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The former Marianvale Mother and Baby Home on the Armagh Road in Newry is documented in detail in the Mother’s & Babies and Magdalene Laundries Report, released this week by the Stormont Executive.

The report detailing the operation of the Homes and Laundries in Northern Ireland from 1922-1999 runs to over 500 pages and documents in-depth the Marianvale Home.

The former Marianvale mother and baby home on the Armagh Road in Newry. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
The former Marianvale mother and baby home on the Armagh Road in Newry. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

Marianvale opened in 1955 on the site of the Good Shepherd Convent and closed in 1984. In the 1960's there were 630 admissions to the home.

The age range of those entering Marianvale ranged from 14 to women in their 40's.

Citing reasons at the time for entering the home the Report says "The societal shame attached to illegitimacy, the impact of an unmarried daughter’s pregnancy on their families and the desire to conceal the truth from communal scrutiny are all apparent in the Marianvale records, as is the case for the other mother and baby homes."

The report concludes that the majority of women who entered while pregnant went on to give birth in Daisy Hill Hospital.

157 of the babies were recorded in files as being adopted with a further 196 fostered or placed with welfare with a view to being adopted according to information provided by the Good Shepherd Sisters. Children were adopted by families in Great Britain, cross border and even the USA.

Sad and troubling

Commenting on the Report release Newry and Armagh MLA,  Liz Kimmins said that the report gave a "sad and troubling" insight into the suffering of thousands of women and their children.

“The research report into Mother and Baby homes and Magdalene Laundries is a difficult read, but an important step towards addressing the harm caused to survivors and the pain they have endured.It gives a sad and troubling insight into the lived experiences of the thousands of women and girls, and their now adult children.

The harsh treatment of these women was cruel, unjust and inhumane. As a mummy, my heart breaks for the women and girls who did no wrong, whose rights were ignored and whose children were so cruelly taken from their arms. For those children who never knew their mothers, who for too long have been kept in the dark. They were failed on every level and we cannot allow them to be failed any longer”

Ms Kimmins continued “While we can never make up for what they have been through, we must do all we can to ensure that survivors’ voices are heard, to support them and where possible, give them answers, information and recognition.

"This research report is just the first step. We now need to move swiftly on with a further independent investigation. We recognise how sensitive this issue is and how raw the pain still felt by all who suffered. 

"We must move forward carefully and respectfully and ensure that at all times the voices of those survivors and their now adult children are at the centre of this process. They will shape how it progresses.”

Investigation

Justin McNulty MLA has welcomed the Executive’s decision to co-design, with victims and survivors, the investigation process into all of the North’s Mother and Baby homes. 

Mr McNulty said, "First and foremost, I want to recognise the victims and survivors, women and young girls, and their children, who have been subjected to hurt and suffered horrendously harrowing experiences and treatment. This has to be one of the darkest parts of our country’s past. It is so important that this process has shone a light on how women, young girls and their children were failed. At a time when they should have had society’s arms wrapped around them with love and care, these women and girls, and their children were instead sent away as pariahs under a black fog of inflicted shame and guilt. Their treatment was subhuman and barbaric, and, sadly that treatment was endemic in our society and everyone was guilty of turning a blind eye.

"I welcome that a public inquiry is clearly on the table for victims and survivors seeking truth and justice and I will do all that I can to help them.  There must also be parallel processes alongside the co-design work that ensures access to support services for those affected and that works out the details of the redress scheme that must be quickly put in place."

Mr McNulty continued "Now, it’s important that any process going forward puts Victims and Survivors at its centre and I welcome that the people who have survived and endured so much will co-design the pathway to truth. This is a welcome approach and a public inquiry can, and in my view should, be taken forward.

"There must also be a parallel process alongside the co design work for victims and survivors that ensures access to support services for all those affected and works out urgently the details of the redress scheme that must be quickly put in place. This is crucial and we must have assurances from the First and Deputy First Ministers that they will bring forward support immediately. Anything that would see further delay in redress and support to these victims only serves to compound the abuse they experienced."

Speaking about the Report the MLA concluded "The publication of this report is a step forward but we must remember it’s another step in a long painful journey for those impacted. Our thoughts, our promises and our actions must all be for these women and the children today and in the many more days ahead."

You can read the report at www.health-ni.gov.uk

Access a list of support organisations at WWW.PUBLICHEALTH.HSCNI.NET

 

 

 

 

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