Inquiry call over 'illegal' forced adoptions at Northern Ireland Mother and Baby home

By agency reporter
May 23, 2018

Amnesty International is calling for an independent investigation into potential criminal activity at Mother and Baby Homes in Northern Ireland, following a BBC investigation which uncovered evidence of apparent illegal adoption and international trafficking of babies.

A BBC File on Four investigation found evidence that laws may have been broken and birth certificates falsified in the adoption of babies born in the Marianvale Mother and Baby Home in Newry to families in the Republic of Ireland and USA.

The BBC discovered that over one hundred babies who were born at Marianvale in Newry were taken out of Northern Ireland for adoption. One case highlighted in the programme featured a baby whose birth was registered in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and the USA – each time with different birth dates and places of birth.

Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland programme director of Amnesty International, is interviewed in the programme calling for an independent inquiry into potential criminal activity in the Homes, he said: “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 - criminal acts in both domestic and international law.

“Amnesty has previously provided the Northern Ireland Executive with information about cases of forced adoption and falsified documentation, such as those now being highlighted by the BBC. 

“We are calling on the Northern Ireland authorities to establish an independent investigation into the allegations of systemic human rights abuses at these institutions, including the alleged theft and trafficking of new-born babies.”

Women who were forced to give birth in Mother and Baby Homes in Northern Ireland, and children who were born in the Homes, have previously called for a public inquiry into abuses they say they suffered there.

Oonagh McAleer was forced into Marianvale mother and baby home in Newry when she became pregnant as a 17 year-old. She gave birth to a son in 1980 but was prevented from ever seeing or holding her baby before he was taken away for adoption against her will. In 2017 she told Amnesty: “My baby was taken from me as soon as he was born. I never even got to hold him, or even to look at his face. He was adopted against my knowledge or agreement. The nuns and the government did that to me. And they did it to my child and to so many other women and girls and their babies across Northern Ireland for decade after decade. 

“We demand the truth be told now, at long last. We demand a public inquiry.”

The Lost Children of Marianvale was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Tuesday 22 May at 8pm.

The Good Shepherd Sisters ran Mother and Baby Homes in Newry, on the Ormeau Road in Belfast and in Derry / Londonderry from the late 19th century until the 1980s and 1990s. Thousands of girls and women passed through the doors of other such Homes.

A Magdalene Asylum and laundry was operated by the Church of Ireland on Belfast’s Donegall Pass, with the home continuing into the 1960s, while the Presbyterian Church was associated with the Ulster Female Penitentiary in central Belfast. In total, Amnesty International has previously identified twelve Mother and Baby Homes or Magdalene Laundry-type institutions which operated in Northern Ireland in the last century.

The Irish Government has established a commission of inquiry into alleged abuses at Mother and Baby Homes in the Republic of Ireland. To date, the Northern Ireland government has refused to set up a similar inquiry.

The UN Committee Against Torture and the UN Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women have both recommended that the Northern Ireland Executive should establish an inquiry into abuses in such institutions. Despite various internal reviews commissioned by the Northern Ireland Executive, it has refused to commit to setting up an inquiry.

* Amnesty International https://www.amnesty.org.uk/

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