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'not deflecting'' Senator defends claim that families could contribute to Mother and Baby Home redress scheme

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Senator Rónán Mullen

Senator Rónán Mullen

Senator Rónán Mullen

Independent senator Rónán Mullen has defended his suggestion that a national "voluntary" collection should be established for survivors of Mother and Baby Homes. 

A redress scheme is currently being prepared by the Government for survivors in the wake of the publication of the final report of the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation last week.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said that religious organisations should “make a contribution” towards this scheme.

Speaking in the Seanad yesterday, Senator Mullen said the country should consider “whether it would be appropriate to have some kind of national voluntary contribution as part of a redress package to reflect the social and community dimension to this story, along with Church and State contributions”.

“We are all connected with families who are in some way a part of this story,” he added.

This morning Senator Mullen denied he was trying to take the spotlight off the role of the Catholic church.

"I'm not trying to deflect from anything, only biased people would think that," he told Newstalk Breakfast presenter Ciara Kelly.

"I'm trying to draw us into a wider conversation where we observe how things happened and why things happened, and we're unflinching in looking for the truth about it.

"And that does involve understanding that there were economic, social factors [and] an obsession with social respectability".

Senator Mullen told Newstalk Breakfast said the final report, which was published last week, showed "a sad and sobering picture of how women and children were failed by the State and by wider society - including institutions run by the religious orders and the church."

"But one thing I'm very struck by is the community and family dimension, which the report highlights,” he added.

"It strikes me, and speaking for myself in particular, I don't think there's a family in the country but had a connection with some aspect of this story."

He said: “It is not so much a question of blame" but "at a community level, there's something more than institutions involved here".

He also said that people who were adopted should have access to their records, but added: “I do think as well that if a person is vulnerable and in old age and were given a promise back in the past, their life mustn't be trampled on either.

"If you're taking a humane approach to this, you're not going to be talking about one person's rights trumping another.

"You've got to have a compassionate approach,” he insisted. “You shouldn't be turning this into a confrontation, this is about helping people in the present.

"It's not about your political agenda and it's not about my philosophical thoughts,” he insisted.

His stance has attracted some criticism on social media with people taking to Twitter this morning to express their dissatisfaction with his comments.

"Unbelievable suggestion, the responsibility does not lay with everybody," one person argued.

"Does Mr Mullen understand how the government works?" asked another.

"Any settlements rightfully paid to those impacted comes from every taxpayer in this country. He is clearly trying to reduce the financially impact on the church.""

‘Here's one for you Ronan, how about the clergy pay for their cruel treatment of all those women and children. and let us not forget , we're not talking about the 40s and 50s here , this went on into the late 70s and early 80s,’ added another.

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