A Bill authorising a redress scheme for survivors of Mother and Baby Homes was passed through the Dáil late on Wednesday evening.
The Mother and Baby Institutions Payment Scheme Bill was passed by a vote of 73 in favour, and 63 votes against.
The was some heated debate in the Dáil about a potentially open-ended timeframe for paying victims, and the six month cut off point for survivors to qualify for compensation.
Only those who spent “not less than” 180 days in a Mother and Baby Home would qualify for compensation under the redress scheme.
This threshold has been heavily criticised recently for excluding those who had spent less than six months in an institute, excluding many young children.
Galway East TD Seán Canney said during Wednesday night’s debate that there is no real “reason or logic” behind excluding 40% of survivors from the redress scheme, other than the cost.
“I know extending this scheme to all of the survivors will cost more money, but it is not a cost we can walk away from.”
“The people who are here in the Gallery and the people who could not make it here tonight and are watching on their televisions deserve to be treated equally.”
“In the overall context of all the good things we are doing in this country and the supports we are giving to very many people, the time is here for us to step up to the mark for the people who were let down by the State – shame on all of us that they were – and say we will do this.”
Deputy Canney said that he couldn’t figure out how the six month threshold had been arrived at, whether it was a medical or scientific conclusion, or just a cut-off point.
“How would a survivor who spent six months and one day there qualify and somebody who spent two days less – five months and then some – not qualify?”.
Deputy Canney, along with Denis Naughten, Michael Fitzmaurice, Mairead Farrell, and Claire Kerrane voted against the bill as presented, while Deputies Ciaran Cannon, Hildegarde Naughton, Eamon Ó Cuiv voted in favour.
There was also concern expressed about ambiguous language in bill about addressing claims “as soon as practical”, with multiple deputies concerned that it would lead to the process being dragged out.
Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman that the government fully intends that any applications to the payment scheme will be addressed as quickly as possible.
“While I understand that concern was expressed regarding the absence of specified timelines in the legislation and that this could be interpreted as opening the door to long delays in processing applications, this is absolutely not our intention.”
“We expect that the vast majority of applications will be readily verifiable through the official records and will be processed quickly to payment offers.”
Sean Canney said that it is easy for any standard as open-ended as this to become “diluted”, and said that a timeframe should be inserted.
“It would be reasonable to do so, especially in view of the fact that what we are trying to do here is to give redress to people who are at an age where they have been fighting for years. It is important we bring closure to what they are doing.”
An amendment inserting a three month timeframe to address applications put forward by Deputy Peadar Toibin at the start of Wednesday’s debate was voted down.