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.”