|Call for Magdalene Survivors Redress
By Elaine Edwards
October 8, 2010
Two advocacy groups have called on the State to issue a formal apology and to establish a redress scheme for survivors of the Magdalene Laundries.
The Adoption Rights Alliance and the Justice for Magdalenes (JFM) group said they wished to highlight the "unacceptable lack of response from both church and State in facing up to Ireland's dark past in its treatment of vulnerable women incarcerated in Magdalene Laundries" and mother-and-baby homes.
The identities, history and heritage of their children were also taken away through the closed, secret adoption practices run by the Catholic Church, the groups said.
Director of JFM Mari Steed was in Dublin to participate in an RTÉ documentary about vaccine trials conducted on infants in those mother and baby homes without their mothers' consent.
Ms Steed was born at the Bessboro mother-and-baby home in Cork in 1960 and sent to the United States for adoption in December 1961.
She was one of the more than 200 children involved in the vaccine trials conducted by then Burroughs Wellcome (now Glaxo SmithKline).
Ms Steed, the daughter of a Magdalene survivor, was one of more than 2,000 children secretly sent to the United States from Ireland for adoption.
She said she found the ethics of the vaccine trials "absolutely abhorrent".
As well as the fact the women in the Magdalene homes were neither told about the trials nor asked for their consent, there had been no medical follow-up to check for after-effects.
Ms Steed said she had a "very happy" adoptive upbringing but had become curious and had sought to trace her blood mother in the early 1990s.
She had met with "harassment", "lies" and "a road block" at every stage, she said. She was reunited with her birth mother in 2001.
Susan Lohan of the Adoption Rights Alliance called for changes to the closed, sealed adoption process used here. Ms Lohan said this would not be addressed by the Adoption Bill, which is due to be passed into law shortly.
Ms Lohan said the Adoption Board was a "moribund" organisation, with no representation from adopted people on its board.
Claire McGettrick of the Justice for Magdalenes and Adoption Rights Alliance criticised the "stonewalling" by the Church and State in relation to the Magdalenes redress issue.
She said the Conference of Religious in Ireland had declined to meet the groups.
Representatives of the Justice for Magdalenes group met Primate of All-Ireland Cardinal Seán Brady last June. He encouraged them in their efforts to establish dialogue with religious congregations.
Cardinal Brady said at the time it was a welcome opportunity to listen to the perspective of the group on "the story of the involvement of church, State and society in the former Magdalene laundries".
The group's representatives said today they were waiting for a further response from Cardinal Brady.
The Adoption Rights Alliance says there are more than 42,000, and possibly as many as 50,000, adopted people in Ireland.
In some cases in the 50s and 60s, children were adopted illegally from institutions, and their births were registered as if they were the natural-born children of the adoptive parents. The groups have no figures on the number of children affected.
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