Minister Katherine Zappone has outlined her key principles in discerning the correct action in relation to the remains of dead babies at the Mother and Baby Home site in Tuam.
The Minister was opening the inaugural meeting of the Collaborative Forum at Leinster House today, which is designed to facilitate dialogue on issues of concern to former residents of Mother and Baby Homes.
Minister Zappone told the forum her five guiding principles, which she said mean a lot to her personally, and shape the recommendations that she must make now and in the future.
“Firstly, I am committed to making sure that we comply with international standards and norms when designing and implementing the decision on Tuam, including our obligations under international human rights law,” she said.
The Minister’s second principle is to make sure that all of those affected are central to the ‘design and implementation of what we do next’. She said that this includes both the former residents of the Home and their families and relations, and the people of Tuam themselves.
“Tuam is more than this history. It is a community and a place of goodness and care. The former Mother and Baby Home is part of its story, but it is not all of it. Similarly, experiences in Tuam are part of the lives, histories and stories of former residents, but they are also not everything.
“Through listening—truly listening—I hope to be able to ensure that we honour all of these parts of the identities and realities of those affected. I will not shy away from the challenge that this poses.”
The third principle was that women’s rights must be respected in this process. Minister Zappone said that what happened in Tuam was part of a pattern of ‘gender injustice’ that ‘we cannot overcome if we do not acknowledge it’.
“So often it was women—either as mothers or as children—who were affected. Their voices and their rights must be central,” she said.
Minister Zappone continued: “Similarly, and fourthly, I am committed to taking a child-centred approach. That has always been a commitment of mine in my work, and is all the more so now in my work as Minister for Children and Youth Affairs.
“Fifthly, I am committed to developing real partnerships through which we can make and implement decisions. To the extent possible I want us to approach this in a non-hierarchical manner; that is what this Collaborative Forum is all about.”
She said that the principles are based in her belief that as they move forward in making decisions about the site in Tuam, they must place ethical and moral duties of justice and love towards those who lived and died in the Mother and Baby Home in Tuam at the very core of their consideration.