22 Jan 2017

Inquiry calls for compensation for Irish children sent to Aus

6:48 am on 22 January 2017

The Historical Institutional Abuse inquiry in Northern Ireland has recommended children who were transported to Australia in the 1940s and '50s be given compensation for the trauma they suffered.

The inquiry found at least 138 children under 14 who were in state and church care in Northern Ireland were wrongly transported to Australia - often without their parents being told the truth about where they were being sent to.

Former child migrants who gave evidence at the inquiry said they were treated like baby convicts.

Inquiry chair Sir Anthony Hart said the Sisters of Nazareth were the worst offenders.

"They were wrong to send children to Australia who were so young," he said.

"Eighty-five of the children sent by the Sisters were 10 or younger, two were four years old, 13 were five years old, and nine were six years old."

According to Sir Anthony, the way the operation was handled further increased the trauma.

"They failed to take sufficient steps to maintain contact with the children after they went to Australia. They did not give truthful information to parents of the children who enquired where their child was," he said.

"In many cases they did not provide detailed, accurate and timely responses to enquiries by former child migrants for information that would have assisted them to trace their parents and relatives."

This was the case for Paddy Monaghan, who was sent to Australia in 1947 as a 10-year old.

Mr Monaghan said he had been lied to all his life and told he had no family, only to discover his mother had lived until 1999.

"So all the time they knew exactly where my mother was alive, my mother was well, where all the family were and just never told you a single thing," he said.

Sir Anthony has recommended that all child migrants sent to Australia be paid a minimum of £20,000 in compensation.

The inquiry has also exposed widespread abuse and mistreatment in 22 homes and institutions operated in Northern Ireland over a 70-year period.

A separate inquiry into child sexual abuse in England and Wales will begin hearings this year and is expected to uncover further historical mistreatment of child migrants sent to Australia and other countries.