NI mother-and-baby home report to be published

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image captionThere has been a recent investigation into mother-and-baby homes in the Republic of Ireland

A report into mother-and-baby homes and Magdalene Laundries in Northern Ireland is expected to be published later.

The Stormont-commissioned research was carried out by Queen's University and Ulster University.

It examined whether a public inquiry should be held into the homes.

Amnesty has estimated about 7,500 women and girls gave birth in the institutions operated by both Catholic and Protestant churches and other religious organisations.

Some survivors, both unmarried pregnant mothers who were brought to the facilities and children who were later adopted, have long called for a public inquiry.

The NI Executive is currently meeting to discuss the report and its recommendations.

First Minster Arlene Foster tweeted to say she had spoken to survivors of the homes about the report and the next steps.

She described it as "a shameful chapter", adding: "Now the silence is broken and their stories have rightfully begun to be told".

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Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill said earlier that Tuesday's research "breaks the silence" around what happened.

She added that "what happened was so, so wrong", and that her thoughts were with the survivors "who deserve answers to their many questions".

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The report was commissioned by the Department of Health in 2018 and assessed the period from 1922 to 1999.

It was completed in February 2020 but was then sent to those facing criticism to give them an opportunity to reply.

Solicitor Claire McKeegan, representing the group Birth Mothers and their Children for Justice NI, said many women were branded as "fallen" after becoming pregnant outside marriage and were forced to carry out unpaid labour.

This "abuse", she said, happened on both sides of the Irish border.

"The state in Northern Ireland not only permitted what happened, but also policed it," she added.

Amnesty said there were more than a dozen mother-and-baby home and Magdalene Laundry-type institutions in NI, with the last one closing its doors as recently as 1990.

Patrick Corrigan, NI programme director of Amnesty International, said the report would "shed new light on the appalling extent and vast scale of the suffering experienced by generations of women and girls in these institutions".

The human rights organisation has written to the first and deputy first ministers urging them to meet survivors of mother-and-baby homes.

"It's time for ministers to listen to the survivors - both the women and girls forced into the homes and the children born there," said Mr Corrigan.

'Shameful chapter'

The publication of the report in Northern Ireland comes after a similar investigation into mother-and-baby homes and laundries in the Republic of Ireland, which prompted an apology from Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Mícheál Martin.

This report found an "appalling level of infant mortality".

About 9,000 children died in the 18 institutions which were investigated.

Mr Martin said there had been "profound and generational wrong", adding it was a "dark, difficult and shameful chapter" of Irish history.

Following the report's publication, NI's first and deputy first ministers Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill met the Irish Children's Minister Roderic O'Gorman.

Both Mrs Foster and Ms O'Neill said there was a need for the executive and the Irish government to work together in sharing information and to support survivors.

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