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An independent investigation into mother and baby homes will be carried out, the Executive has agreed.

The move follows today’s publication of the research report on historical Mother and Baby Homes and Magdalene Laundries between 1922 and 1990.

The extensive research was undertaken by a team of academics from Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University. It gives an account of individual and collective experiences of the institutions and highlights the need for further examination of a number of important issues, including adoption and infant mortality rates.

Ministers have agreed that the independent investigation should be shaped by survivors through a co-design process, which will be facilitated by experts and completed within six months.

First Minister Arlene Foster said: “This is an important day for women and children who were resident in Mother and Baby Homes and Magdalene Laundries.

“The report documents the experiences of survivors and crucially allows their voices to be heard, when they have been silenced for far too long. I want to pay tribute to all those women, and their now adult children, who provided their personal testimony for this research.

“It is with deep regret that I 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 because they were victims of criminal acts. It was shameful how so many of these women were treated. The accounts of cold and uncaring treatment are truly harrowing; and the separation of mothers from their children a terrible legacy.

“Many unanswered questions remain and we want to work with victims and survivors to ensure they are supported in the right way. In moving forward, we must recognise the sensitivity of these issues and respect the rights and wishes of each individual. But today we give a commitment to survivors, that you will be silenced no more.”