Tag Archives: Tuam

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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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This morning.

In the Dáil.

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.

Transcript via Katherine Zappone

Yesterday: What’s In It That’s So Frightening?

Screen grab

This morning.

Social Democrat co-leader Catherine Murphy (top) called for, among other things, the removal of the Angelus from RTÉ. The comments were made during Dail statements on the Announcement by the Commission of Investigation confirming Human Remains on the Site of the former Tuam Mother and Baby home.

Ms Murphy said:

“When I first raised this issue in this House back in 2014 following my reading of Catherine Corless’s research I called at the time for the site at Tuam to immediately be declared a crime scene with Gardaí, crime scene techs, forensic anthropologists and anything else needed to establish the exact details of this atrocity.

And make no mistake, it was and is an atrocity. A mass grave of 796 tiny bodies, discarded like trash.

I listened to the Taoiseach’s speech yesterday about the culpability of the State and society. But the State- for the vast majority of time since it’s foundation the State itself was Fine Gael and or Fianna Fáil.

They were the ones who presided over debates in the chamber which referred to children born outside marriage in the most disparaging and disgusting terms and who wilfully handed over their responsibility for these women and children to a Church and they knew to be merciless at best.

So when we talk about the culpability of the State and Society, know that it was not Joe & Josephine Soap who condemned these women to a life of shame and the murder or export of their children, it was the Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael led State and their complete abdication of responsibility while being fully aware of the life they were consigning those women and children to.

The attitudes which prevailed were perpetuated by every arm of the state – the guards, the medical profession and the political system thus allowing the church to run free with their campaign of terror and castigating women for some perceived sin.

How utterly and tragically ironic that those same nuns who labelled those women as immoral, saw nothing immoral about neglecting a child to the point of death then disposing of their body in a septic tank.

And this is not the dark ages we’re talking about. The legacy of these acts are current or just one generation removed. The relatives of these women and children are still alive.

In 1995 when children playing on the site discovered skulls, it was not the police who were called for, it was a priest. He was called to bless the site then everybody went about their business as usual. The State once again turned a blind eye.

The horrors of the mother and baby homes cannot be properly put into words. The rumours of clinical drug trials have not been properly addressed and there was enough evidence of such trials in Tuam for the then Minister Kathleen Lynch to call for the Terms of Reference to include vaccine trials as part of the inquiry.

That didn’t happen and instead the terms referred to the ‘care arrangements including institutional practice with regard to health, safety, welfare and interests of mothers and children.’ It is not clear if possible vaccine trials were included.

A man from the area spoke to me recently of playing on the site and discovering hundreds of used vials buried in the grounds. And as we are all too painfully aware, such barbaric trials were not uncommon in other mother and baby homes.

So while there is now a collective wringing of hands – 2 years after it was first suggested publicly that there may be a mass grave in Tuam – the fact remains that the horrors of Tuam and other mother and baby homes existed because the State permitted the Church to control some of our most fundamental institutions and the sad fact is that not much has changed today.

We have got to take the Church from our schools, from our hospitals and medical care and from our politics. It is unacceptable that children are regularly discriminated against in our education system based on religion,

it is unacceptable that religious orders can hold any influence over medical institutions and the healthcare provided particularly to women; and it is unacceptable that the Dáil opens up every day with a prayer that is not representative of all elected members or citizens; and it is unacceptable that our national broadcaster, funded by the State, subjects citizens of all faiths and none to the angelus bells twice daily.”

These are relics of a bygone era and if Tuam has shown us anything it is this – the State must take responsibility for its citizens and the Church has no legitimacy in the healthcare or education of those citizens.”

Yesterday: What’s In It That’s So Frightening?

 

tuam

 

Free later?

In June 2014, a blog post by Izzy Kamikaze revealed the existence of vast sewage works under the site of the former Tuam Mother and baby Home.

Izzy will take us through her research on Tuam and other Mother and Baby homes around Ireland tonight on a special show streamed live here and on our YouTube channel at 11.45..

If you would like to join the discussion please send an email to broadsheet@broadsheet.ie.

And if you want a particular aspect discussed please leave suggestions below.

Previously: It Seems Quite Probable The Babies Are Buried In The Sewage Tanks’

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There you go now.

UPDATE: Not so fast. (See comments).

Section 19 of the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004

Previously: Reputable History

‘Must Be Mounted With A Crucifix’

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Justice for the Tuam babies write on their Facebook page:

“[Tomorrow] at 7pm we will march from the Department of Children on Mespil Road (on the canal near Baggot St) to the Dáil. We will hold a candlelit vigil at the Dáil. At the Dáil the names of the 796 children who perished at the hands of church and state criminal negligence will be read out. As each name is read out everyone there will take turns to bring up a child’s shoe or a bib or a toy or flowers…something to represent their little lives. We are hoping to have a lament sung/played during the reading of the names. The reading of the names will be interspersed with poetry and short recounts of the conditions the children endured.”

Justice for the Tuam babies (Facebook)

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The grounds of the former Bon Secours mother and baby home in Tuam, Co. Galway where it’s believed 796 infants may have been buried in a mass grave. Middle: Catherine Corless and, above, today’s coverage in the irish Times.

“Corless writes in her article about hearing of boys who “came upon a sort of crypt in the ground, and on peering in they saw several small skulls. I’m told they ran for their lives and relayed their find to their parents.”

From Rosita Boland’s Tuam mother and baby home: the trouble with the septic tank story piece in today’s Irish Times and  picked up by a number of Catholic websites today.

From the accompanying video Catherine Corless says:

So it was only in my research when I was talking to people in the area, they said ‘Do you know there’s a little graveyard at the back?’  The older residents in the area – now, before these new houses went up – they had the story that two little boys were playing in the area back in the early 70s/late 60s and they came across a huge hollow in the ground. Then they went further and saw there was a slab – a few slabs going across this hollow and so the lads tried to peer in to see what was in there, and they got some stones and broke open more. They said when they cracked open the slab – he said he was just doing this – it was full, full to the brim with skulls and bones. I said ‘Were they big or small?’ ‘Oh’, he said ‘they were little ones, all little ones’ he said.

 

 

 

The full transcript of the video via Paul Moloney:

Catherine Corless: “I started out to do the history of the nuns and the children who went there and I wasn’t expecting the stories that came up. Because we never really knew the home babies as we called them. I kind of remember them going to school in the lower classes. I do remember that they came down in rows, down a double-row down to school. Everybody remembers the sound of the boots because they made a rattle when they came down because the girls and boys wore these hob-nail boots, big black hob-nail boots, summer and winter, and I do remember they were treated that little bit different than the rest of us. We always knew not to play with them and to keep away. This whole area was enclosed with an eight-foot wall right around an acre perimeter, and very few people could see in or out. If you were in there you couldn’t see what was going on in the outside word. A car would come and drop off a mother I suppose and she would go in and once they went in there they just didn’t see outside again until they left.

So it was only in my research when I was talking to people in the area, they said ‘Do you know there’s a little graveyard at the back?’ The older residents in the area – now, before these new houses went up – they had the story that two little boys were playing in the area back in the early 70s/late 60s and they came across a huge hollow in the ground. Then they went further and saw there was a slab – a few slabs going across this hollow and so the lads tried to peer in to see what was in there, and they got some stones and broke open more. They said when they cracked open the slab – he said he was just doing this – it was full, full to the brim with skulls and bones. I said ‘Were they big or small?’ ‘Oh’, he said ‘they were little ones, all little ones’ he said.

Rosita Boland?: “And do you believe him?”

Corless: “Well, it’s not just the boys talking, it’s from other people around the area if you talk to them. They say that a few people came to see what the fuss was about. Someone called the parish priest to come up and to look at the area and to bless it. It’s only in the last month or so that I found out that these boys – now men – were still around. I didn’t have their names until about a month ago.

Boland: “Do you believe that there are all of the children in that grave, do you think that that is possible?”

Corless: “I think it’s quite possible going from the boys’ explanation that it was full to the brim of bones. But still how children at the time, does it matter if it’s 500, 600? If there isn’t a full 796? 10 children in a septic tank? 20? Isn’t that horrific? Is it the numbers that makes it horrific?

Boland: “Would you welcome excavation in that spot?”

Corless: “I would welcome the truth, always, always. The evidence strongly suggests excavation is the only way, if anyone wants to do that. That wasn’t our intention, our intention was to name the children, have them remembered, put up a plaque. I’m thinking of the other mother and baby homes in Ireland, I’m thinking of the groups that are out there, desperately trying as we were, struggling to have children remembered. And if this investigation helps and pushes it forward, I would welcome it. It’s justice, justice to children, justice to the people who gave birth there.”

(Photocall Ireland)

Update:

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The grounds of the former Bon Secours mother and baby home in Tuam, Co. Galway where it’s believed 796 infants may have been buried in a mass grave

RTÉ News is reporting that engineering firm, TST Engineering, has carried out a “subsurface radar examination” at the site of the former Bons Secours mother and baby home in Tuam, Co. Galway and that the results will be known within a few days.

The firm was hired by the Irish Mail on Sunday.

RTÉ reports:

“In a statement, the Irish Mail on Sunday confirmed the Ground Penetrating Radar analysis was conducted by TST Engineering.

‘Following consultation and ongoing co-operation with local historian Catherine Corless and the Children’s Home Graveyard Committee, the Irish Mail on Sunday commissioned a survey of the site of the alleged mass grave at the site of the former Tuam mother and baby home at the Dublin Road housing estate.’

‘The results will be analysed, and published in this Sunday’s edition of the Irish Mail on Sunday.’

“The newspaper said the results will also be ‘presented in full to the Committee, and made available in full to the Minister for Children if and when a state inquiry into the site is established’.”

Private firm conducts radar tests at Tuam site (RTÉ)

Previously: ‘The Septic Tank Was In This Location’

What About Dublin?

Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland