Tag Archives: Breeda Murphy


Last night.

Mother and Baby Home activists Breeda Murphy, Eunan Duffy and Frank Brehany discuss the fallout from the UN envoy job offer to Katherine Zappone.

Ms Zappone served as Minister of Children and Youth Affairs from May 2016 to June 2020, a tenure often marred by criticism over her handling of the Mother and Baby Home issue by survivors, their families and supporters (and the UN).  Not least for her personal plea to Pope Francis (top), during his visit to Ireland in 2018, asking if the Vatican would contribute to costs for the exhumation of remains discovered at Tuam.

This is the 21st in a series of shows looking at all aspects of the Mother and Baby Home Report.

RollingNews

Last night.

Legal academics Mariead Enright and Aoife O’Donoghue joined Mother and Baby Home activists Breeda Murphy and Frank Brehany to discuss a new alternative Mother and Baby Home ‘Executive Summary’.

Maiiread, Aoife and 23 other scholars last week published a detailed draft based on evidence given to the Mother and Baby Home Commission of Investigation. It posits starkly different conclusions using the same evidence, while remaining within the original Terms of Reference.

This is the 20th in a series of showing look at all aspects of the Mother and baby Home Report. They can be viewed here.

Rewritten ‘Executive Summary’ available here

Original ‘Executive Summary’ here

Rights and the Mother and Baby Homes Report Launch (TU Dublin)

Previously: This Cannot Stand

Last night.

Mother and baby Home activists Breeda Murphy, Eunan Duffy and Frank Brehany discuss the latest developments on the fall-out from the Mother and Baby Home report and the reaction to the discovery of burial sites in Canada.

Eunan shares the research that led to the revelations in last week’s Sunday Times (above) that the bodies of at least 27 children were donated for medical research without consent to Queen’s University Belfast including from Mother and Baby homes.

This is the 19th in a series of shows with Breeda, Eunan and Frank looking at issues surrounding the publication of the Mother and Bay Home Commission of Investigation report. They can be viewed here.

Bodies of 27 children donated to Queen’s University for medical research (Justine McCarthy, Sunday Times)

Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman in the Dáil yesterday

This morning.

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.

Kind Regards,

Breeda Murphy

Activist on Mother and Baby Homes.

Yesterday: Time Is Not On Our Side

Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration Roderic O’Gorman introducing his bill to the Seanad yesterday seal the archive of  Mother and Baby Homes Commission for 30 years (except for a database on mothers and children detained in 11 institutions which it wants to give to TUSLA)

This afternoon.

Breeda Murphy, PRO of the The Tuam Mother and Baby Home Alliance writes:

‘In recent days the controversy over the depositing of evidence related to the Commission’s investigation into Mother and Baby Homes (including the Tuam home) has gained momentum.

The Minister has explained the reasons for legislation being due to the dissolution of the Commission of Investigation when evidence gathered will have to be placed somewhere or destroyed with timeline of October, 2020. The Cabinet and Minister have agreed its best lodged with Tusla.

However, Minister O’Gorman did not address the opportunity that presents of keeping a copy of the entire archive within his own department.

Yesterday when he spoke in Seanad, he admitted the concern expressed among the various communities and groups involved and representations made to local representatives and members of the house, etc.

Ministers and TDs have outlined that they are inundated with emails, (in some cases receiving up to 6000 in the last two days) calls, snail mail and texts as this affects people who have been disadvantaged for decades through no fault of their own.

Survivors and families through a campaign for transparency outlined that the many records relate to their time in the ‘home’ and that indeed their own testimony forms part of the collection.

And of interest to survivors and families and applicable to public interest is the vast collection of administrative data which reveals the extent of the State’s involvement, entry routes and exit pathways, the welfare/care structure, the monies paid regularly from exchequer, maintenance orders, minutes of council meetings, etc. They are all there too.

They go a long way to explaining ‘the system’ that was in operation for decades.

The Minister can, at the stroke of a pen keep a full copy of the archive in his Department. He has told Seanad members that he understands perspectives of those affected and that he will advance comprehensive information and tracing legislation. But that doesn’t guarantee access.

Why can the entire lot not be indexed and archived like any other such important resource?

Regarding access to one’s own information, Niamh Herbert wrote on Twitter:

‘I sat with a Social Worker & a student Social Worker earlier this year for an adoption tracing information meeting. Both of them confirmed they knew MY OWN birth name but they couldn’t tell me because of GDPR.

I’m not angry because I can’t even process it. There’s an approx 2 year waiting list to contact the birth mother to ask permission to share my birth name, which can be refused. In the case of her death the decision is passed to next if kin for them to decide on her behalf. We have no rights. That’s not even half of it.

And in case it wasn’t obvious – there’s also absolutely ZERO rights to any medical history unless permitted by the birth mother or her next of kin. I have no family medical history for myself, or to pass on to my children.’

That is not the fault of the social worker but of the policy makers who have not amended the legislation. There was a time last year when it looked as though any such records would be sealed for 75 years under the failed Retention of Records Bill. To a person who survived those institutions now in their 70s or 80s (as is the age of many Tuam survivors), it’s meaningless.

Minister O’Gorman is a law lecturer who understands the significance of legislation to provide access. Even if he is unsure, even if he has misgivings, there is nothing to stop him accepting the data and keeping a copy.

There was political will in the Seanad yesterday  to tackle this once and for all.

Senator Ivana Bacik explained the Labour party could not support the Bill currently given the rush to get it through without commitment provided as to future access.

Senator Michael McDowell raised the issue of privacy rights afforded to those who contributed to the Confidential Committee.

Senator Alice Mary Higgins wants assurances as to how and where the archive material will be stored and stressed the need for a timeline, mentioning the importance of providing closure.

Senator Aisling Dolan said she was fortunate and privileged last year to receive testimonies when our Alliance presented to the 39 Galway County Councillors where she was then a member.

Senator Gerard Craughwell spoke movingly of young women leaving his own community for a period of time who they knew had given birth to a child. His words ‘no one ever asked where they were, we all knew. Nobody ever spoke about it”

Senator Mary Fitzpatrick urged the Minister to provide an assurance that all living survivors would gain access to their own data and to house the archive in a suitable repository such as the former Magdalene Laundry in Sean McDermott street.

Senator Lynn Boylan pointed out that the Government is not bound by the 2004 Act but has legal experts who are able to legislative for amendments. And some senators tabled up to 20 amendments to the Bill in its current format.

We have the opportunity, the capacity and the courage as citizens to lead on preservation and ultimately access of records related, including records held by Religious Institutions.

This is our history. We must ensure it doesn’t get hidden away because the people who suffered most – many who never made it out – and some who did are no longer with us deserve so much more.

We owe it to them just as much as survivors we battle with today to make sure they too are remembered as central to the case for justice. After all, it was their ‘absence’ in 2014 via Catherine Corless’s research, that prompted the Government to act in the first instance.’

Breeda Murphy.

The Tuam Mother and Baby Home Alliance.

Meanwhile...

Senator Ronán Mullen

Yesterday.

During the debate on the Commission of Investigation (Mother and Baby Homes and certain related Matters) Records and another matter, Bill 2020: Second Stage, Senator Ronán Mullen followed a number of speakers critical of the Catholic Church’s role in the homes.

Senator Ronán Mullen: “I would like to say a little about how we talk about the past. There was harshness in our past but when we think about the decade of commemorations that we are going through, we see how dangerous it is to get into the business of assigning blame. Senator Dolan referred to the Catholic Church and people talk about the dark periods in Irish history.

Are people open to recognising that even though there was harshness, there were people who had positive experiences of how they were treated? Are people open to considering that some who worked in these institutions had the best of intentions? Do people think that things were significantly better in other countries? Do they think that the church institutions involved were only doing it for money or the sexual control of people’s lives?

Is it not the case that, in the context of a poor and difficult society, some, many or most of those people were trying to be a part of a caring agenda? Are people interested in that kind of nuance or do we all want to be running with the pack in condemning the past? It is easy to condemn the past because the people who were involved are either dead or weak and voiceless now.”

Senator Lynn Ruane: “This line of debate is insulting to the survivors about whom we are speaking. We are speaking about a specific area of the church and institutions. We are not here to defend something that clearly happened. It is disrespectful.”

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