Tag Archives: Mary McAleese

From top: Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation in 2015, from left: Mary Daly, Yvonne Murphy and William Duncan, in 2015; Mary McAleese

“I think the Mother and Baby Commission of Investigation report is a magnificent work of scholarship, may I say. I think it’s a superb work of scholarship. It’s cool. It took 5 years. Cool though it is it replete with compassion…

…It is an extraordinarily important archive and I would like to congratulate the authors [Judge Yovonne Murphy, historian Professor Mary Daly and child law expert Dr William Duncan] who put five years of their lives into this. Let’s remember who they were.

Nobody knows more about this story, apart someone like the extraordinary heroine Catherine Corless and the women who suffered through their experiences in these institutions, there are probably few people in the world who know about this situation as these three people do and the team of people who work with them.

You have to remember this is a report that is going to have to stand the test of scholarship, scholarly analysis, of profound research. These women have important stories to tell, every one of them has their own story to tell and I agree absolutely that it’s so important those stories are given absolute respect.

But then you take all the stories and you analyse them and you research them and you try to tell an overall narrative and as the report says from the very get-go, you’re dealing with complexities that are so profound that you are probably never going to be able to satisfy the hurt, the rawness, the woundedness, the need for vindication, the need for an apology, the desire for sorrow and the lives that can never be restored to them…

I was very impressed by the scholarship of the document and some people might think because it’s, you know, a bunch of lawyers and historians, they might find that, you know, the language of scholarship sometimes can appear, you know, not so much distant but objective but I do think there was huge, huge compassion.”

Former President Mary Mcaleese on RTÉ Radio One,  January 16, 2020.

Yesterday, the Dâil heard that a new Mother and Baby Home Commission may have to be established after an admission that the report discussed above ignored hundreds of survivor accounts.

Yesterday: ‘Repudiate The Report’


Committee seeks to hear from mother-and-baby home commissioners (RTÉ)

Taoiseach says Mother and Baby Home Commission should go before Dáil, amid outrcy over comments by Prof Mary Daly (Independent.ie)


Dáil Eireann at the Convention Centre.

Independent TD Catherine Connolly (above) returned to the Mother and Baby Home report.

Deputy Connolly addressed statements on RTÉ Radio One from former President Mary McAleese (top) that the report by the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes was ‘scholarly and profound’ and had “tremendous compassion”.

Catherine Connolly said:

“This is my second time to take part in this debate. My anger has increased, as has my sense of despondency. Once again, I will take courage in my hand, with my privileged position and decent salary, and speak up. If the Minister wants to put the survivors – I hate that word, but I will use it because they have used it themselves – to the fore, he might explain how there was a leak. He has had time to investigate.

He might explain why the survivors have not got copies of the full report yet. He might explain why Deputies did not have copies of the executive summary last week when they spoke in the Dáil. Does he think he could do that? These explanations were not included in his speech.

He might confirm that those who had the courage to go before the commission and the confidential committee will be given copies of their full testimonies. Could he do that? It would be a start. He might publish the report of the collaborative forum, which he mentioned in his speech. God help us, but he also mentioned that he would set up a new interdepartmental committee. Lord protect us from interdepartmental committees. He will also engage with the collaborative forum. Its recommendations were published in April 2019 but not its report.

Perhaps he might balance the power between an interdepartmental committee with no representation by a collaborative forum or survivors and the collaborative forum and the people on the ground. He might confirm that he will make full copies of the commission’s report available to all of us who want them, beginning with the survivors. He might explain how half of the €23 million that was allocated was used last October, although not to print a single copy. He might say that the Government made a mistake in having a webinar without giving out the report in the first place.

Enough on that for the moment and I will now turn to the report. The report refers to all of society. For a change, I will quote a philosopher rather than a poet. When one attributes blame in that manner, one has no responsibility. I touched on this point last week. I will cite Dr. Hannah Arendt, who was speaking in a different context but whose words are equally applicable to this report. According to her, the person who says that we are all guilty, as was the case in Germany, is unknowingly covering up for the ones who did it.

That is why we should not generalise guilt because doing so would be to cover up for the guilty. I do not believe that this finding has been laid out in the report unknowingly. I will bow down to anyone who has read its 3,000 pages – it is not possible. I have spent hours spending 500 to 600 pages. I have read the whole executive summary and what I was given by the Department.

I have read the chapter on Tuam, the statistical analysis of Tuam, the chapter on discrimination and the chapter on vaccines, to which I hope I will have time to return. I glanced at a few other chapters. All of this has taken hours and hours.

The Minister gave his speech, some of which I welcome in terms of the specifics for urgent legislation and access to records, including birth certificates, which is a basic human right. We did not need a report to tell us that, but I welcome it anyway.

However, when the Minister follows other recommendations without even listening to the people on the ground who have not had a chance to read the report, then he is doing exactly what was done to these mothers and children before, in that he is patronising them and carrying on a patriarchal mode.

Let us halt that for a minute and do what the Government should do, that is, legislate and provide access to records. It should set up an archive and so on, but bear in mind that the National Archives have been under-resourced for years. Is the Minister now making a distinction between the 18 institutions in question and the other institutions where mothers and babies were kept?

The report tells us that it is unrepresentative because it has only taken a sample. That is good. This point should have guided the conclusions, but the commission seems not to have followed it. As such, we have an unrepresentative sample and the report makes strong conclusions that are at odds with witness testimony.

The report then adds insult to injury on page 12, which shows a beautiful picture in autumnal colours, but all colour disappears quickly when one reads the witness testimony. That testimony jumps off the page – sexual abuse, rape, babies taken and an absence of any sense of understanding of the bond between mother and child.

This testimony should be preserved and acted upon, but the conclusions were that there was no evidence of forced adoption – I could not possibly accept this – and no evidence of pressure to put people into mother and baby homes.

[Fianna Fáil] Deputy Jim O’Callaghan reinforced the myth that society was responsible. It was not society, but the powerful in society, led by the church. I am not here to scapegoat nuns because the nuns reported to the bishop, who reported to the archbishop, who reported to Rome. What did our Governments do? They bowed down in deference. The Minister mentioned what our local authorities did. The county managers played a powerful role.

All of this has been set out in the report, but we are then told that the evidence from some of those who came forward – only residents, mind you – is “contaminated”. Sin an bhfocal – “truaillithe”. Imagine telling people who had the courage to come forward that some gave evidence that was contaminated. How many is “some”? In what way was their evidence contaminated?

Equally, was the same measuring stick used for the professionals that came before the commission? I refer to the doctors, priests, nuns, social workers and the witnesses from the county councils? The reason it was contaminated was because the former residents spoke to each other. Presumably, the nuns and the county managers did also, but their evidence was not contaminated.

I am not sure if the Minister read it. I am openly telling him that I have not read the report’s 3,000 pages. Our former President [Mary McAleese] tells us that she read it, and as a result of reading it she tells us it is scholarly and profound.

With the greatest of respect, I fundamentally disagree that this is scholarly and profound. If somebody has read 3,000 pages then he or she must have had the report before the Minister published it.

We will again look at the conclusions. There is a conclusion regarding vaccine trials. [Fine Gael] Deputy Naughten went through this forensically today. I have read that chapter. There is a paragraph in the summary that tells us that the trials did not comply with the regulations or the law at the time but, magically, there were no ill effects.

If one reads the chapter on the vaccine trials, one sees children getting sick with diarrhoea, convulsions and so on, not to mention the 10,000 deaths at a minimum, yet this commission of three people tell us there were no side effects.

They do not even pose a question on whether there could have been side effects or if more money changed hands. It was pointed out that it went to the doctors. Did more money change hands? What about the other trials? We only looked at seven institutions. Were there trials in other institutions? Does the Minister think the commissioners might have raised a question in regard to that?

Will the Minister indicate whether any of the three commissioners sat and listened to the 500 or so residents who came before the confidential committee? I know there was a tiny overlap of fewer than 100 between some residents who went to both. Did the commissioners sit in? This reminds me of paint-by-numbers pictures. Does the Minister remember that? One was allowed a little discretion in what colour one put into the number, but the picture was predetermined.

The picture was predetermined here because on page 2 the commissioners tell us that it might disappoint somebody that they are going against the prevailing narrative. That is to add insult on top of injury because they confirm the prevailing narrative of the powerful, which is that all of society was to blame.

They add insult to injury by even twisting language. The Minister has a golden opportunity to lead and to bring about transformative action and language. I will back him every step of the way, but he has got to lead. He must break away from the four and a half pages that he delivered here today, which is more of the same.”

Transcript via Oireachtas.ie

Video via Mick Caul

Tuesday: Eamonn Kelly: One Voise Raised In Anger

Last week: Hollow Applause


Martin and Mary McAleese

This morning.

Patsy McGarry, in The Irish Times, reports that former President of Ireland Mary McAleese has threatened to leave the Catholic Church.

It follows an inquiry concluding that the founder of  L’Arche Community Jean Vanier, who died aged 90 in Paris last May, sexually abused at least six women between 1970 and 2005.

Mr McGarry reports that Ms McAleese is threatening to leave if it transpires that the Vatican failed to act to protect members of the L’Arche Community, which assists people with disabilities.

He reports:

She said people should have been alerted to “the known predatory activities” of the community’s founder Jean Vanier and his mentor, Dominican priest Fr Thomas Philippe.

“I have to say that this will be my final line of least resistance. I could not in conscience continue to support an institution capable of such gross negligence,” Mrs McAleese said in the letter.

…She asked “what steps if any did the Holy See take to interrupt the growth of the powerful cult of Vanier by warning the many good men and women who trusted him in good faith that he had an alarming past?”

“I am one of those who regarded Vanier as inspirational for decades,” she said. “Hearing last week the awful story of his sexually and spiritually abusive conduct was devastating. Even worse was learning that the Holy See had been aware since the 1950s of his malevolent proclivities and those of his colleague Pere Thomas Phillippe.”


McAleese threatens to leave Catholic Church if Vanier story not explained (Patsy McGarry, The Irish Times)

Previously: The Magdalene Report: A Conclusion


Martin and Mary McAleese

Gavan Reilly tweetz:

Former president Mary McAleese is to become the Chancellor of the University of Dublin.

Her husband Martin is the chancellor of Dublin City University – there can’t be many examples, anywhere in the world, of a married couple both being chancellors of separate universities.

Previously: The Magdalene Report: A Conclusion


Letter in Belfast Telegraph threes week ago

This morning.

Following an interview on RTE’s Today with Sean O’Rourke…

The Irish News reports:

Mary McAleese says her youngest brother was “seriously, physically, sadistically abused by Malachy Finegan” at St Colman’s College in Newry.

The paedophile cleric has been accused of a catalogue of sexual and physical abuse against boys on church premises and at the school. He was never questioned by police or prosecuted and he died in 2002.

Fr Finegan worked in St Colman’s from 1967 and was president of the college from 1976 to 1987.

Speaking on RTÉ radio Mrs McAleese said her “baby brother”, who will celebrate his 50th birthday next year, had been abused by the priest for the entire time he attended the school.

“My baby brother, the youngest of nine children, was seriously, physically, sadistically abused by Malachy Finegan.

The former president said four of her five brothers went to the school “and my wonderful, beautiful, and as you can image the youngest of a family, so incredibly loved by all of us, to think that he suffered and never felt that he could tell anyone”.

My mother, almost 90 years of age, had to discover that from the Belfast Telegraph three weeks ago.”

In the clip above, Mrs McAleese told RTE:

“The very first complaints about Malachy Finnegan go back to the 1970s, not the 1990s at all, but go back to the 1970s which means there was a body of information that was well known to people who were in a position to do something about it but didn’t.”

Mary McAleese says youngest brother was abused by Fr Malachy Finegan (The Irish News)

McAleese calls for independent inquiry into handling of Finnegan abuse (RTE)

Pic: RTE and Brendan Hughes


Journalist Bruce Arnold

Sorcha Pollak in the Irish Times writes:

“Former president Mary McAleese was wrong to call for families across Ireland to vote Yes in the same-sex marriage referendum, according to journalist Bruce Arnold. Speaking on RTÉ radio [Morning Ireland], Mr Arnold said as an “officer of the State” the former president had broken convention by taking part in the same-sex marriage debate and had abandoned her duties.”

“According to Mr Arnold, when he moved to Ireland [sixty years ago] homosexuality was not penalised or illegal and “homosexuals lived a reasonably open and happy life”.

“’Homosexuality was never a crime in Ireland. Homosexual acts were and through David Norris’ work with Mary Robinson in Europe the edict was created that made the government here reluctantly, and with disagreement, decriminalise homosexual acts.’”

Listen to radio interview here

McAleese wrong to call for Yes vote in referendum, says journalist (Irish Times)

Previously: ‘Remembering Your Father And What He Stood For, I Need Answers’

A Canon Lawyer Speaks


Former President Mary McAleese in Wood Quay, Dublin this morning

“My husband and I have been happily married for almost forty years. We are Catholics and have campaigned for marriage equality for gay citizens, as a family, since long before we had children.

We believe happy marriages are good for individuals and for society. We believe happy gay marriages will be good for individuals and for society too. Will a yes vote affect my heterosexual marriage or any heterosexual marriage?

Not in the least. But it will greatly affect my life and the lives of all parents of gay children. It will give us peace of mind about our children’s future and pride in our country’s commitment to true equality. It will right a glaring wrong.”

We have all ignored a very important reality that on both sides of the referendum argument there is considerable agreement about the need to regulate surrogacy, a need that will exist whether the referendum is passed or defeated.

No-one in Ireland, whether heterosexual or homosexual, has a legal or constitutional right to procreation using surrogacy. This referendum if passed will certainly not create any such right. It is a nonsense to think it could.”

Some Churches take a very different view of definitions of both marriage and the family as is their right. They are perfectly entitled to hold to their own definitions and have them respected by our laws of religious freedom but they are not entitled to insist that their religious definitions should prevail in our secular civil law which makes non-religious provision for all citizens.

This referendum is about extending to gay citizens the secular, non-religious right to marry in a registry office, a right that heterosexual citizens already enjoy under our Constitutional law.”

Mary McAleese this morning speaking at an event hosted by BeLonG To, Ireland’s national organisation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender young people.

Pic: Tiernan Brady

(Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland)


90367178 90367179

This afternoon.

Former Presidents Mary Robinson (top and above) and Mary McAleese (above) joined current President Michael D Higgins  at the Funeral of Dr Maeve Hillery, widow of former President Patrick Hillery at  St. Fintan’s Church, Sutton, Co Dublin this afternoon.



Michael Martin and Brian Cowen at St Fintan’s Church this afternoon.

(Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland)