`Church sent 103 kids from Northern Ireland to then British colonies’: McGimpsey

They were sent to countries like Australia, Canada between 1938-56


10 March 2010: Just over a month after Prime Minister Gordon Brown apologized to the `Orphans of Empire’, the Health Minister has asserted that Catholic agencies took over 100 children from their families in Northern Ireland to former British colonies.

As many as 103 children were taken to countries such as Australia and Canada from Northern Ireland between 1938 and 1956.

Brown has already announced a £6m fund to reunite torn apart families. He had asserted the country was sorry for the ‘shameful’ and ‘misguided’ child migrant program from 1920 to 1960s.

Health Minister Michael McGimpsey said it was actually tracking down the migrant children and their families and trying to make the connection.

Quoting him, the Belfast telegraph said: “When I start to look at the issue I would have thought £6m would have been quite a stretch to make it do the kind of numbers we are really talking about.”

The assertion came after SDLP MLA Mark Durkan raised during issue minister’s questions at the Assembly.

A large number of orphans are said to have suffered physical and emotional abuse. Estimates suggest as many as 10,000 poor “unwanted” children were sent out to Australia in two decades beginning 1947.

They were often falsely labelled as orphans; and were treated badly upon arrival on ships. Collectively, they came to be known as the `Orphans of the Empire’.

A government report, some five years ago, estimated that 500,000 children had been placed in orphanages or foster homes as they were born to single mothers or into poor families.

So far, both the Australian and the British governments have turned down the pleas for compensating former child migrants.


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