Skip to main content
Amnesty International UK
Log in
"Mother and Baby Institutions, Learning the Lessons" text overlay of image of one of these homes

Time for truth and justice....

After a long campaign, survivors from Mother and Baby and Magdalene Laundry institutions now have the opportunity to co-design an inquiry into the human rights abuses they suffered.

Women in Northern Ireland have told Amnesty that they suffered arbitrary detention, forced labour, ill-treatment, and the removal and forced adoption of their babies – human rights violations.

Meanwhile, their babies were routinely branded as ‘illegitimate’ on birth, taken from their mothers as newborns -- some to be adopted without consent, while others were put into loveless institutions, only to face death by malnutrition and burial in mass graves.

Amnesty International is continuing its decade-long work with survivors to ensure truth and justice.

In March 2021, a six-month government-approved process of co-designing the inquiry began. The information and resources on this page should help survivors and other stakeholders to navigate this process and ensure a human rights compliant investigation is delivered.

Learning the Lessons

Following the publication of a report researching Mother and Baby institutions in Northern Ireland, survivors are being invited to co-design an inquiry into the issue. In a process that will last up to six months, the design and terms of reference of the investigation process will be agreed.

Amnesty International and Ulster University held a series of online events with experts and survivors to inform what this process should look like during March and April 2021. They are available to watch in full below. We have produced a summary report of the key lessons emerging from the events, available to download here

Learning the Lessons seminar series report


Panel Event 1 

Prof Patricia Lundy, Ulster University, founder of Panel of Experts on Redress (NI)  
Assessment of the Hart Inquiry, from the perspective of survivors  

Breeda Murphy, Activist on Mother and Baby Home issues and PRO of Tuam Mother and Baby Home Alliance Opportunity lost: from the perspective of survivors and those affected in Ireland  

Dr James Gallen, Dublin City University, expert on Mother and Baby Homes; Expert advisor to the Irish Department of Children and Youth Affairs  
Failing to centre survivors: An analysis of Ireland's Commission on Mother and Baby Homes.  
Chair: Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International

Panel Event 2

Prof Kathleen Mahoney - Chief Negotiator - Assembly of First Nations, Residential School Settlement, major architect of Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Gerry McCann - Rosetta Trust, Survivor-Campaigner for Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry

Conall Ó Fátharta  - Journalist and Lecturer, NUI Galway

Chair: Eunan Duffy - Adoptee, Activist, Advocate

Panel Event 3

Prof Anne-Marie McAlinden - Queen's University, Belfast 

Frank Golding - Care Leavers of Australia Network

Colm O'Gorman - Amnesty International Ireland

Chair: Mark McCollum - Adoptee, Campaigner

Panel Event 4

Jon McCourt - Survivors North West, Survivor-Campaigner for Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry

Prof Brandon Hamber - Ulster University, expert on transitional justice

Gemma McKeown - Solicitor, Committee on the Administration of Justice

Sharon Burke - Born in Newry and adopted in Dublin whose mother spent time in Marianvale, Newry (Chair)


Information and Resources 

  • Learning the Lessons seminar series report: Co-designing the Inquiry / Investigation into Mother and Baby and Magdalene Institutions in Northern Ireland, Amnesty International UK and Ulster University (June 2021)
  • Amnesty International's submission to the Northern Ireland Executive calling for a human rights-compliant investigation into Magdalene Laundry-type institutions (May 2013) 
  • Press release: Northern Ireland - Mother and Baby inquiry must deliver long-awaited truth and justice for survivors (January 2021)
  • Research report into Mother and Baby Institutions and Magdalene Laundries in Northern Ireland (January 2021)
  • Through the lens of survivors, Lessons from the Northern Ireland Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry: Prof Patricia Lundy, Ulster University (February 2020)
  • "I Just Want Justice": The Impact of Historical Institutional Child-Abuse Inquiries from the Survivor's Perspective, Patricia Lundy, Ulster University (Spring/Summer 2020)
  • Lessons from transitional justice? Towards a new framing of a victim-centred approach in the case of institutional abuse, Prof Brandon Hamber and Prof Patricia Lundy, Ulster University (May 2020)

You can find out more about the Northern Ireland Executive's co-design process here, as well as how you can get involved here

An independent panel - Deirdre Mahon, Dr Maeve O’Rourke and Prof Phil Scraton - was appointed by the NI Executive in March 2021 to co-design the inquiry with survivors. Find out more and get involved here.

Mental Health Support

Mental health and counselling support services are available to anyone affected by these issues. Access to help and support in your locality, including through your GP and specialised healthcare professionals, can be accessed at
Lifeline is a free, confidential telephone helpline. It is available anytime every day 08088088000 

Learning the lessons report.pdf