A group of mothers formerly resident in mother and baby homes has written to Máire Whelan, the attorney-general, asking her to prosecute the state for genocide on the basis that their children were adopted without valid consent.
They have also asked the International Criminal Court to informally assist Whelan with such a prosecution.
Irish First Mothers, which says it represents 70 women, wants Whelan to rely on the UN convention on the prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide. It defines genocide as the intended destruction of “a national, ethnic, racial or religious group” by means including the forcible transfer of their children.
In a letter to Whelan, Kathy McMahon, the founder of Irish First Mothers, accused religious congregations who supervised Ireland’s mother and baby homes of wanting to destroy unmarried mothers as an identifiable cohort.
“We assert that the perpetrators were malignly motivated by their own Catholic ideological characterisation of us as a religiously defined group: a caste of so-called ‘fallen women’,” McMahon said. “Irish society has a historic, deep Catholic veneration of the ‘virgin mother’ as a deity figure. Thus unmarried mothers were automatically deemed offensively faithless; viewed culturally by perpetrators as bereft of rights.”
McMahon said her group is receiving free legal advice from an international human rights lawyer, whom she did not want to identify.
Whelan’s office has replied to McMahon’s letter saying the attorney-general is the legal adviser to the government and does not have a prosecution function under the Irish constitution.
McMahon wrote back last Tuesday saying her group was entitled to “due process” and that she intends taking up the matter with the Director of Public Prosecutions.
The Mother and Baby Homes Commission is investigating consent procedures in thousands of adoptions from these institutions. Between the late 1940s and early 1970s, 2,200 Irish infants were sent for adoption to America. There has been anecdotal evidence of the falsification of birth and death certificates for adopted children.
Katherine Zappone, the children’s minister, is to receive a scoping report this month on extending the commission’s terms of reference to other homes
as well as the 18 it is already investigating.
Zappone is to bring a memo to cabinet on Tuesday about an interim report she received from the commission in September. She initially promised to publish it “as quickly as possible” and subsequently said it would be published last month.
After the commission issued a statement on March 3 that it had identified
“significant quantities” of human remains in 17 sewerage chambers at
the former Tuam home, two campaign groups, the Adoption Rights Alliance
and Justice for Magdalenes Research, urged Zappone to publish the report.
Genocide Charges In Detail: