Citing the information received, 10 experts issued a joint statement saying that systemic racism in childcare settings between the 1940s and 1990s “led to a higher number of children of African and Irish descent”.
During their long time there, children were exposed to an increased risk of corporal punishment, sexual, physical and verbal abuse, with lifelong consequences, including violation of their right to the highest standard of physical and mental health. Some of them were also subjected to vaccine trials.
Despite welcoming the Irish government Action Plan to Provide Tangible Benefits to Survivors and Former Residents of Mother and Baby and Provincial Home Institutionsthe experts sent them a letter in April with their allegations of racial discrimination.
In it, they alarmed that children of African and Irish descent “were treated differently because of their race, color and/or origin, leading to further violations of their human rights”.
In response, the Irish government referred to the official state apology issued on January 13, 2021, in which the country acknowledged the “additional impact that a lack of knowledge and understanding had on the treatment and outcomes of mothers and children with different racial and cultural heritage”. .
It went on to acknowledge that such “discriminatory attitudes exacerbated the shame and stigma of some of our most vulnerable citizens, especially where opportunities for non-institutional placement of children were limited by an unjust belief that they were unsuitable for placement with families”.
While the state’s apology is an important part of the restorative justice process, experts said it was “not enough.”
Because of the systemic racial discrimination prevalent in childcare settings at the time, the experts underlined that their “youth” had in fact been stolen from them.
“We are deeply concerned about the serious and lasting effects that racial discrimination and systematic racism have had on the lives of adults seeking redress today,” the statement said.
Under international law, states have a duty to account for past human rights violations and to provide full reparation to victims where these violations continue to have repercussions.
The independent experts called on the Irish government to “take further steps to provide effective legal remedies for those who have undergone differential treatment in childcare settings”.
A future plan to address human rights abuses “should recognize and reimburse all human rights abuses committed against children throughout their stay in Irish institutions, including mother and baby homes, industrial schools, reformatories, Magdalen Laundries and similar institutions, as well as lifelong consequences,” the statement continued.
In conclusion, they noted that a proposed “Bill Payment Scheme” provides a remedy “for the harm caused by racial discrimination and systemic racism to which children of African and Irish descent were subjected”.
Special rapporteurs and independent experts are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to investigate and report on a specific human rights issue or situation in a country. The positions are honorable and the experts are not paid for their work.
Click here for the names of the experts who contributed to the statement.