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Northern Ireland: Mistakes of Republic’s Mother and Baby Home inquiry must not be repeated – new report

Warning comes in new report which examines similar inquiries from other countries

The Northern Ireland Executive must not repeat the mistakes of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes in the Republic of Ireland when establishing an inquiry, Amnesty International UK and Ulster University said in a new report.

The 36-page report - Learning The Lessons: Co-designing the Inquiry / Investigation into Mother and Baby and Magdalene Laundry Institutions in Northern Ireland - is based on contributions from survivors, academics and other experts with experience of inquiries in the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Canada, Australia and South Africa.

The report has been submitted to the Truth Recovery Panel, who are currently mid-way through a six-month process of working with survivors to design the inquiry. 

Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland Programme Director, said: 

“Northern Ireland has a unique opportunity to design an inquiry which meets the needs of victims who want truth, justice and redress.

“It is crucial that the panel learn from mistakes in the Commission of Investigation in the Republic of Ireland, which has left many survivors feeling ignored and let down. 

“We have documented evidence from survivors and other experts about what works and what doesn’t work in similar inquiries around the world. 

“The challenge now is to design an inquiry which embeds human rights in all aspects of its operation and maximises participation by survivors. Nothing should be done without their full involvement.”

Professor Patricia Lundy of Ulster University said:

Whatever type of investigative mechanism is designed it should be effective and robust – it must have the powers to compel witnesses and documentation, enable accountability and achieve justice for victims/survivors.

Background

In January, the Northern Ireland Executive agreed to establish an investigation into the institutions, with the nature of the inquiry to be determined by survivors, including women who were sent to the institutions and the children to whom they gave birth.

A six-month co-design process for the inquiry / investigation commenced in March 2021, facilitated by Dr Maeve O’Rourke, Professor Phil Scraton and chaired by senior social worker Deirdre Mahon.  

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