The Mother and Baby Institutions Payment Scheme is, according to the government, an important measure for survivors and former residents of Mother and Baby and County Homes. But, as Joe Duffy pointed out on Liveline, the scheme is not for all survivors and former residents – if, as a child, you were in one of these institutions for less than six months, you don't qualify. Joe spoke to Jean, who is one of the survivors not eligible for the scheme because she’s a week-and-a-half short:
"I was there for 5 months and 20 days... For me [Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Minister, Roderic O’Gorman] just made that whole thing, my time there, irrelevant... Basically he said I wasn’t there long enough to be relevant."
We’ve heard so many harrowing stories over the years from survivors of Mother and Baby Homes, but we can still be shocked by the absolute inhumanity of how women and girls were treated by the State and its institutions. The story Mary told Joe is one of those shocking tales:
"I was 13 when I was in a Mother and Baby Home... I was there a month before the baby was born and I was there for a month afterwards. Then my father came and took me away."
Mary doesn’t think that a one-size-fits-all solution should be applied to measures to help survivors:
"It’s different for every person that was there and for every situation, like, it’s so sad, it’s so controlling and there’s so much injustice. If they could step back and have compassion, first of all, and just see and look and talk to all these people and to this day, there are people out there that have never spoken and never will speak about their experience."
It’s difficult for anyone nowadays to understand how her circumstances came about, Mary told Joe. The notion that, at just 13, a girl would have to leave her home and stay in a Mother and Baby Home until her baby is born sounds far-fetched now, but it was, as we know, common practice. And as soon as the baby is born, the mother is expected to just walk away.
"Be you 13, or be you 23 or 33, we were all mothers. And that was if you did, you know, if you didn’t come home with a baby or not, it doesn’t matter. I turned into a mother after that. And I was never the same."
Joe wanted listeners to understand how Mary ended up in a Mother and Baby home at age 13, so he asked her to explain how it came about and she told him that "it had to happen":
"Did my parents want to send me there? No. They begged and they pleaded and they fought and they had no say."
Who did they plead and fight with? The Catholic church.
"I often think, if I murdered someone, would I have been treated better than we were at that time?"
Mary’s parents and her siblings were also terribly affected by her being placed in the home:
"It is not only a fact that a girl has to leave where they were from and give birth and maybe come back and maybe not come back, but the psychological effect it had on everybody. It is – I couldn’t, I mean, I just can’t explain or put into words how much it changed my family’s life and my life."
Her parents cried as Mary went out the door of the house and they were not allowed to see her while she was in the Mother and Baby home. Mary’s mother told her that she coped by praying, while her father's way of coping seemed to be not talking about it.
"There’s all this unnecessary pain in people’s lives. It’s so, so unnecessary... It was a cruel injustice on society and society had to go along with it."
At the age of 13, Mary, a rape victim, was further punished by the Catholic church and the society that allowed it to treat teenage rape victims this way. And now, Mary’s baby, the child she was forced to leave behind in a Mother and Baby home, is seemingly not entitled to redress under the government’s scheme. For some, the cruel injustices continue.
You can hear Mary’s full conversation with Joe – along with other women telling their stories and giving their opinions on the government’s Mother and Baby Institutions Payment Scheme – by going here.