A statement by UN human rights experts expressing concern over the lack of adequate redress for systemic racism and racial discrimination in Irish childcare institutions between the 1940s and 1990s has been welcomed by the Association of Mixed Race Irish (AMRI).
A trustee of the group, Conrad Bryan, made a complaint to the United Nations Special Procedures in January, the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent and other Special Rapporteurs, who examined evidence and information about racism in Mother and Baby Homes and other institutions in Ireland.
Yesterday, UN human rights experts welcomed the Irish Government's Action Plan to provide benefits for survivors and former residents of mother and baby and county home institutions. However, it called for further action to provide those who were subjected to differential treatment in childcare institutions with effective remedies.
In April 2022, it sent an allegation letter to the Irish Government expressing concern that children of African and Irish descent were subjected to differential treatment because of their race, colour and/or descent, leading to further violations of their human rights.
In response, the Government referred to the official State apology offered on 13 January 2021 in which the State recognised that the "additional impact which a lack of knowledge and understanding had on the treatment and outcomes of mothers and children with different racial and cultural heritage".
While the UN said the State apology was an important element of the restorative justice process, it was not enough.
It noted that discriminatory attitudes exacerbated the shame and stigma felt by some of the country's most vulnerable citizens, especially where opportunities for non-institutional placement of children were restricted by an unjust belief that they were unsuitable for placement with families.
The UN said the individuals had their childhoods stolen because of the racial discrimination and systemic racism that prevailed in the childcare institutions at the time.
Under international law, states have an obligation to ensure accountability for past human rights violations and provide full reparation to the victims, when these violations still have effects.
The UN has called on the Irish Government to take further action.
"Any redress scheme must recognise and provide redress for all the human rights violations perpetrated against children during the entire duration of their stay in Irish institutions, including Mother and Baby Homes, industrial schools, reformatories, Magdalene Laundries and analogous institutions, as well as life-long impacts."
The UN experts concluded that the Bill Payment Scheme was a unique opportunity to provide redress for the harms caused due to racial discrimination and systemic racism to which children of African and Irish descent were subjected.
In a statement, AMRI said that the State had always ignored or denied that racism existed in the institutions, but had admitted to the UN that "discriminatory attitudes" restricted their opportunity to have a normal family life.
"Racial prejudice and racial discrimination in these institutions affected many of our human rights, not only the right to a family. It is unfortunate that survivors and Irish citizens have to seek acknowledgment outside Ireland from independent human rights experts, such as the United Nations Special Rapporteurs," it said.
The group wants the Government to provide full reparations for the systemic racism and racial discrimination to which mixed-race children were subjected and it continues to call for a full State apology for the failure to protect children from racial discrimination and systemic racism in the institutions.