Irish Government accepts Court Declaration following Hogan Lovells recommendations with the CLANN Project

London, 20 December 2021 – On 17 December 2021, the Irish High Court declared that eight survivors of the Irish Mother and Baby homes, including Philomena Lee, Mary Harney, Mari Steed, Mary Isobelle Mullaney and others not identified publicly were denied fair procedures by the State’s Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation (the “Commission”), which operated between 2015 and 2021. 

Hogan Lovells advised the CLANN Project, a joint initiative with Adoption Rights Alliance (ARA) and Justice for Magdalenes Research (JFMR) on the Commission’s investigation and provided pro bono support to women and adopted people giving evidence to the Commission. This culminated in a Report – Ireland’s Unmarried Mothers and their Children: Gathering the Data – which drew on 82 witness statements, extracted from conversations with 164 people separated from their family members through Ireland’s forced, secret adoption system. It documented historical abuses endured by women and their children in Mother and Baby Institutions and was submitted to the Commission.

At the time of submission of the Clann Report in April 2018, concern was expressed about the surprising reticence by authorities to allow individuals access to basic information about themselves, preferring to preserve the confidentiality of the institutions and their members whose actions caused those individuals great suffering. Concern had also previously been expressed that the Commission set up to investigate those institutions was operating in secrecy and had refused, without giving any justification for the refusal, to allow public hearings when requested by witnesses in accordance with the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004. 

The Commission’s Final Report was published in January 2021 and its findings were significantly at odds with the actual lived experiences of the witnesses. The Report was criticised by those who had been personally affected. The criticisms ranged from inaccuracies in the reporting of individual cases including in the main report of the Commission, to the making of various findings - for example that there is very little evidence that children were forcibly taken from their mothers, that there is no evidence that women were forced to enter mother and baby homes by the Church or State authorities, that women were not incarcerated in the institutions, that the women’s unpaid labour was generally work which they would have had to do if they were living at home, and the extent to which the evidence of witnesses given to the Confidential Committee was considered by the Commission and included in its Report. These findings then influenced the Irish Government’s proposed redress scheme for survivors. 

Hogan Lovells partner Faye Jarvis, said: “Today’s news marks an important acknowledgment that the survivors were wrongly refused their statutory rights. It is the culmination of many years of pro bono work drawing attention to the unfairness of the Commission of Investigation’s procedures. We support the Clann Project’s call for the Irish Government’s redress scheme to be amended.” 

Hogan Lovells partner Faye Jarvis and International Pro Bono Partner Yasmin Waljee OBE worked alongside Dr Maeve O’Rourke and Claire McGettrick at the Clann Project to shine a light on these important issues and ensure that an accurate record of the appalling treatment of women and adopted people is not suppressed. The Clann Project press release is available here.


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