken forward.”