Tag Archives: Conall Ó Fátharta

From top: UNCAT vice-chair Felice Gaer; Martin McAleese; Irish Examiner journalist Conall Ó Fátharta and Boston College professor James Smith

Readers may recall how the McAleese Inquiry into Magalene laundries – which was chaired by Martin McAleese – was published on Tuesday, February 5, 2013.

It found no evidence existed to suggest abuse took place in the laundries.

Readers may also recall how, in July, the UN Committee Against Torture (UNCAT) in Geneva criticised the Government and said, in fact, UNCAT had received a “great deal of evidence that there has indeed been abuse”.

At that time, Rapporteur Felice Gaer said it was “quite troubling that the interdepartmental committee destroyed its copies of evidence from religious congregations that ran these laundries and will not provide public with information. What is preventing the Government providing public access to the archive?

Ms Gaer also said the committee had received information about the archives of the Diocese of Galway which was not accessible.

She said:

This individual also brought Senator McAleese’s office’s attention to the existence of these files. He provided the senator with a summary of the materials, but says they were not accurately reflected in the McAleese Report.

“The files reportedly document physical abuse, and the Galway Magdalene’s practice of calling the Irish police to prevent family members from removing women from the institutions.

Further to this.

Today.

In The Irish Examiner, Conall Ó Fátharta reports that the person who gave this information to UNCAT, in November 2013, was Professor James Smith, of Boston College.

He reports UNCAT was also informed that the documentation outlined how there were 107 women who were in the Galway Magdalene Laundry in December 1952.

It was also told of the involvement of the bishop of Galway in the operations and financial dealings of the Sisters of Mercy Galway Magdalene.

This was one of two laundries for which, according to the McAleese Report, no records survive.

Before he accessed the archive in May 2012, Professor Smith signed an agreement not to publish or reproduce any material, without the permission of the Galway Diocesan archive.

But after accessing it, he went on to compile a list of relevant files and prepared a 10-page summary of their contents for Dr McAleese, on May 10, 2012.

Mr Ó Fátharta reports that, according to minutes obtained by him, the McAleese committee did visit the archive and that it was deemed “useful”.

But, when the McAleese Report came out the following year, in February 2013, Prof Smith found that it did not adequately reflect the material he had seen and he subsequently sought to publish the material he had seen.

He was told to send his article to the Galway Diocesan Trustees for approval.

Mr Ó Fátharta reports:

“Prof Smith was also assisting an elderly Magdalene survivor in a personal capacity, as the Department of Justice’s Magdalene Implementation team was having difficulty determining her duration of stay at the Galway Magdalene Laundry, for the purpose of paying her lump-sum compensation. The woman had said she escaped the laundry in early December 1951, but there was no way to document this as fact.

On May 14, 2014, Prof Smith informed the department of the list of 107 women and said that while the list did not confirm her date of exit, it did confirm she was not resident in the Laundry in December 1952.

Prof Smith said he wanted to help the survivor, but that he had also signed an archival users agreement with the diocese of Galway not to “quote from, refer to, or reproduce’ material from the archive without permission”. The department responded by asking Prof Smith to ask the diocese for permission to share the document, but the academic informed it that it should apply directly to the diocese for a copy.

Two weeks later, on May 27, Prof Smith received a letter from the Galway diocesan archive advising him that he had “retained personal data” and that “it is now incumbent upon you, if the information is in fact true, to destroy, erase, or return such data to the data controller”. He was then informed that the archive was now “embargoed”.

“Also, please note that permission has not been given by the diocese, or its agents, to you to publish, or otherwise reproduce, the material.”

In addition, Mr Ó Fátharta reports:

The Irish Examiner put a series of questions to the Department of Justice on Prof’s Smith’s claims and the McAleese committee’s treatment of the Galway diocesan archive. It declined to answer any of them, stating that the committee “no longer exists and is, therefore, not in a position to respond to specific queries”.

Four years on, questions continue to be asked of report into Magdalene Laundries (Conall Ó Fátharta, Irish Examiner)

Previously: The Magdalene Report: A Conclusion 

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Conall Ó Fátharta, of The Irish Examiner

It’s been almost two years since Conall Ó Fátharta first reported in The Irish Examiner that, two years before historian Catherine Corless raised fears about the Tuam mother and baby home in Co Galway, a HSE West social worker, in 2012, had expressed concerns that up to 1,000 children may have been trafficked to the US from the home.

The social worker came to the conclusion after she examined both the Tuam and Bessborough mother and baby homes while preparing material for the Magdalene laundries inquiry, led by then Senator Martin McAleese – material which was not included in the McAleese report.

Readers should note Fine Gael’s Dr James Reilly was the Minister for Health at the time, while Phoenix magazine has previously reported Dr Reilly paid The Communications Clinic nearly  €60,000 between 2012 and 2014  – out of an Oireachtas fund, called the Special Secretarial Allowance (SSA).

Further to this.

Yesterday.

On RTÉ’s This Week.

Presenter Conor Brophy spoke to Ó Fátharta about his research and asked what, if any, action was taken after the HSE social worker raised her concerns back in 2012.

Conor Brophy: “In 2012, the HSE had examined both the Tuam mother and baby home and Bessborough in Cork as part of the Magdalene laundries inquiry [by then Senator Martin McAleese]. It’s findings in relation to high mortality rates at both homes, as well as trafficking of up to 1,000 children from Tuam for adoption were described by officials as ‘shocking’ and ‘staggering’. The HSE recommended a fully fledged, a fully resourced investigation and a State inquiry be established.”

Later

Brophy: “Where did the reports go and what action, if any, was taken after this?

Conall Ó Fátharta: “Well that’s where you run into… it’s difficult to understand, first of all, why nothing was done. I suppose, the answer that I’ve gotten from the departments, while they initially said they hadn’t seen it, they then said that the important thing to note was that this was outside the terms of reference of the McAleese committee. It was specifically examining… Magdalene laundries and that any issues surrounding mother and baby homes, and any validated findings of concerns, I think was the wording they used, should be reported through a separate process. But to me, to my mind, it’s pretty clear that they were being reported. I mean, the wording was clear – ‘this needs to be looked at further’. You get the sense that they had only scratched the surface and the reason they were raising this at senior levels was because they felt, you know, someone needs to look at this, they need to look at it forensically. Again, the defence has always been that, you know, the McAleese committee wasn’t really tasked with this, somebody else needs to look at it, at a later date.”

“But as I’ve always said, and I’ve said it in innumerable pieces, the line that was thrown at me was kind of that, the findings, in particular in relation to the Bessborough report, were a matter of conjecture, which is a sentence that the author of that report does use but not in relation to infant mortality, and uses it in the context of ‘well, look, this is what I’m seeing, these are the concerns that come out of it, when you examine this documentation, and these are all conjecture, until somebody has a look and sees are my suspicions founded’. That’s the context of that wording. What you can’t deny is that the death rate figures are coming directly from a register and if the work of Catherine Corless, which is fantastic, was enough to launch a State inquiry, it seems beyond me why figures held by the HSE themselves, taken directly from the order, weren’t worthy of that same level of interest two years earlier.”

Brophy: “What, for you then, are the key questions now?”

Ó Fátharta: “They key questions, we’re probably trying to answer them now. My point has always been, we could be a bit further down the track with all of this. If the concerns raised about Tuam and Bessborough had been noted when they were reported in 2012, we could be at the end of a State inquiry into mother and baby homes. Who knows? We have to hope that the commission is now going to, it does seem like it’s going to broaden the scope a bit, more than Tuam. It’s clear that the same concerns that we’ve now found in Tuam were noted in other institutions. The figures are there. The records are there. So, it’s a matter of spreading the net a bit wider and looking at other institutions which it does seem like they’re going to do but, I suppose, we could be a little further down the track if the right people had been listened to back in 2012.”

Brophy: “That’s journalist Conall Ó Fátharta speaking to me earlier. Now, in addition to asking for a spokesperson from the HSE to join us, we submitted a list of questions to the HSE this weekend. Specifically, they were related to what, if any, notification was provided to the minister [for health, Dr James Reilly] back in 2012 and what steps were taken to investigate the findings contained in its own internal documents at the time. The HSE wasn’t in a position to provide us with a spokesperson. In a statement, the HSE said it was liaising with the mother and baby homes commission in relation to the disclosure of all documentation relevant to the commission’s work.”

Listen back in full here

SPECIAL INVESTIGATION: Government already knew of baby deaths (June 3, 2015, Irish Examiner)

Related: ‘The Irish Martin Sixsmith’ Episode 56 with Conall O Fatharta (YouTube)

Previously: Open The Files

Meanwhile, In Tuam

Pic: YouTube

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Children’s toys and flowers at the ‘Little Angels’ memorial plot in the grounds of Bessborough House in Blackrock, Cork in 2014

You may recall a post from 2014 which detailed a timeline of the known medical trials conducted on children in Mother and Baby Homes in Ireland, the response of successive health ministers and the contemporaneous expansion in Ireland of the medical companies involved in those trials.

Further to this…

In today’s Irish Examiner, Conall Ó Fátharta reports:

The files of vaccine trial victims in Bessborough Mother and Baby Home were altered in 2002 — just weeks after the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse sought discovery of records from the order running the home.

Material obtained by the Irish Examiner under Freedom of Information shows that changes were made to the records of mothers and children used in the 1960/61 4-in-1 vaccine trials.

The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (CICA) had sought discovery of the records from the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary on July 22, 2002. An affidavit was sworn on October 3, 2002, and on a number of later dates in 2002 and 2003.

The document listing the changes opens with: “8.8.02 Checked the 20 files.” This is immediately followed by: “9.8.02 Made the changes.” The changes made to files Nos 5, 8, 11, 12, and 15 to 20 are then detailed.

The changes include:

The alteration of discharge dates of mothers (by a period of one year and two years);
The changing of discharge dates of children;
The changing of admission dates of mothers;
The alteration of the age of a mother (by two years);
The alteration of dates of adoption;
The changing of baptism dates and location of baptism;
The insertion of certain named locations and information into admission books.

Bessborough Mother and baby vaccine trial files altered (Irish Examiner)

Read more of Mr Ó Fátharta’s work here

Previously: Medical Trials And Children Of Lesser Gods

Laura Hutton/Rollingnews