Grandson of Magdalen Woman calls on Irish Seanad to amend Redress Bill

Time to bring consensus to the Redress Bill for Mother & Baby Homes?

Time to make reasonable changes the Redress Bill, to make it more inclusive?

The Grandson of a Magdalen Woman today calls on the Irish Seanad, to introduce and pass important amendments to the Mother and Baby Institutions Payment Scheme Bill, 2022

Tomorrow (Wednesday 19 April 2022), the Seanad will debate the Bill, which recently passed from the Dáil to the Seanad. 

The Seanad will now follow its own processes, debating and considering amendments to the Bill. Once those stages are complete, the Bill will enter its final stages, receive approval from President Higgins, and then pass into Irish Law. 

The Bill has not been without its controversy, forming part of a package of Bills which are apparently designed by the government, as part of its overall redress scheme for the former occupants of the Mother and Baby Home system. However, this Bill has followed the same pattern of previous Bills offering financial redress, offering exclusion to living survivors and those who pre-deceased the State apology of January 2021. 

During its passage through the Dáil, the government were deaf to the representations of a small number of TD’s, whilst the government benches remained empty. Those benches however were subsequently populated by TD’s, who voted through the different stages of the Bill, without it seems, having heard the voices of the victims and survivors and their concerns. 

Frank Brehany’s Grandmother (Mary Breheny), spent just over one year in the infamous Tuam Mother & Baby Home (she was previously in Loughrea County Home and in another as yet unidentified location – her son (Francis Brehany) spent 5 years in the Mother & Baby Home before being boarded-out).

Her initial incarceration was followed by a further 40 years as an inmate within the equally infamous High Park Magdalen Laundry in Dublin, until her death in 1972. 

As both Mary and Francis had died before the State apology of 13 January 2021, they are excluded from the provisions or recognition of the Bill, to be content it seems with a State apology.

Equally, so too are some estimated 24,000 former children and women for the principal reasons of having spent below the minimum time in an Institution or being boarded-out, thus failing to qualify for benefits or compensation under the scheme. 

Frank has already submitted amendments to the Irish Seanad (Page 1 - Page 2). In doing so, he carefully recognised the difficulties encountered by TD’s during the early stages of the Bill. Whilst their amendments were understandably prescriptive, Frank considers that the time has now passed to try and re-run previous arguments. Instead, he has drafted a set of amendments for the Seanad, which: 

  • Do not add any fiscal burden on the Irish State whatsoever; 
  • The amendments simply require a Minister to “consider”: 
    • A category of victim/survivor currently excluded from the scheme;
    • A category of pre-deceased victim excluded by a State apology;
    • Any other identified category of victim/survivor excluded from the scheme 
  • The amendments simply require a Minister to confirm that they have considered those categories, within any report, that is obligated by the Bill; 
  • The amendments so drafted by Frank are reasonable, proportionate and present a compromise that demonstrates that all categories of victims or survivors are not forgotten or invisible. 

Frank Brehany states: 

“I have watched with some dismay but with no surprise, as to how this and other Bills for Mother and Baby Homes have progressed” 

“Tick-box lists are all very well, but if this mechanical approach leaves categories of victims of survivors behind, unrecognised and invisible, then such a Bill is built on sand”

He concludes:

“It is my fervent hope that all members of the Seanad, irrespective of their political allegiances, will recognise the opportunity for consensus and send a powerful message to the Oireachtas and indeed the country, that no victim or survivor is forgotten or left behind.

It is my earnest belief that my amendments will help politicians to improve the Bill leading perhaps, sometime in the future, to a greater inclusivity for the many thousands of victims/survivors, alive or dead, and their families. I urge Senators to consider and use my amendments and bring some healing to this fractured debate and improve the Bill’s current provisions”.