Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman in the Dáil yesterday
Ahead of a vote in the Dáil later on a Social Democrat motion to extend the Mother and Baby Home Commission of Investigation by 12 months…
…an open letter to TDs from Tuam campaigner Breed Murphy:
They told us they couldn’t find anything; that there is no trace of the mother. Imagine reaching your eighty-eighth year and not knowing who you are? Or when your grandchild looks into your eyes and says “Grandad tell me about your mammy” as they often do when they experience unconditional love and presume that Grandad’s experience was just like theirs.
Imagine that is your child asking your father to recall what he cannot.
Our State has done that to our people. Time and again we have failed survivors of Ireland’s institutions. It is the eleventh hour and you can change that. Power is invested in you, each one of you because you too are social justice advocates just like me.
Over six years ago I began working full time, on a voluntary basis as a post-graduate student with experience of three different disciplines, on the issues related to Mother and Baby Homes. I attended the very first meeting in Galway in 2015 where I met with survivors; shy, reserved yet resilient people they came together to begin the process of discovery. A process that is ongoing.
I had met people just like them on the streets of Camden and Cricklewood where I conducted research for my thesis on the ‘Forgotten Irish’ in 2009. I found, to my dismay, Ireland had neglected them not just in their now latter years but in their childhood where in the Institutions they were housed, survival of the fittest against many odds where abuse and neglect as discovered in the Ryan report was “systemic, endemic, arbitrary, excessive, chronic and pervasive.
The most recent publication of our dark chapter in the Commission’s report dilutes survivor testimonies to the point where they are not recognised as the truth-teller, the witness, the whistle-blower. We are told the institutions provided a ‘refuge’ which translates as a place of safety or shelter. Testimonies from survivors tell us otherwise.
The Commission found that there was very little evidence that children were forcibly taken from their mothers and while it accepts mothers did not have any other option it says is not the same as ‘forced adoption’.
One has to ask the question how much evidence is enough?
Surely if one or ten or a hundred say they were not allowed care for their own child, it is enough. One translates to two lives ruined and an aftermath of intergenerational trauma to a wider circle.
Again, in relation to adoption the Commission reports women who claimed their consent was not full, free or informed are reminded that it may not be their view at the time of the adoption. Because the Commission is looking for hard evidence but admits evidence is thin on the ground.
Like the story of Jackie Foley who was forced to sign a fictitious name when aged 15 on the adoption of her baby. Or the case of Tressa Reeves and her son Patrick Farrell who settled their case in 2018 against the State some fifty seven years after his illegal adoption. Evidence is there – sometimes staring in the face. Then to cap it all, those same survivors are told their evidence is contaminated.
I honestly do not have words for this injustice though it is a continuum through decades, nothing historic about it. You have the opportunity to change the narrative in favour of survivors.
It takes courage and conviction but not nearly as much courage as it has taken for survivors to trust the system, step up to the mark and pour out their innermost fast held secrets because they, like me, felt you would believe them.
Please on behalf of the many people who were trafficked as early as 1926 in the case of the Tuam Mother and Baby Home, from one institution to another; some spending formative years in two, three institutions or boarded out or picked by an American couple, please remember them in these dying days of the Commission.
Because they are not alone in Tuam, or Dunboyne or Roscrea or Kilrush or Newtowncunningham – they are scattered far and wide, throughout the globe and the length and breadth of our country, in your parish and mine.
They deserve equal recognition for what they endured and an answer as to how a report that places them central to the process lulling them to a false sense of security only denies them again.
On Tuesday, we spoke for some twenty minutes on a podcast with Deputy Jennifer Whitmore who put forward the motion. We are grateful to her and those of you who stood in the Dail to advocate today and on other occasions in both houses. Because as ever, when we do not acknowledge past failings we are bound to repeat them. We are doing so today.
Please do not let this be your legacy, that you stood on the wrong side in history. Lest that day comes when your grandchild sits on your lap and says “Gran(dad or ma), tell me what you did in Dáil Eireann”. Let your response be “there was a time when we treated women and little children badly and I stood up for them”.
Stand with us, for truth, for justice, for recognition and most of all for accountability.
Activist on Mother and Baby Homes.
Yesterday: Time Is Not On Our Side