NI: Team appointed to co-design mother and baby homes and Magdalene laundries investigation
Human rights experts Professor Phil Scraton and Dr Maeve O’Rourke have been appointed as part of a three-person team to establish the terms of reference for a fully independent investigation into mother and baby homes and Magdalene laundries in Northern Ireland.
The “truth recovery design team” will work in partnership with victims and survivors over six months to establish the terms of reference for the victim-centred independent investigation announced by the Northern Ireland Executive in January.
Professor Scraton, professor emeritus at QUB School of Law, is highly regarded for his work on the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, which culminated in his membership of the Hillsborough Independent Panel, heading its research.
Dr O’Rourke is a lecturer in human rights at the Irish Centre for Human Rights at NUI Galway, as well as a barrister at 33 Bedford Row in London. She has worked pro bono for decades with individuals and relates of those affected by mother and baby homes.
They are joined by Deirdre Mahon, a qualified social worker/youth and community worker with over 35 years’ experience who has been a driving force in the roll-out of trauma-informed practice across Northern Ireland.
Health Minister Robin Swann said: “I am delighted to announce the appointment of Deirdre Mahon, Professor Phil Scraton and Dr. Maeve O’Rourke to work with victims and survivors to establish the terms of reference for an independent investigation into mother and baby and Magdalene laundry institutions in Northern Ireland.
“I have asked the team to start its work immediately and to report within the six-month timeframe set by the Executive for this work.”
First Minister Arlene Foster said: “The many women and children who were victims of shocking ill-treatment and abuse in mother and baby homes and Magdalene laundries have had to wait far too long for their voices to be heard. The appointment of this team of experts to work with victims and survivors in shaping the independent investigation is another welcome step forward in the long fight to break the silence around their suffering.
“All three individuals bring a wealth of experience and expertise in this area and I am confident that, through a process of engagement and working side by side with victims and survivors, the team will be able to shape an investigation that will have their confidence and deliver the truth and justice they deserve.”
Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said: “The harrowing stories of the many women and children who suffered abuse in mother and baby homes and Magdalene laundries are truly heartbreaking. They were treated appallingly by these institutions and failed on every level.
“This is another significant step towards finally securing justice for the victims and survivors of this abuse, and it is vital that they are at the heart of the co-design process.
“I would encourage all victims and survivors to come forward and to make their voices heard so that the team of experts can set about shining a light on this dark and shameful period in our history.”
Judith Gillespie, the independent chair of the inter-departmental working group, which had oversight of research by QUB and Ulster University into the historical institutions and made recommendations to the Northern Ireland Executive based on that research, also welcomed the appointments.
Ms Gillespie said: “This is another important step for victims and survivors of mother and baby and Magdalene laundry institutions. For too long their voices have not been heard and the co-design process will be fundamental to addressing that.”