MBH/ML The Research

Initial research conducted to inform the Executive about the historical operation of the Homes and Laundries in Northern Ireland concluded that limited evidence is available about the operation of these institutions across the region.

Following a public procurement exercise, the Department of Health commissioned research from Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University into the operation of both institutions in November 2017.

Research will examine the operation of Mother and Baby Homes and Magdalene Laundries across Northern Ireland from 1922 to 1999 (or the closure of the last institution if later than 1999). The research is currently expected to be completed by the end of June 2019.

The Research

Researchers have been asked to provide a report on the following:

  • the entry and exit pathways including how and why women came to be in the institutions, how and why they left and the duration of their stay;
  • the living and working conditions and care arrangements experienced by women or children in the institutions to include medical arrangements such as healthcare, inoculations, vaccine trials and diet;
  • the mortality rate among women and children residing or working in the institutions including information on the causes and circumstances of death;
  • the post-mortem practices and procedures in respect of children or women who died while resident or working in the institutions, including the reporting of deaths, and burial arrangements; and
  • for children who did not remain in the care of their mother, their exit pathways on leaving the institution, with specific reference to:
    • the extent of participation of mothers in decision making;
    • the procedures that were in place to obtain consent from mothers in respect of adoption; and
    • the practices and procedures for the placement of children.

The researchers have also been asked to identify and report on the nature and extent of any state involvement in relation to the operation of each institution.

To provide historical and social context for both institutions, the research will also compare and contrast the information for the general population with the information found for Mother and Baby Homes and Magdalene Laundries, taking into account changing trends over the relevant period of 1922 to 1999 and report on the living and working conditions, mortality rates and causes of death, post mortem practices including reporting of deaths and burial practices of women and children in the general population outside the institutions.

The Institutions

The table below provides a list of known Mother and Baby Homes, Magdalene Laundries and residential facilities within the scope of the research project that were operational in Northern Ireland from 1922-1999.

Researchers have also been asked to include any other Mother and Baby Homes or Magdalene Laundries their research establishes were in existence during the relevant period.

No Institution / Address Type
1 Good Shepherd Sisters/ Marianville/
St Mary’s
511 Ormeau Rd, Belfast
Mother and Baby Home /
Magdalene Laundry
2 Good Shepherd Sisters/ Marianvale/
St Mary’s
132 Armagh Rd, Newry
Mother and Baby Home /
Magdalene Laundry
3 Good Shepherd Sisters St Mary’s
Derry / Londonderry
Magdalene Laundry
4 Mater Dei Hostel
298 Antrim Rd, Belfast
Mother and Baby Home
5 Belfast Midnight Mission/ Malone Place Rescue and Maternity Home
Malone Road, Belfast
Mother and Baby Home /
Magdalene Laundry
6 Thorndale House (Salvation Army)
Duncairn Avenue, Belfast
Mother and Baby Home 
7 Kennedy House
8 Cliftonville Ave, Belfast
Mother and Baby Home 
8 Hopedene Hostel
55 Dundela Avenue
Mother and Baby Home 
9 Belfast Welfare Hostel
Lisburn Rd, Belfast
Local authority former workhouse
10 Coleraine Welfare Hostel Local authority former workhouse
11 Mount Oriel Hostel
4 Mount Oriel, Belfast
Mother and Baby Home
12 Deanery Flatlets Independent accommodation for unwed mothers
13 Pre-1948 Workhouses Multifunctional institutions that catered for various groups including unmarried mothers

The Report

Researchers will provide the DoH with a Report about the evidence they have found. The Inter-Departmental Working Group will use that evidence to inform their recommendations on the way forward.

The Report will incorporate the following components:

  • a literature review – a review of secondary evidence relating to relevant institutions identified during the course of the research and also the conditions in the general population throughout the relevant period (1922-1999). The review will also include an examination of the policy and legislative frameworks within which the institutions operated over the 77 years timespan;
  • a review of archived records – a review of primary evidence, an examination of any relevant records retained by the institutions and material still held by or on behalf of Government Departments and other statutory and non-statutory agencies; and
  • oral history - oral accounts from those with experiences of the institutions, including former residents or workers, the wider families who observed their relative’s time in the institution and afterwards, staff and others with experience of, or who provided services to, the homes or Laundries.
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