diarmuid1June 5, 2014

RTE Reporter: “This mass grave in Tuam gives us some indication of what went on in those homes. It was discovered 40 years ago by two children. Why are we only hearing about it now?”

Diarmaid Ferriter (Professor of Modern Irish History at University College Dublin):  “Well it’s clear that the work that has been done by Catherine Corless a local historian to see if there was any register of the death of babies and infants. That was a process that lead to a connection between this mass grave and this mother and baby home.”


June 27, 2014

“We have to be careful about scapegoating, we have to be careful about rushing  to pronouncements and definitive declarations of what happened, you know, and this erroneous assertion that 800 bodies were dumped in a septic tank. That is not true. And yet there is this rush when these scandals break. There’s a rush to judgement and  sometimes  rush to scapegoat. None of these institutions were one dimensional…we need to be aware of context.”

Diarmaid Ferriter to Dutch journalist Arjen van der Horst


March 6, 2017

Claire Byrne: In 2014, you said that the assumption or the claims that were 800 childreen dumped in a septic tank in Tuam were erroneous. Do you still hold that view?

Diarmaid Ferriter: “I don’t know.”

UCD History Professor, Diarmuid Ferriter, discusses deaths at mother-and-baby homes (RTE, June 5, 2014)

Tuam and Ireland’s shame: unedited interview with historian Diarmaid Ferriter (Interview with Arjen van der Horst, June 27, 2914)

Claire Byrne Live ‘Tuam Babies’, March 6, 2017 (RTÉ)

Previously: Terry Prone’s Reputable History


66 thoughts on “Revisionism

    1. Sheik Yahbouti

      Yeah, Diarmaid. Historian Supremo of the Republic of Arse covering we hear and appreciate your valuable contribution.

      1. classter

        What do you base that upon?

        Is it your contention that he is a pro-govt or pro-Church shill?

        ‘Cause I have heard be pretty critical about both.

  1. Ultan

    Well how could he know until there is a full examination? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not defending Bon Secours or anything like that, but is he not just being accurate? No one definitively knows at this moment how many bodies are in there, or if it was a septic tank, or some other type of building.

        1. Ultan

          I’ve provided a link to the interview below. If you go to 11.16, you will hear where DF uses the phrase “erroneous”. If you listen to the section just before that, you will hear DF talk about how difficult it is get accurate information because of the number of agencies involved etc. It’s a good interview actually. If you have time, you should listen to all of it.

          1. Harry Molloy

            I haven’t listened but I will say that I would expect historians, and most people ideally, to draw their conclusions based on factual evidence.

            If it wasn’t available to him then he was right not to say that “it happened”.

            And I don’t even like him

          2. Bodger

            Harry, he stated that it was not true. This was an opinion based on no factual evidence.

    1. realPolithicks

      “and this erroneous assertion that 800 bodies were dumped in a septic tank. That is not true.”

      So in 2014 he was definitive, but now he doesn’t know. It’d be laughable if it wasn’t such a serious issue.

  2. Donal

    Didn’t see the show, not defending anyone.
    Is it possible the transcript should read “I don’t, no” as opposed to “I don’t know”?

    1. Mr. Camomile T

      Ferriter said “I don’t know” and then went on to explain why he wasn’t sure. From a factual point of view we don’t know where the bodies in Tuam came from because there are no burial records and there has been no attempt to identify any bodies yet. Hence the necessity for a criminal investigation in my opinion – we cannot simply operate under the assumption that all the human remains found in Tuam are connected to the Mother & Baby Home. In all probability they are, but from an objective perspective we’ve essentially just uncovered an unmarked and undocumented 20th century mass grave in Tuam, and that is worthy of a full criminal investigation.

      1. Harry Molloy

        Not good enough in quick to judge land

        “There’s someone who said something that I don’t 100% agree with. SCUM!! I hope he dies roaring!”

  3. Ivor

    This could get Jesuitical.

    Were they “dumped”?

    Probably not. There was probably some sort of ceremony, some sort of at least semi-dignified preparation etc.

    Were there 800? Who knows. But whether it’s 400 or 800, does it make a difference in the grander scheme of things?

    Chances are DF’s initial assertion will turn out to be true but it won’t take away from the seriousness of what happened.

    1. Sheik Yahbouti

      Agreed, Ivor. A much more interesting line of enquiry might be to find the documentary evidence of the going price at the time for a reasonably healthy infant to a childless couple, and to search the Order’s records VERY thoroughly.

    2. classter


      The whole ‘mass grave’ thing is a bit of a distraction imo.

      The ‘mass graves’ aspect is what has attracted all the attention but really improper burial is the least of it for me.

      We are still quite willing to be callous with those who are not politically important – see asylum seekers in direct provision for years for an example.

    1. classter

      That’s quite an interesting interview. Interviewer is very knowledgeable about Ireland tbf.
      Cheers for sharing that, Ultan.

      He is possibly a bit too definitive against the figure of 800 bodies in the sceptic tank but doign so in a context where he is warning against lazy moral outrage. At the same time, he is not trying to be an apologist either.

      1. anne

        Yeah shur wouldn’t it be lazy moral outrage to be repulsed and sickened by 800 babies dumped..ah fupp off Im not arsed explaining morals to idiots.

  4. Fact Checker

    Ferriter has made the point that much of what went on was not a huge secret at the time. The outsourcing of social care by the state to religious orders was explicit policy for many years. In the 1950s as many as one in a hundred of the population lived in an institution of some kind or other.

    For example the widespread practice of sending infants to North America for adoption (facilitated by religious orders) was discussed on the Dáil record in the late 1940s.

    1. newsjustin

      Yes. It was all well known and accepted by our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. Nonsense to suggest otherwise and/or to pretend that we’d have stood up and brought the system to its knees. Vanity.

  5. Alex Francis

    The simple problem here is Catherine Corless is not a ‘real’ historian like the big UCD professor Diarmaid Ferriter so whatever she says should be viewed skeptically.

    Ferriter is everything that’s wrong with Ireland

    1. EightersGonnaEight

      Rosita Bolandhas pig-ignorant form in getting away with offensiveness for the sake of it in the Irish Times. Disgusting.

    2. Otis Blue

      One of the recent articles on this mentioned that Corless was denied access to records held by Galway County Council as she wasn’t a graduate.

      Yeah so not a real historian.

    3. classter

      What utter nonsense.

      If you listen to the interview above, he doesn’t express that opinion at all.

  6. EightersGonnaEight

    “Context” is like “Nuance”. It’s what you accuse the other side of not having when you’re staring the truth straight in the face. Fancy words for “Yeah, but…”

    There shouldn’t be a rush to judgement. There should be a rush to strip the Bon Secours mofos of their wealth and shut down their hospitals.

    Enda Kenny actually made a very fine speech in the Dail on the subject. It’s BS who failed on the context front there…

  7. Daddy

    All UCD Academics, especially those in Newman House operate under the gaze of Opus Dei.

    That’s not some nut job tin foil hat stuff. Opus Dei are still very influential in academia in the Universities. Anyone who questions church institutions can expect a slower rise through the ranks if at all.

    1. nellyb

      Sounds like soviets – academics taking up communist party membership to ensure better career :-)
      Are you sure it’s still a thing in UCD?

      1. Frilly Keane

        its still a thing in any organisation older than the introduction of PAYE

        (1960 fyi)

  8. :-Joe

    Just the state sponsored intellectuals circling the wagons around what would preferably become “the official story” etc.. Nothing new…


    1. classter

      So far as I understand his wider point, it is that the Catholic Church has done much wrong here but that they are only one part of the story.

      The state & society more widely is also at fault. Ireland was poor and rather callous about how to deal with the ‘undeserving poor’.

      I happen to agree with him & I think that we should be confronting the wider aspects of this in a calm fashion.

      1. Nigel

        I’m really, really interested in seeing connections made between this stuff and the people in political power. I want the political parties responsible to die roaring.

  9. ahjayzis

    I think it’s fair now to lean toward belief and away from skepticism when Irish Catholicism is accused of an atrocity.

      1. anne

        ” Contained within the plot in Tuam are two subterranean voids. This was confirmed by the geo-phys survey The Mail did.

        The one which Mary Moriarty fell into seems to have been a crypt like structure connected to the home by a tunnel.

        Directly adjacent to it, but entirely separate, is another concrete lined space. This is the one Frannie Hopkins fell in to in 1974.

        It is most likely that the septic tank was properly decommissioned (or at least disconnected) before it was ever used for burials.

        But it’d be naive to suggest that the nuns didn’t know what purpose it had served and the symbolism of using it as a final resting place.

        So to judge the Bon Secours order by the rules their religion sets for them …

        If a baby was baptised there was no reason it could not be buried in the cemetery.

        The records suggest the majority of babies were not stillborn but in fact under a year.

        You can be confident of one thing when in the care of the nuns – they’d sure as hell get you baptised lickety spit.

        So why’d they prefer to bury baptised children in a re-purposed sewage facility rather than in the neighbouring properly consecrated ground?

        The possible answers swing from attitude of casual disrespect towards their young charges, right up to something entirely more sinister.”

        1. Deluded

          Thank you Anne.
          Yes- if the children were baptised then why were they not buried in “consecrated” ground?
          a) A sprinkle of holy water may have decommissioned the sewage tank
          b) Grave plots are expensive and nobody wants to be buried near a load of
          c) 800 funerals would have attracted attention. “Out of sight, Out of mind”

  10. Fergus

    Ferriter has to earn his keep for the establishment, now that he is a Prof. in UCD, and throwing sand in the eyes of anyone looking too closely at these kinds of things is him keeping his end of the bargain. The state spent millions, probably tens of millions, looking for a couple of dozen people (all adults) who were kidnapped, murdered and buried in secret by the IRA during the ‘Troubles’. And that was the right and decent thing to do. The legacy of these institutions is several orders of magnitude greater for the establishment and they will pull every stroke imaginable to wiggle out of getting to the truth. One thing is for certain business will be good for Terry Prone and Ferriter over the coming years.

    1. Sheik Yahbouti

      You make an excellent point. There is no political capital in exhuming the dead children or inquiring into their deaths.

  11. anne

    “In 2014 you said it was an error that there were 800 childrens’ bodies dumped at Tuam, do you still hold that view”
    “I dont know” he sez..

    We mustn’t rush to judgement that he’s either:
    A: On drugs
    B: Suffered some sort of brain fart.

    I listened to him on Claire Bryne telling us how society at large were responsible for this too..not just the state and the church, that it was families who sent their pregnant daughters off to these mother and baby homes.

    Who had the power Diarmuid, you fupping idiot? What choices did people have? Who had the fupping power?

    The State and the C Church did..the vicious b*tches in the Bon Secours are not the victims here.

    And to pontificate like Diarmuid does – let us have no doubt most of them were vicious.

    “Erroneous.” fupp sake.

    1. EightersGonnaEight

      He is right about society in general. Except there is no such thing as society : it’s people with real names, real faces, and we know them.

      When the Allies were victorious they hanged concentration guards as well as Nazi leaders. Time to hang some real people.

    2. cluster

      ‘Who had the power Diarmuid, you fupping idiot? What choices did people have? Who had the fupping power?’

      The Church had so much power because the people gave it to them.

      One might blame poverty or a ‘post-colonial’ docility, or an overhang of relatively low education levels dating back to Penal laws, or Church indoctrination in Catholic schools, etc.

      But we as a people did cede too much power to the Church and we were too willing to *punish* those who stepped out of line. We need to confront that

  12. EightersGonnaEight

    Irish journalists. The new Priests and Nuns of the digital age and the Twitterati as flock.

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