The Irish Government’s ‘General Scheme of a Certain Institutional Burials (Authorised Interventions) Bill’, published in December 2019 and last updated in January 2021, has produced controversy in its construction.
The Separation, Appropriation and Loss Initiative (SALI) have already noted that the Bill potentially imports a discretion that is not appropriate, given the circumstances of many Survivors of the Mother and Baby Home Institutions, and does not account for the many victims of those Institutions who can no longer speak for themselves.
The Title of the Bill suggests a limitation of scope in the discovery of Human Remains within the properties that housed such Institutions through the use of the terms ‘certain’. Equally, the members of SALI also note within the Bill’s provisions a descriptive that imports a wide Ministerial discretion through the powers of this Bill.
This proposed Bill also dis-applies the obligations of Irish Coroners duties, to investigate and hold an inquest into any death within their District as required under the Coroners Act 1962.
SALI is also concerned by what appears to be a tacit recognition to consult with Community Survivors and of the general approach to reinterment matters.
As a consequence of the nature of this Bill, SALI members have drafted their own Bill: The Institutions Recognised or Suspected Burial Grounds Bill 2021, which has been sent to every member of the Oireachtas. A mirror Bill has also been created for Northern Ireland to address the equality of wrongs committed within that jurisdiction, and what SALI believes is the failure of the Irish Bill to recognise the cross-border nature of this issue. The Northern Irish Bill seeks to also address past wrongs, addressing these issues with the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly.
The SALI Bills seek to address what it see’s as the failures of potential legislation (or a failure to use existing legislation), and provides a much wider set of obligations, to be addressed by local authorities and Ministers, and in particular, incorporating the the vital role that Irish Coroners must play in this work. The proposed SALI Bills also remove the limitations on recognising Institutions and places clear obligations and duties in relation to investigation and on planning issues, along with placing Community Survivors at the heart of all deliberations.
Central to the SALI Bill's is the Overriding Objective, which in the opinion of SALI members is a long overdue requirement when dealing with all matters relating to these Institutions. As an example, in the application of the SALI Bill, the Overriding Objective requires all parties to:
- Create Public Awareness of the issues;
- That all Human Remains found should be considered to have acquired Irish Citizenship or UK Citizenship at Birth, which continued at death;
- That such deceased Citizens and their relatives continue to enjoy rights under Irish & UK Law and under the European Convention on Human Rights, and
- That no Act of the Oireachtas, the Northern Ireland or UK government’s can dispense with the Overriding Objective.
Breeda Murphy states:
“We are reminded continuously of complexities on issues that have for decades proved elusive by the Government to solve or even impact positively upon. When one looks at them, the issues are not complex at all. In this particular case, captured in this proposed Bill, it is simple. There is a right way to do things and a wrong way and Governments have chosen the wrong way for reasons that are incomprehensible”.
“Where a child or an adult loses their life, there is an expectation by the electorate and international observers that due process of law will commence to provide justice to the grieving family and to the public. I believe that each death is deserving of memory, ritual and ceremony, afforded to all citizens, without distinction. Burial places of former/present institutions must be identified and recognised before a sod is turned to erase footprints and to ensure there are no unmarked or mass burials. Why? Because we are human beings; because we share a sense of collective responsibility. Because it could be your child, or mine, your mother or mine, your father or mine discarded or disrespected in any one of those sites. And then, when no one speaks for them, you would be entitled to ask the question ‘Why’? Until that time, let us respond with ‘Why not?’”
Eunan Duffy states:
Our draft Bills remind me of the famous saying: “The dead cannot cry out for justice. It is the duty of the living to do so for them" (Lois McMaster Bujold).
“The SALI creators are advocates and activists for the living and deceased, for now and for the future generations. We should by human right, live as we die, with humanity, dignity and integrity. For too many, death was premature as a result of barbarity and cruelty within institutional walls, where choice was not an option, living became a struggle for survival and death was either an escape or sentence. The governments of the Republic and North of Ireland have abdicated duty of care and responsibility to its citizens both living and dead that are associated with myriad carceral institutions and legion ramifications of injustices as yet unserved and unaddressed. Many yearn for knowing where loved ones are lost, disappeared and buried without trace nor marking. National and local governance means identifying, protecting, investigating and criminalising where necessary, and using every means at its disposal including full authoritative coronary powers, where any and all human remains may lay, in whatever condition to satisfy the needs of relatives for truth, justice and disclosure. The dead are only dead when forgotten...we choose not to forget”.
Frank Brehany states:
“It is indeed puzzling why the Irish Government should seek to introduce such measures when the apparatus already exists to deal with such matters. If indeed there was any concern about existing provisions, then reasonable amendments to various Oireachtas Acts would have sufficed. I am concerned over the general discretion of language evident in the government’s Bill, which given the controversial nature of Institutional failures and abuse is quite likely to lead to further challenges before the Irish Courts. I believe that the SALI Bill’s, created by real Community Survivors, sets out clearly the obligations and requirements in relation to recognised or suspected Institutional Burial Grounds. I would call on members of the Oireachtas and the Northern Ireland Assembly to consider our proposals and ensure that the deficits within the Irish government’s own proposed Bill are addressed through our own provisions and through cross-border cooperation”.
Notes to editors:
A previous SALI report can be found here.
The following provides a brief bio on each of the SALI report Authors:
Breeda is committed to issues of Social Justice and in particular societal structure and how power is controlled to deny certain groups of people their rightful place in society. She has extensively researched the ‘Forgotten Irish’, those who left Irish shores and who supported those they had left behind. Over 6 years ago, she began working with the Survivors of the Tuam Mother and Baby Home and noted how government largely ignored Survivors valuable testimony. Breeda has worked with many on the island of Ireland, eager to ensure that the survivor narrative, speaking truth to power, rises above the din of conjecture in State commissioned publications. Breeda collaborates with many campaigners and activists and is also the PRO of the Tuam Mother and Baby Home Alliance.
Eunan is an Adoptee, Activist and Advocate. He was adopted from the Marianvale Mother & Baby/Magdalen Institution in Newry, County Down. He only became aware of his adoption circumstances in 2016; this life-changing revelation had a profound impact on Eunan and his family. He subsequently discovered that the Institution in question was renowned for a catalogue of Human Rights abuses and crimes. In seeking to establish his origins, identity and heritage, he discovered that the system is designed to obstruct and discourage the discovery of family roots and medical genesis. Eunan has assisted other families in their quest for identity whilst providing valuable commentary on State and Religious abdication of responsibilities. Eunan collaborates with and is befriended with many campaigners and activists, along with those affected in different parts of the world. Eunan also works with Civil Society Organisations.
Frank is a Consumer Campaigner and Media Commentator. For the last 11 years, he has been investigating his own family ‘secret’ and discovered that his Father had been born out of wedlock and that his Grandmother had been incarcerated for 42 years within the Magdalen Laundry system. Frank’s Father spent the first 5 years of his life within the Tuam Mother and Baby Home, being subsequently boarded out to a good family. Frank’s journey has provided much joy and many tears, but it is the striking irritation from religious orders and the inability of government to answer simple correspondence that presents another side to his investigations, that the establishment in Irish Society is fearful of answering to the injustices of the past. Frank considers that the the Children of the Scaradh are now coming home! Frank works collaboratively with many campaigners and activists in this ‘Magdalen’ story.
Media Interview Availability:
Breeda, Eunan & Frank are available for interview. Please contact Frank Brehany via firstname.lastname@example.org or via his Twitter handle: @ConsumerFrank, setting out your needs and requirements.