From top: Sean Ross Abbey, Roscrea, County Tipperary; Catherine Sheehy (right) with Kevin whom she named William; Kevin Battle today in Portland, Maine, USA
Kevin Battle was a baby when church officials raided his family home in Ireland and plucked him from the arms of his mother, an unmarried 24-year-old who had run away from the convent where she and hundreds of other Irish girls were sent to give birth to secret children.
After raising the boy she named William for more than a year, his mother [Catherine Sheehy] couldn’t bear to give him up, so she grabbed her chubby-cheeked boy and escaped home to her family in County Limerick.
But the nuns had plans for the boy, so they tracked down the mother and child and forcefully reclaimed him.
Within weeks of seizing the baby, the Catholic Church sold him to an Irish couple in New York grieving the death of their own infant.
The price? A $1,000 donation to the church. Records show that the convent, Sean Ross Abbey, secretly exported 438 children like Battle to America.
Yet Battle, a retired South Portland police officer who works as a harbor master and state legislator, grew up knowing none of this.
He’d always known he was adopted. He’d searched for his mother, following the paper trail to Ireland in 1978, but the nuns there told him she was dead…[more at link below]
During her statement, Ms Zappone said she has appointed forensic archaeologist Niamh McCullagh, who carried out the preliminary excavations in Tuam, Co Galway, to lead a team of international experts to advise the commission.
She said the team – whose terms of reference she is publishing today – will carry out further geophysical surveys to examine “the extent of potential burials on the site”.
The minister said she will receive an initial technical report by the end of June, while a more detailed report on options for the future of the commission will be submitted to her by the end of September. She said the reports will be available to the public.
Starting from July, on the first Friday of every month, Ms Zappone said she will publish a monthly update on her department’s website.
And she said she’s appointed an “experienced, qualified facilitator with an international reputation” to help her hold a series of consultations with former residents of the homes who were in the homes without their mothers.
An open invitation to these consultations in Dublin and elsewhere – depending on the expressions of interest – will be sent out tomorrow, she said.
Further to her previously announced idea of establishing some kind of a truth commission, Ms Zappone also said she will be inviting the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence Pablo de Greiff, from Columbia, to Ireland.
She said, over the summer, she will undertake a “scoping review” in relation to possibly extending the commission’s terms of reference.
Readers will note Ms Zappone said in March that she would be carrying out this same scoping exercise.
Finally, she said:
“I sometime wonder, if I’m around in 2027 or 2037, what will they say, on Reeling In The Years about 2017. Will it be the year 2017, that the international media descended on Tuam as we, once again, declared our outrage at past deeds. Or will it be a year where we faced up, womaned up and maned up and decided that we will do things better.”
“This is a defining moment for us. As a member of Government, and the only Independent woman in Government, I feel a huge sense of responsibility to begin to heal the fractured trust between our citizens and our State. It is a time that someone shouted stop, it is a time that we all shouted stop and I believe that a model of transitional justice will help us move forward with that. “
Catherine Connelly said:
“I’m extremely concerned about the distinction you’re drawing between children who were in the homes with a mother and without a mother. I believe you are misinterpreting, either deliberately or unintentionally, the report that was done by the commission.
“On page three of your speech today, you’re going to set up consultations with those who were resident as children without their mothers.
“I think that is a shocking distinction, maybe I’m misreading it, perhaps you can explain it. I believe that you’ve taken that, inappropriately from the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation where the commission simply, in their interim report, and I believe the motivation for the interim report was to draw attention to the way that this government and previous governments have dealt with the mother and baby homes and left them outside of the redress scheme most unjustly.
“And they made the point that children without mothers had a particular grievance, they did not say that babies who were in there with their mothers should not be included.”
The Government has decided it is “not possible” to extend the institutional child abuse redress scheme to those who lived in mother and baby homes because of “huge financial implications to the state”.
The recommendation came from the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes’ second interim report, which was available eight months ago but only published yesterday.
The Coalition of Mother And Baby home Survivors (CMABS) said this morning:
We utterly reject Minister Katherine Zappone’s dishonest dismissal of the Inquiry’s strong recommendation of immediate Redress to an elderly and dying survivor community.
Minister Zappone’s refusal is immoral, repulsive and cold hearted at this time when it is clear that all this refusal does is kick the can down the road while waiting for more and more elderly survivors to die.
Clearly money means more to Zappone and this Government than any sense of common decency or morality.
The Governments behavior in hiding this vital report for several months is a national disgrace and their shameful decision to viciously refuse an Apology and Redress to an aging survivor community is a black mark on many of our politicians and Taoiseach Kenny, Minister Zappone and the Cabinet in particular; an immoral stain they will carry into the history books for all time.
CMABS again calls for an immediate meeting with the Taoiseach despite his previous snubs. Time is running out for us, our community is dying while Minister Zappone fiddles in her ivory towe …
After reading a letter in yesterday’s Sunday Independent from ‘Tom Slevin’ (above), I remebered what ‘Patrick Slevin’ wrote the week before (top)… Ignoring the untruth that the nuns operated for free, is this an example of “groupthink” or is there something a little more sinister at play?
Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone
On RTE’s Today with Sean O’Rourke.
The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone spoke to Mr O’Rourke about several matters.
These included the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes; Sgt Maurice McCabe; Taoiseach Enda Kenny telling RTE about a fictitious meeting with Ms Zappone prior to her meeting Sgt McCabe; and the results of yesterday’s Comptroller and Auditor General’s report which showed 18 religious congregations have, up to 2015, paid just 13% of €1.5billion redress costs associated with the compensation scheme for victims of abuse at religious residential institutions.
They began discussing the announcement Ms Zappone made yesterday that a scoping exercise will be carried out to examine calls for an expansion of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes’ terms of reference “to cover all institutions, agencies and individuals that were involved with Ireland’s unmarried mothers and their children.”
Sean O’Rourke: “When will you announce an extension or a broadening of the terms [of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes]?”
Katherine Zappone: “It’s a, it will be a number of weeks I expect. One of the first things that my department is doing is pulling together the ways in which the country dealt with these issues when the Commission of Investigation was established in 2014, looking at these issues about what institutions, what settings should be included and what should not.”
“At the time it was decided that it was appropriate to have a sample representative of settings but I suppose, in light of the discovery of, in terms of Tuam and the ways in which we are all trying to come to terms with this and Sean, you know, in the last number of days, I’ve listened to so many people, trying to reflect on the meaning of what has gone on in our history.
“And I have had, you know, many grown men come to me and cry in my, in my presence, trying to come with an understanding of what this meant for unmarried women and their children but also, you know, who is responsible, what was it about our society, how could people behave in this way. So, I’m sorry, I’m just trying to come to terms back to, you know, you’re saying how long will it take?
“There were decisions made in terms of the terms in 2014. Now that we’ve had this discovery, we’re trying to come to terms with it, as a nation. We need to look again at whether or not we need to include other institutions.”
Sean O’Rourke: “Does every person who has a story to tell, and wants that story to be told, have a right to have it heard?”
Zappone: “And so, yes I think so. And so, as the minister for children, another thing that I’ve identified that I would like to progress is not only perhaps to look at the extending the terms of reference of the Commission of Investigation but also to initiate a process throughout the country whereby there may be other ways in which we can keep the victims and the survivors at the centre of our attention to provide them with opportunities maybe for publicly to speak their truths which so many of them wish to do. And isn’t a possibility in the context of the Commission of Investigation.”
O’Rourke: “You spoke in the Dáil yesterday about museums of mercy, for instance, of memory, I beg your pardon, in Argentina and Chile. I think reference as well to South Africa – what model might you be thinking of?”
Zappone: “I’m referring to what’s known as a transitional justice approach to dealing with, now that we’re coming to terms with the fact that there was a wide scale large scale human rights violations on behalf of unmarried mothers and their children throughout the country, four decades. Is it enough? Is it enough to have a legal process of Commission of Investigation? It’s very important that we have that. But, in other countries, when they try to move on from what are considered to be repressive regimes, into a new era, they know that there maybe other ways in which there are opportunities for people to tell their truths, to remember what happened. Or to commemorate, a national day of commemoration, would be an example. Or other people are suggesting, perhaps the State ought to acquire some of the properties of where unmarried mothers were affectively put in against their will.”
“And to use that in other ways, as we try to, as a society, cope with, understand and move beyond and to heal, to a new way and a new time where we wish to be.”
O’Rourke: “It’s been quite a tumultuous month, not just for the Government, or the country, but also in particular for you, as minister for children and youth affairs. It was, I think, the 9th of February, when Katie Hannon had that report on Prime Time about the shocking allegations, false allegations, made against Maurice McCabe and then there was a political crisis
Later – speaking about the confusion over who knew what when in relation to Sgt Maurice McCabe
O’Rourke: “You seemed to want it both ways at a certain point. A statement was issued on your behalf saying, initially, that you had informed relevant Government colleagues about the meeting, and then, subsequently, the position was oh it would have been highly inappropriate to brief Cabinet colleagues about matters pertaining to a protected disclosure. To what extent did you yourself add to the confusion?”
Zappone: “Well, as you indicated there, I was out of the country for a very brief time. A long-standing family commitment. So I was not able to, I suppose, add my own voice, to offer the clarity in the way that I think I normally do in terms of issues that arise and coming to the media to address that. And so, given the time difference, distance, sorry the time differences, and the geographic distance I wasn’t able to be there, be there myself in order to offer that clarity about what happened, why I made the decisions and I think still, those decisions, I accept that, I have learned from, in terms of the way that we operate as a Cabinet. To perhaps be more explicit with information that one carries in the decisions that are being made. I said then, as I continue to say now, my prime concern was the protection of the McCabes and my understanding was that, with the information that I had shared, particularly with the Taoiseach, that their concerns would be incorporated into the tribunal of inquiry.”
O’Rourke: “Did you fear, at a certain stage maybe, in the earlier part of this week you were still away, that your own membership of the Government was on the line. That you might have to leave Cabinet?”
Zappone: “I, no, I, I didn’t think that, Sean?”
O’Rourke: “Or be forced out?”
O’Rourke: “Or be forced out? That you might have been sacked?”
Zappone: “Oh, ok, I’ll tell you, what, again, no, what was most on my mind was to ensure that a way of responding to this kept us moving to an appropriate response to the McCabes and I think, as you know, things have continued and certainly, under my own direct, sense of powers, as minister of children, I have, I ordered the establishment of a statutory investigation by HIQA, in terms of the way in which Tusla manages child abuse allegations, and I’m very pleased to say that I….
Speak over each other
Zappone: “…terms of reference have been agreed within the last week and that investigation will be initiated.”
O’Rourke: “And that’s an important part, perhaps the most important part of the bigger picture. But to go back to the politics of this for a minute. What did you think of what emerged afterwards to have been a fictitious account given by the Taoiseach on [RTE’s] This Week about having met you before you met the McCabes and told you ‘be sure you take a good note’.
Zappone: “Well, as you’ve already indicated. I was in the States when that programme [Prime Time] happened. When I came back, I responded to the media, I put on the record in the Dail, in terms of what happened. And that I know now, and I think everyone else knows that the Taoiseach has agreed with that account.”
O’Rourke: “At the same time, by all accounts, and his own not least, he’s been forced into a position where he’s brought forward, and significantly, it would appear, the date of his departure as leader of Fine Gael and as Taoiseach.”
Zappone: “I suppose, Sean, those are issues and decisions in relation to the Fine Gael party. I, as a Cabinet minister and engaging with this very,very, very difficult issue in relation to the McCabes, obviously, had a history, a complexity, my focus was on them. I behaved in relation to a concern for them. I communicated with the Taoiseach in a way that I thought that was appropriate. And what happened after that is outside of my control.”
O’Rourke: “Should you have been more explicit in Cabinet. And I know there’s a constitutional bar on you giving details of Cabinet discussions but could, and should you have been more explicit about insisting Tusla needs to be brought into much more, front and centre, into the terms of reference of what was originally setting out to be, or being set up, as a Commission of Investigation?”
Zappone: “I suppose everything we do at the Cabinet table, Sean, comes as a result of a discerning process. And as I said, I have learned some lessons from this in terms of, you know, maybe bringing to the table things that before I might have felt were appropriately kept with me. But, at that particular moment, my discernment, as I said, my understanding and my reading of the terms that were in front of me, my communication with the Taoiseach was what I knew, from the McCabes, would be part of the investigation. And the judge who was leading that subsequently confirmed that, even before we actually enlarged the terms of reference.”
O’Rourke: “I suppose we have so many strands to the, our relationship with our troubled past and talking about, particularly, where children are concerned for now. We’ll talk politics later but, that are on the agenda at the moment, not least what’s emerged about the amounts of money being paid as part of the whole Redress arrangements which cost now over €1.5billion. The expectation, hope that it would be a 50:50 split between the State and the Church, mainly the Catholic Church, hasn’t materialised. What do you think should happen?”
Zappone: “I would be very much in agreement with my colleague, Minister [Richard] Bruton and support him in his re-engaging with the religious orders in order for them to make contributions to the redress scheme. Because they do share the burden of the responsibility. And I will support him in those discussions.”
O’Rourke: “And what about something that Micheal Martin, the Fianna Fáil leader, said to us on the programme a few days ago. That he felt it would be appropriate, now it wasn’t exactly in the context of redress, that the Catholic Church should hand over its hospitals is what he identified specifically to the State?”
Zappone: “Yes, I, you know, I reflect on that. I think, underneath that recommendation, is that the desire for all of us to ensure and to see that people are held accountable for what has gone on and in terms of the abuses that were done in relation to children, as well as women over the last number of years. Who is responsible? And if those people who are responsible? How much of they pay? How much should the State pay? Should we extend terms of reference, even for the Commission of Investigation that I’m overseeing and supporting and does that, does that mean that, ultimately, those people, the survivors, who are looking for compensation, ought we, the State, the religious orders, who ought to pay for that and how do we make those decisions. It’s all part of that space, Sean. And, I think, you know, if people are offering solutions on how to move forward, I’m listening to those. But I think we need to spend time reflecting on how to do this in the best possible way.”
O’Rourke: “The Taoiseach said, briefly, if possible, you might respond to this. That during the week, ‘women did not impregnate themselves, nuns did not reach into family homes and take babies out’. Do you think in any truth-telling process, you would set up, there’s any possibility, remote or otherwise, we will hear from men in large numbers, other than those who have suffered in the institutions? About what they knew? What they did?”
Zappone: “That’s a great question, Sean. You have asked it. And I hope that the men here, you as a man, asking that question, I would love to see that happen.”
Before deputies made statements about the confirmation last week that human remains have been found at the site of the former mother and baby home, run by the Bon Secours order, in Tuam, Co Galway.
The Minister for Children Katherine Zappone told the Dáil that, by the end of the months, she will publish an interim report that the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes gave her last September.
She also said a scoping exercise will be carried out to examine calls for an expansion of the commission’s terms of reference “to cover all institutions, agencies and individuals that were involved with Ireland’s unmarried mothers and their children.”
From Ms Zappone’s speech:
Experience tells us it can take time to shine a light on dark periods of our history. The truth is hidden. Sometimes hidden in plain sight.
It takes the brave testimony of survivors, long studies by historians and the dogged determination of investigative journalists to bring a spotlight to events which were previously only whispered about – in this case for generations.
It is now almost a week since the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes confirmed what we had all feared.
Today I wish to place on the record of this House the Commission’s update that significant number of human remains are buried in the site of the old Mother and Baby Home in Tuam.
For survivors, loved ones and campaigners such as the tireless Catherine Corless it was a moment of vindication. After decades and years of hard work, determination and unwavering commitment the truth has been laid bare for us all to see.
This House, and our entire state, owes a debt of gratitude to Catherine Corless for her work.
Many men and women alive today spent time in that institution, either as children or as young women. Today I offer them my personal solidarity and, as a citizen, my personal apology for the wrongs that were done to them.
Deputies will know that the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes continues its work.
You will also know that cases have been made that the terms of reference of this Commission should be reviewed.
I want to acknowledge the calls made since Friday for an expansion of the Terms of Reference to cover all institutions, agencies and individuals that were involved with Ireland’s unmarried mothers and their children.
I can commit to Deputies that a scoping exercise will be carried out to examine this. As Minister I will be announcing the detail of this exercise in the coming weeks. As Minister I will also be publishing the second interim report of the Commission by the end of this month.
I am also mindful that by design the Commission is largely concerned with questions of legality; of legal liability, of compliance with the laws of the day and so on.
These are important questions.
They are however not the only issues which we should consider.
What happened in Tuam is part of a larger picture.
Part of a tapestry of oppression, abuse, and systematic human rights violations that took place all over this country for decades.
As a modern open society we must not treat these as isolated incidents but rather confront what was a dark period in an honest, mature and reflective way. We must acknowledge that what was happening in these institutions was not unknown. We must acknowledge that what was happening in these institutions was not without the support of many pillars in society.
We must acknowledge that this very House debated legislation that allowed for those residing in institutions such as County Homes to work for little or nothing in return for the so-called charity that was shown to them.
Lest we contend that people did not know what was happening, let us remember that some members of this House spoke out against it.
In the Finance Committee debates on the Health Bill 1952, which took place in July 1953, Deputy Kyne condemned putting unmarried mothers in county homes to effectively involuntary labour as “having revenge on her”.
While Deputy Captain Cowan described as “absolute brutality” the fact, as he described it, that “They are not let out even”.
Earlier than that — before our Constitution had been finalised — members of the Oireachtas also raised questions about the ill-treatment of so-called illegitimate children.
Thus, as I said, this history may be dark, but it was not entirely unknown. We must acknowledge that sometimes it was fathers and mothers, brothers and uncles, who condemned their daughters, sisters, nieces and cousins and their children to these institutions.
And that sometimes it was not.
We must accept that between 1940 and 1965 a recorded 474 so-called “unclaimed infant remains” were transferred from Mother and Baby Homes to medical schools in Irish universities.
We must listen to, record, and honour the truth of people’s experiences. We must commit to the best of our ability to recognising, recording and making reparations for the truth.
Making these commitments and honouring them will not be easy. But we must – for those who suffered and also for future generations.
Establishing the truth is important for many reasons – but not least to ensure that the darkness of the past will not return in the future.
Irish women and Irish children must never have to endure such suffering again. As a feminist, as an Independent Minister and as an Irish woman I feel a moral and ethical compulsion to reach beyond the legal questions of what happened in Tuam and elsewhere.
That compulsion is driven to try to arrive at this truth. For it is only from acceptance of the truth that we can move past it; not by drawing a line under it, but by highlighting it.
By recognising it as part of our history and part of our national story.
By commemorating and memorialising it.
By honouring its victims.
By recognising the part that individuals, communities and institutions played in it.
By making sure that, while we still have time, we look to those who are still alive and accept their accounts of what was done to them, and of the wrongness of that. In the coming days, as Minister, I will start a conversation with advocates, with historians and scholars specialising in transitional justice.
The United Nations defines transitional justice as the set of approaches a society uses ‘to try to come to terms with a range of large scale past abuses’. Transitional justice puts survivors and victims at the heart of the process. It commits to pursuing justice through truth.
It aims to achieve not only individual justice, but a wider societal transition from more repressive times, to move from one era to another.
Taking a transitional justice approach means that we will find out and record the truth, ensure accountability, make reparation, undertake institutional reform, and achieve reconciliation.
In doing this I want to acknowledge the many people who have contacted me personally in recent days to tell me directly of their experiences. It is important to also ensure that we learn from international best practice in transitional justice, such as the Museums of Memory in Argentina and Chile, for example.
There may also be lessons to be learned from processes used to establish the truth in other contexts and other countries.
Writing about the Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, as well as other matters, in the London Review of Books last year, our Laureate for Irish Fiction, Anne Enright, said: “The living can be disbelieved, dismissed, but the dead do not lie. We turn in death from witness to evidence, and this evidence is indelible, because it is mute”.
Let us not disbelieve; let us not dismiss.
Let us commit to do justice not solely through law, but through speaking and listening, and through believing what our eyes, our ears what our compatriots tell us.
From top: Taoiseach Enda Kenny; Independent TD Catherine Connolly of Galway West
During Leaders’ Questions.
Independent TD Catherine Connolly raised the Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, Co Galway.
Specifically, she raised concerns about Taoiseach Enda Kenny using “carefully crafted words” to tell the Dáil, “no nuns broke into our homes to kidnap our children”.
And she recalled an interim report the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes gave the Minister for Children Katherine Zappone last September.
This interim report was to identify any matters that the commission felt warranted further investigation as part of the commission’s work and, recently, the Adoption Rights Alliance and Justice for Magdalenes Research groups have called on Ms Zappone to publish it.
Ms Connolly and Mr Kenny had the following exchange…
Catherine Connolly: “A shocking discovery, according to everyone, and particularly to yourself Taoiseach. But this is something that Galway has been aware of for a long time, highlighted by Catherine Corless back in 2014, in her painstaking and self-funded research.”
“By the witnesses, the many, many women who went before the commission of inquiry into child abuse which culminated in the Ryan Report, as far back as 2009. They told their stories about their experience in Mother and Baby Homes. It was brought to the attention of Martin McAleese when he concluded his report on the Magdalene laundries. So none of this is shocking to the survivors.
“What is shocking to the survivors, and to me, is the carefully crafted words that you’ve come into the chamber with. And, in particular, that you say ‘no nuns broke into our homes to kidnap our children’, ‘we gave them up to what we convinced ourselves was the nuns’ care’ and so on. I don’t doubt your bona fides, a thaoisigh, but I certainly doubt your judgement in reading that out, a carefully crafted speech with a sentence like that in these circumstances. My question: please answer. Where is the interim report that has sat with the minister since September last year? Please confirm that the site will be sealed off as any crime scene is sealed off.”
“Please confirm that records will be made available to those that are seeking them and somebody like Peter Mulryan doesn’t have to go to the High Court to seek the records of his sister. Please stop the hypocrisy…”
Enda Kenny: “That was the reason that a Commission of Investigation was set up and that has its independence with wide-ranging, wide-ranging terms of reference and it hasn’t actually reported its official findings yet. Nor indeed has the coroner declared what he considers the next step to be. The gardai have independent responsibility. What you’re asking me to do now, is to direct an independent commission to do certain things. The questions that you ask are valid questions and they do need to be answers and I expect that they will be answered. And you can refer to carefully crafted sentences if you like. The fact of the matter is: the nuns did not take the children out of the houses of Ireland. They were sent to these Mother and Baby Homes, in the vast majority of cases, by the families themselves. The disgrace that was wreaked upon parish after parish, simply because a young woman became pregnant, to give birth to a child…”
Connolly: “I’m not sure if you’re completely and utterly out of your depth or that you just stick to prepared scripts. I really don’t know what the issue is. I haven’t asked you anything about the coroner, nor the guards. I specifically asked you, in relation to publishing an interim report that your minister has since September last year. There’s the reply. She is going to publish it. I’m asking you now to confirm, why it hasn’t been published? Eight months later? What’s in it that’s so frightening? What’s in it that prevents it being published? In relation to your commission and our shameful past, who made it shameful to have what was natural, a pregnancy and a baby? Who made that shameful? Who instituted that those babies were taken? Not directly by the nuns in the middle of the night but as a result of a visit from a priest or someone else doing their job.”
“Please don’t insult the women of Ireland on International Women’s Day and just, and answer the question: when is the interim report going to be published? Please confirm that the site in Tuam will be sealed appropriately. Please stop talking about a memorial at this point which is utterly premature and deal with the facts and the issues that the representative organisations are asking you. At some stage the Government has to learn.”
Kenny: “Far from insulting the women of Ireland, I want to stand by finding out answers to these particular problems and these particular questions. And it is beneath you to take that line, deputy Connolly. Beneath you to take that line.”
“Now, the gardai themselves have a duty here. Certainly contact them if that site is not sealed off already. I haven’t read the interim report that Minister Zappone has. I’m quite sure she’s in consultation with people about this. I see no reason why the report cannot be published, the same as any other report. It may have to be in some redacted form, I don’t know. I haven’t seen it, I haven’t read it. I’m quite sure the minister will answer for that.”
“But I want you to understand this Deputy Connolly, I am as committed as anybody else to seeing that we deal with this for once and for all. I come from the west of Ireland, as you well know, and I can’t put a figure on the number of young women in my time, since the 1950s, who were sent away to foster homes or to other countries to have their children. Simply because they became pregnant out of wedlock. If you think that I insult the women of Ireland, by trying to do what I want to do here, in respect of our Government and our people, then you’re very much mistaken.”
“It has been a long road in the quest for justice for the people in the Visitors’ Gallery who, over a lifetime, have carried the damage done to them by the State. Like other Deputies, I would like to acknowledge that they are giants on behalf of their peers.
They are true survivors on behalf of their brothers, sisters, mothers and those who did not make it this far. There is real hope for them that this will be the beginning of the end. It will never undo the damage that was done but we can acknowledge, address and learn from it. In that sense, the commission is only the end of the beginning because what happens next is the critical test of whether we are at an historic juncture.
There is a right way and a wrong way to do things. Yesterday, when Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan questioned the Taoiseach about unresolved issues relating to the Magdalen laundries, he talked around them too much. He tried to justify what was done by saying this was the first Government to look at this 60 year old crisis through the McAleese report and he said the Government parties had been listening carefully.
However, by saying that, he proved he had not been listening carefully because the Justice for Magdalenes group has made the point well that the McAleese report was narrow in its remit and many of the issues the women need addressed remain to be addressed because the inquiry did not investigate the abuse and did not deal with burials and so on. I do not know whether this commission of inquiry will deal with these issues. While the Justice for the Magdalenes group says it has concerns, it will give evidence before the confidential committee.
The Minister has explained well that the terms of reference are flexible and are capable of being expanded. I accept that to a point but we should look at this project and not come up with the conclusion before we start. We have to inform the process and that is what the first part is about. That is a valid argument but a person does not need to be Sherlock Holmes to know that the Magdalen laundries and the ten outstanding institutions included in the amended terms of reference will turn up in this inquiry because they were part of the network that dealt with women and girls who had babies outside of marriage. On that basis, if the Government was listening, the Minister would include them now because if the commission is going to be what the Minister says it will be, it will deal with them anyway. That would be an important acknowledgement and I appeal to him to address that.
The commission is a tribute to much of the work he has done in this regard and it has the potential to be a hugely important body of work. Experts have been assembled and, for example, Professor Mary Daly is unrivalled in her field and she can play a huge role in delivering an important social project on the history of women who had children outside wedlock. However, there are two dangers in that.
The first is that by spending a great deal of time on history, it will be used as a cover to justify or legitimise bad behaviour that no history could ever condone because while we can say it was a sign of the times and attitudes are different now, it is only one side of the equation. People were more in awe of the Catholic hierarchy, women had fewer choices economically in raising children and it was a different time but that cannot be an excuse for the torture and cruelty perpetrated by individuals in those institutions. When we look at history and say we are all to blame and society is to blame, sometimes that means nobody is to blame and people do not get the justice they deserve. We have to factor that into the equation.
All these issues are relative but we must also recognise that it was not long ago that these events happened. When we use the hugely offensive term, “rehabilitation for women” in these cases, we talk about mother and baby homes when everybody knows a woman went in and she did not come out with a baby in most cases. The baby either did not make it or ended up in the hands of people claiming to be its natural parents or was adopted against the wishes of the mother. These issues need to be resolved. I echo the concerns about the adoption issue which is a huge body of work that needs to be addressed. I do not know whether the commission should do that but it needs to be dealt with.
People have been hugely hurt and damaged by this. They have placed their trust in the Minister, which is an incredibly significant responsibility because their trust is precious. It has been abused and betrayed many times by people in this State and they cannot afford to have it abused again.”
Clare Daly discussing the Terms of Reference for the forthcoming investigation into the Mother and Baby Homes in the Dáil this afternoon.
Marie Quinn has made a renewed appeal last night on her Facebook for the public to help her track down her two brothers.
Marie’s mother, Helen, had two boys in mother and baby homes before leaving for Liverpool where she got married and had two more children.
Marie told the Irish Mirror on September 9:
“My mum got pregnant out of wedlock in the 60s and they put her in the mother-and-baby homes. I know she was in St Patrick’s on the Navan Road and she also mentioned Dunboyne. She never kept the fact I had two brothers a secret from me – she told us they were adopted and was very open about it. After the youngest child she fled to Liverpool. She met my dad and had my brother and me. She always wanted to search for the boys but wasn’t allowed at the time.”