Infants from Northern Irish mother and baby homes were frequently sent to a baby home in the Donegal village of Fahan, according to a new report.

An independent investigation into Magdalene laundries and mother and baby homes in Northern Ireland shows that hundreds of babies were moved across the border throughout the ‘shameful’ period.

It is estimated that between 1922 -1990 over 10,500 women entered mother and baby homes in Northern Ireland.

Nazareth House in Fahan often took in children born to unmarried mothers in Northern Ireland. Fahan was the recognised baby home for the Catholic Diocese of Derry, and a number of babies whose mothers were from that Diocese were placed there.

The report also notes that over 200 women and girls from Donegal were sent to St Mary’s Home, a Magdalene laundry run by the Good Shepherd Sisters in Derry. In “at least one case”, St. Mary’s was used by a magistrate in Donegal as an alternative to imprisonment.

Archival records reveal babies from Marianvale in Newry and Marianville and Mater Dei in Belfast, were placed most frequently in Fahan when they were moved across the border.

The legalities of cross-border adoption were acknowledged in the report, with many cases called into question by researchers.

In cases involving babies being sent to Fahan from Marianvale, 10 babies were recorded as being adopted in the Republic of Ireland and 19 returned to Northern Ireland to be adopted. One baby boy who was moved to Fahan in 1967 was subsequently adopted by a couple in New York. Another survivor said she was moved to Fahan as a baby. She speculates that there was a possibility that she was to be adopted by a couple from the USA. When her grandfather discovered where she was, she said family folklore suggests that he paid a substantial amount of money to claim her back.

The baby home in Fahan was managed by the Sisters of Nazareth and had been established during the Second World War when a number of babies were evacuated from Nazareth Homes in Derry/Londonderry.

Testimony from the Good Shepherd Sisters, a priest and retired social workers suggested that it was a matter of practicality that babies were sent to Fahan.

The Good Shepherd Sisters indicated that babies were only moved by social workers, or the birth mother or her family, and that they did not take part in these movements.

Meanwhile, the report notes evidence of Northern Irish welfare authorities placing babies, from mother and baby homes, in the Republic of Ireland. It said the Child Care Advisor for the Sisters of Nazareth Adoption Society, in Fahan, was actively involved in taking at least 20 babies from Marianvale to Fahan throughout the 1970s and 1980s, ‘with a view to adoption’ or ‘pending adoption’. The Marianville records also indicate the involvement of priests in the placing of babies across the border and arranging their subsequent adoption.

The significant Stormont-commissioned research report will give way to a victims-centred investigation into the historical institutions in Northern Ireland.

First Minister Arlene Foster commented yesterday: “It is with huge regret that we acknowledge the pain of those experiences and the hurt caused to women and girls who did nothing more than be pregnant outside of marriage, some of them criminally against their will.”

“None of us should be proud of how our society shunned women in these circumstance and of their experiences while resident in these institutions.”

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