Supreme Court hears complaints about mother and baby homes

The final report of the Commission of Inquiry into Mother and Baby Homes should have acknowledged the “unspeakable suffering” of the residents of the homes and made it clear that they “have done nothing wrong and do not reserve the treatment they have received”. Supreme Court has been told.

Philomena Lee, a former resident, claims it was “just not good enough” for the Commission to blame the treatment of women in the homes on the moral beliefs of society at the time, said counsel Michael Lynn SC.

mr. Justice Garrett Simons has started hearing two main cases – by Mrs. Lee, now in her 80s and living in England, and Mary Harney (72), of Co Galway – on the final report which both women claim does not accurately reflect their evidence to the committee.

Both say that they are easily identifiable in the final report, with the result that the Commission was obliged under the Commissions of Inquiry Act to provide them with the draft report so that they could comment on it, including regarding the handling of their evidence.

Mrs. Lee was sent to the Seán Ross. sent Abbey mother and baby at home in Roscrea, Co Tipperary in 1952 after she became pregnant at the age of 18. Her son was sent to an American couple for adoption in 1955 when he was three years old.

Ms Lee believes the commission should have provided a report recognizing the magnitude of the experience and “unspeakable suffering” of women at home, including failure to give free and informed consent to adopt their children, counsel said. .

The committee’s opinion that it was “impossible” to know whether women were giving full, free and informed consent for adoption contradicted Ms Lee’s evidence that she had been called to a nun’s office in the house, said that her son was adopted and to sign a form that was not read or explained to her, the counsel outlined. She believed that a man who was in the office at the time was a lawyer.


Lee was also not told in advance when her then three-year-old son was leaving the house, until the day in question when a nun told her and she ran upstairs to find the boy in the back of a car leaving the house. The house had her contact details, but it was not shared with her son, despite his efforts to contact her through nuns and others, the court was told.

The committee’s finding that women were not legally “locked up” in the homes also contradicted evidence that Ms Lee had witnessed some women who had run away being returned to the homes by the gardai, he said.

In the 1950s, Lee worked unpaid six days a week in the laundry of the Seán Ross Abbey home for nearly four years. While she accepted that this work involved doing the abbey’s laundry herself and not the laundry of other entities, her experience was that her experience was at odds with the committee’s distinction between commercial and non-commercial work and her believed that such work was comparable to the work women would do if they were in their own homes or on farms.

She had worked Monday to Saturday from 8:30 am to 4:00 pm this was a form of “forced labour” and if she had had a chance to respond to her draft report at the committee she would have tried to impress the committee . The very demanding schedule imposed on her was not really addressed, he said.

Mrs. Lee’s life was the subject of a book by Martin Sixsmith entitled The Lost Child of Philomena Lee in 2009, which was made into a film in 2013, Philomena, directed by Stephen Frears, the court heard. She was of the opinion that the commission had imposed her anonymity, Mr Lynn said.

Mrs Harney, now in her 70s, was born in 1949 at the Bessborough mother and baby home in Cork. admitted to abuse and neglect during his retirement between 1951 and 1954.

In opposing the cases, the state has said that the commission was independent in the way it conducted its investigation and that, other than appointing the commission, the state had no role or involvement in the investigation.

Irish human rights and Equality Commission will make contributions addressing the rights of victims of historical abuse to access to justice and an effective remedy.

The hearing is scheduled for two days.

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