What Frances Knew

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Fine Gael Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald

The newly-appointed Justice Minster Frances Fitzgerald spoke to Sean O’Rourke yesterday morning about the special commission of investigation that will examine the high mortality rates at mother and baby homes in Ireland, the burial practices at the sites, secret and illegal adoptions and vaccine trials on children.

Specifically, Ms Fitzgerald was asked about what she did after she was told about these matters by adoption groups last July.

Frances Fitzgerald: “In terms of working out the terms of reference of the commission, I think there’s huge expectations out there. What we want to get is something that is not so vague that it doesn’t satisfy anybody but does give answers. We have to look very carefully at the outcomes we want from this Commission of Investigation.”

Sean O’Rourke: “We’ve had several people texting minister, about your own knowledge and role in this but before we talk about that, let’s just recall what Susan Lohan, of the Adoption Rights Alliance, and she was here with Neil Michael, of the Daily Mail, what she had to say last week.”

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Susan Lohan: “I think the Minister for Justice really has to speak out on this and France Fitzgerald knows all too well about the issues because both ourselves, the Adoption Rights Alliance, and other groups have been sending her material since she took office in 2011, so she can not claim ignorance on this issue.”

Neil Michael: “She was handed that report detailing these mass graves, etc, in July, I think it was July 24th last year and she promised she would read the report that night. And we sent her a list of questions, to her private email address, to the Department of Justice and also the the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and we didn’t get a single reply. And the one reply we got, from the Department of Children, completely ignored any question to do with mass graves or high mortality rates.”

O’Rourke: “So that’s Neil Michael, of the Mail, and Susan Lohan, what’s your response minister?”

Fitzgerald: “Well, I’m very glad to respond to that. I certainly had no information in relation to the possibility that there were 800 bodies in any grave. In fact, of course, the details of that, that are emerging. I mean the best witness we have in relation to that grave at the moment is saying that there are probably 20.”

And yet.

A report that the group Adoption Rights Now gave to Ms Fitzgerald, last July, detailed several issues including the matter of Irish babies being sent from mother and baby homes in Ireland to America, England, Germany, Libya, Egypt, the Philippines, India, Australia, South Africa and Venezuela for adoption; vaccination trials at the mother and baby homes; high ‘illegitimate’ infant mortality rates and concerns about burials.

It states:

“If we apply a cautious figure of mortality rates running at an average of less than three times the national average for the total of 100,000 Irish adoptees since 1922, a figure of upwards of 10,000 babies who died above and beyond the deaths which would have occurred naturally would be conservative. We are clearly stating on the record that at least ten thousand babies were neglected to death. We believe the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus are responsible for at least 2,500 to 3,500 of these deaths and the evidence so far uncovered backs up this truth with incontrovertible facts and a clear pattern of neglecting babies and children to death. These helpless, innocent victims were buried without coffins or ceremony in unmarked or barely marked graves. Many never had a name, a birth certificate, a death certificate or baptism. “

Read the full report that Adoption Rights Now gave Minister Fitzgerald here 

Frances Fitzgerald’s interview with Sean O’Rourke here

Thanks Paul Redmond

Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland