Councillor O’Neill was speaking during tonight’s Belfast City Council meeting, in which she backed Amnesty International’s call to set up a human rights-compliant public inquiry into allegations of forced labour and ill treatment. The motion was passed by Councillors.
She said the motion should “hang like a cloud of shame” over all those who played a part in the homes.
“On the publishing of the McAleese Report earlier this year, a number of women bravely came forward to state they too had been victims of the same institutions in Northern Ireland but as yet they have not received the same political focus and attention. It is imperative their voices lead this discussion.
“We should remember these homes – where pregnant girls as young as 13-years-old were sent and where dozens of babies suffered severe malnutrition – were not relics of a distant past. The most recent closures occurred in the 1990s.
“The current Executive inter-departmental working group on mother and baby homes/Magdalene Laundries/clerical child abuse has yet to engage with victims, with victims’ groups only finding out information about it via the media. This same working group’s research will not be presented until the end of 2018 – that is not good enough.
“Only a public inquiry following international standards conducted under oath with a strong element of compellability and delivered in a time sensitive manner will suffice. Unless we have that, for many victims it will be too little, too late.”