Laura Murphy pens open letter to Taoiseach condemning “the exclusion of 24,000 survivors from the Mother and Baby Homes Redress Scheme”

Laura Murphy photo by Miguel Ruiz


This is a long but very important letter.

Please read it fully.

Open Letter to An Taoiseach by Laura Murphy,
Daughter of Mother & Baby Home Survivor

An Taoiseach
Mr. Leo Varadkar, T.D.
Government Buildings
Merrion St. Upper
Dublin 2

21st March 2023

Re: Mother and Baby Homes Redress


Dear Taoiseach,
I am the daughter of a Mother and Baby Home survivor. I wrote an open letter to your predecessor, Micheál Martin, on 1st February 2021 calling for a retraction of the part of the State apology that blamed society for the atrocities, for survivors to be given justice and for Brigid’s Day to become a national holiday as a commitment to healing and equality.

The letter was covered across national media and the proposals put forward received widespread support across communities in Ireland and internationally. I was invited to read the letter publicly at the Abbey Theatre’s critically acclaimed ‘HOME: Part One’, a historic production that gave voice to survivors at a time when their stories were being suppressed by the government’s Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes (COI).

Today, I write this open letter concerning the exclusion of 24,000 survivors from the Mother and Baby Homes Redress Scheme. I speak for many survivors and for the people of Ireland who understand that the days of brushing trauma, mass abuse and genocide under the carpet are over.
The purpose of the final report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes (2021) was to present an accurate account of how these institutions were run and what happened to the people in their care. However in a serious miscarriage of justice, the report misrepresented survivor’s statements, presented incorrect facts and omitted many examples of human rights violations that should have been investigated. Most pertinently, the report failed to recognise survivor’s testimony as legal evidence of abuse.

As a result, the ultimate finding of the COI was that there was “no evidence of systematic abuse”. This finding also claimed that it was society, families and fathers of the incarcerated women and children who were primarily responsible for what happened.
The UN Committee for Human Rights and the Irish Council for Civil Liberties review of the report, including the verbatim testimony of survivors (which the COI tried to illegally destroy), found that there were significant breaches of constitutional and human rights including “abuse that could be considered torture, enforced disappearances and modern slavery”.

Furthermore, an alternative report written by 25 academic and legal experts using the same evidence as the COI found that “mass abuses” were perpetrated by these State- sponsored, Catholic Church-run institutions.
The consequence of this false finding of “no evidence of systematic abuse” by the COI was a legal loophole whereby the Catholic Church cannot be held morally, ethically, legally or financially accountable for the crimes against humanity that were perpetrated by their representatives and institutions.
The people of Ireland who have collectively suffered because of this regime, are now being forced to pay full reparations for abuses and crimes committed by the Catholic Church in this State-sponsored multi-generational system of abuse.
Considering the irrefutable evidence of the abuses committed by the Catholic Church and the profits made from human trafficking, forced unpaid labour, illegal adoptions, illegal vaccine trials and stipends from the State for every ‘offender’ (mother) and ‘illegitimate’ (child) in their ‘care’, it is outrageous that they are absolved of their responsibility to give back what they took from the Irish people.

Instead, the full burden of responsibility is being placed on the Irish taxpayer for harm that was perpetrated by Church and State. As a result, 40% of survivors are being retraumatised and excluded from the very scheme that was set up to ensure “Survivor-led Restorative Recognition and Reparation”.
Your claim that the €800 million for redress is money that ‘could otherwise be spent meeting the needs of today or trying to build a better future’, demonstrates a lack of understanding of the impact of unresolved past trauma on people’s lives today and into the future.
Bessel van der Kolk, M.D. defines trauma as
“not the story of something that happened back then, but the current imprint of that pain, horror, and fear living inside (the individual).”
Recent scientific advances in the fields of epigenetics and neuroscience tell us that unresolved trauma has lifelong and multi-generational impact – psychologically, biologically and sociologically.
In the words of Gabor Maté, M.D.
“The chain of transmission goes from parent to child, stretching from the past into the future”.
The two groups of survivors you plan on excluding from reparations are those who were separated from their mothers before 6 months of age and those who were ‘boarded out’ to families. You offer no defined criteria for this exclusion other than perpetuating a disturbing false narrative that early mother-child separation causes no harm.
The assertion by Minister O’Gorman that survivors who were separated from their mothers before 6 months of age should not receive redress because they “will not remember their experiences” is not only a blatant dismissal of survivor’s testimony and lived experiences, it is a denial of science.
‘Loss of the Mother-Child Relationship’ was cited by the government-

ommissioned Oak Report as the primary harm experienced by Mother and Baby Home survivors. According to the report this loss “has led to lifelong trauma and mental health issues for many, both mothers and their children and to difficulties forming lasting relationships accompanied by negative consequences for survivors.”
There is no ambiguity about who should be included in the redress scheme. The Oak Report states, “all mothers and children who experienced coercive family separation should be included regardless of the setting.”
Countless survivors have spoken to me about the ‘primal wound’ of being separated from their mother and the entrenched lifelong pain that comes from this. They describe feelings of ‘not belonging’, ‘low self-worth’, ‘acute shame’, ‘inferiority’, ‘fear of abandonment’ and the ‘inability to love and be loved’ infiltrating their lives.
The trauma that endures as a direct result of early mother-child separation is not only an accepted emotional and psychological phenomenon but also an empirically measurable biological fact, as one of the most cited epigenetic studies demonstrates.
Dr. Moshe Szyfe, in a study on Maternal Programming (2005) found that the quality of early maternal care, specifically the nurturing contact from mothers has a causal impact on the offspring’s biochemical capacity to respond to stress in a healthy way for the rest of their lives. In turn, the offspring passed on to their own infants the type of mothering they had received. Strikingly, the study also found that the quality of maternal care affects oestrogen in daughters with ramifications for mothering patterns down through the generations.
I am the daughter of a Mother and Baby Home survivor. I was not born in a Mother and Baby Home, nor was I separated from my mother at birth. Yet, the psychological, physical and emotional impact of her traumatic experiences have been severe and long lasting for both of us.

My mother has had the heart-breaking experiences of losing a child through adoption and through death. For her, adoption was a more difficult cross to bear.
In her words;
“It is difficult to comprehend the heartbreak that ensues when a girl gives up her baby to another. That heartbreak never eases. I have experienced the loss of a baby through death and through adoption. I can state clearly that it was somewhat easier for me to accept and carry the loss of David, because in death, a parent has some idea of where their Little One is. Even with a little faith, they can hope their baby is safe, happy and looked after. But, with adoption a parent worries their baby may be unhappy, unsafe, uncared for and most importantly unloved. I spent most of my life dipping in and out of these fears.”
Like many survivors, my mother’s experience also resulted in her carrying a deep sense of debilitating guilt and shame for most of her life.
In her words;
Until recently, I always walked behind people. I realised I did this because I did not feel worthy enough to walk beside them. I carried a deep sense of shame that I could not name but that weighed me down for most of my life.”
As well as the negative psychological and biological impacts of early mother-child separation on mother, child and subsequent generations, there are now many studies connecting trauma with ill-health, particularly inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. Multiple Sclerosis in particular is a condition for which the influence of stress, adversity and trauma has been extensively studied. In 2009, my mother was diagnosed with MS. She became paralyzed for a time and developed debilitating Chronic Fatigue. In 2015, I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and in 2020, with Chronic Lyme Disease. I was bed-ridden for one year and unable to work for three years.

My personal experience and that of my mother’s is testament to the impact of past trauma on the lives of many survivors and their families today. The messages I received from hundreds of first- and second-generation survivors in response to my previous letter affirmed that there are many people in Ireland who share similar experiences.
Again, your statement that the budget for redress ‘could otherwise be spent meeting the needs of today or trying to build a better future’ belies the irrefutable truth that past trauma is causing huge suffering in our society today. Until it is appropriately addressed, it will continue to be perpetuated through future generations.
The collective trauma from the Mother and Baby Homes system cannot be resolved until all past harms are accepted and addressed. The proposed redress scheme is both a denial and a perpetuation of past harms. The two specific groups of survivors your government plans on excluding have not only been significantly harmed, they have experienced and are continuing to experience significant violations of their human and constitutional rights.
Children who were in a home for less than six months before 1982 were legally classed as ‘illegitimate’, resulting in breaches of rights including loss of parental protection, family separation, loss of identity and loss of medical history. These children were not ‘cherished equally’ as the Proclamation of Independence promised, but were discriminated against, stigmatised and shamed. Children born after 1982 experienced the societal legacy of their so-called ‘illegitimacy’. Many children were also subjected to illegal pharmaceutical trials, illegal adoptions, violence, abuse, and neglect.
Children who were ‘boarded out’ experienced some of the worst abuses and breaches of their human rights including forced unpaid labour, psychological, physical, and sexual abuse, neglect, inhuman and degrading treatment and torture. The government failed to include these survivors in the State apology and is again excluding them from reparation.

It is unthinkable, unconstitutional, and cruelly ironic that the survivors who were denied their most fundamental human rights to parental and State protection then are the ones who are being denied their right to reparation now.
The children who were most vulnerable and most severely harmed by this god-forsaken system are the ones who are being unconscionably failed and harmed by the State again. Your government’s exclusion of these survivors from redress is discriminating,dehumanising and delegitimises (again) the very people you should be minding.
In 2021, Minister O’Gorman rightly said “The State failed, time and time again and for decades, to protect some of its most vulnerable citizens, and failed to uphold some of their most fundamental rights”. This redress scheme is a perpetration of that very failure.
Where there should be reparation, there is re-traumatization. Where there should be accountability, there is abdication. Where there should be justice, there is injustice.
As Taoiseach, you represent the people of Ireland. As a woman who has been impacted by this multigenerational system of Church-State abuse, I speak for many when I say you do not have our mandate to continue this vicious cycle of harm.
1. We call on you to ensure that all Mother and Baby Home survivors receive the ‘Restorative Recognition and Reparation’ that is rightfully theirs. This includes redress for all survivors and a State apology to those who were boarded out. Your support for boarded out survivors was unequivocal in your address to the Dáil as Tánaiste in 2021. You have the opportunity now, as Taoiseach, to deliver where Micheál Martin failed.
In your words;
“The thing that really struck me reading it (the report) was how much that the people who were boarded out suffered. I think this is something that we, the government can’t ignore.”

2. We call on you to stand apart from each one of your predecessors who failed to make the Catholic Church accountable for the crimes against humanity perpetrated on the people of Ireland. Ensure that the Church contributes to redress costs on a 50:50 basis with the State. It is essential for the healing and future of this nation that the Catholic Church is brought into a meaningful process of truth, reconciliation, and redress – not as a matter of charity but by way of reparation for crimes committed.

The modus operandi for the government; one that puts understanding of trauma, compassion, and the wellbeing of its citizens at the heart of everything.
As you informed us, it was a heart-felt poem by then Minister for Children, Katherine Zappone, that convinced the government to provide redress for Mother and Baby Home survivors. Ms. Zappone’s poem activated the humanity of our government, which in turninitiated a process of right action.
I offer this haiku, written in 2021 in the hope that my words will carry the voice of survivors into your heart and into the hearts of every member of the government, so that right understanding, right speech, and right action can be achieved for our people now and into the future.
Going with the flow
Into our dark history
To heal the future
We the people, the poets and the politicians can work together to right the wrongs of the past and to ensure a bright future for generations to come.
What is the highest ideal for Ireland if not to demonstrate to a world in crisis that not only is healing possible after the devastation of invasion, famine, emigration, war, genocide, and poverty, but so too is growth.
In 1896, as our war-weary, traumatised nation moved towards freedom, luminary GeorgeWilliam Russell (AE) wrote in a letter to W.B. Yeats
“Out of Ireland will arise a light to transform many ages and peoples.”
May we have the resilience, courage and resolve to shine the light of post traumatic growth into our world so that instead of leaving a legacy of enduring trauma, we open possibilities for evolutionary love.
It is not too late to turn the whitewashing of trauma into a watershed of healing.

Is mise le meas,

Laura Murphy


EVERY MOTHER AND CHILD who suffered above way should receive compensation.

THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH should be made to pay their share of this compensation.

If the Church and religious orders refuse to pay then the government should introduce legislation to seize their monies and properties.