Tag Archives: mother and baby homes

A mapping expert with Ordnance Survey Ireland (OSi) says he believes a children’s burial ground associated with a mother and baby home in Cork is located on land now earmarked for apartments.

John Clarkin, who has worked with OSi for more than 46 years, and who has been an expert witness on boundary matters for over 30 years, made his comment during a detailed assessment of historic maps which were at the centre of the second day of An Bórd Pleanála’s oral hearing into plans for 179 apartments on a privately-owned site on the former Bessborough estate in Cork.

Part of the development site overlaps an area marked on historic maps as ‘children’s burial ground’.

Bessborough children’s burial ground on land earmarked for apartments, says expert (Irish Examiner)

Earlier…

From top: the former Mother and Baby Home at Bessborough, Cork; Professor Phil Scraton, whose report on the Irish coroner system was published yesterday by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties

“It is a remarkable coincidence that the submission that we made on the Mother and Baby Homes, the Magdalenes, two weeks ago coincides with the launch of this report [see below]. It’s quite difficult for me some days to disentangle the work I’m doing on both.

“But I do believe, very, very strongly that we have to listen to families in terms of the issue of dis-internment and re-internment. If this is a matter of simply dis-interning to re-intern then we are missing the most significant issue.

“The most significant issue for many families, certainly that I’ve spoken with, is that they want to actually have their story told. They want, if possible, through DNA, to be able to identify their loved one and they want an appropriate inquest in which at that inquest they can give evidence around the circumstances of death.

“When we think about what inquests are, they are there to establish how a person died. That means the circumstances of their death. This means that evidence, where it is at all possible, should be brought forward into an inquest of anyone who died in the Mother and Baby homes or as a consequence, they should be brought forward to an inquest into that death. And as far as is possible: the story told.

“Now not all families will want that and some will just simply want re-internment in appropriate burials sites. That is their choice. But I think that as a matter of real concern, this has to be done, for those cases where families wish that to happen.

“Now immediately the response is the coronial process in Ireland just couldn’t cope. Nor could it cope in the North either. I understand that. So that’s why one of the reasons we’re arguing for, in this particular case, specific coronial appointments to deal precisely with this issue.”

Phil Scraton, professor emeritus in the School of Law, Queen’s University.

Professor Scraton was speaking during a webinar yesterday on Death Investigation, Coroners’ Inquests and the Rights of the Bereaved, a report published by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties and compiled by Professor Scraton – a key figure in the Hillsborough investigation, and Gillian McNaul, also of Queen’s University. The report looks at the Coroner system currently in place in Ireland.

Yesterday: Inquestigation

Meanwhile..

A forensic archaeologist who has helped to recover the remains of ‘the Disappeared’ in the North has recommended a new search for human remains on the grounds of a former mother and baby home in Cork.

Aidan Harte, a senior team member with the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims Remains, was senior archaeologist for site investigations at Tuam and at Sean Ross Abbey on behalf of the Mother and Baby Home Commission of Investigation.

He set out the approach for a new search of a 3.7-acre site on the former Bessborough estate during a Bord Pleanála online oral hearing yesterday into plans for 179 apartments on the sit

He suggested the deployment of ground-penetrating radar at specific locations on the site

If human remains are found, the excavation work should cease, the coroner and gardaí notified, and the site secured, he said.

Expert outlines new search for human remains at Bessborough (irish Examiner)

Getty

Peter Mulryan lived in the Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, County Galway for four and a half years before he was adopted out. He believes a sister called Marian died at the home or was trafficked out of Ireland as a child.

This morning/afternoon.

The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Children, Disability, Equality and Integration is discussing the Institutional Burials Bill.

The proposed legislation will allow excavations and re-interment of remains at former mother-and-baby home institutions. Coroners will not have jurisdiction in respect of bodies exhumed from sites

Chairman of the Tuam Home Survivors Network, Peter Mulryan, who will address the committee this afternoon, had sought legal advice as to whether the committee was acting within its powers in considering the Bill.

Peter writes:

This Bill reflects work undertaken during the tenure of former Attorney General Mr Séamus Woulfe.

It has two clear objects, (1) to circumvent existing law by dispensing with Inquests into the deaths of children lying in mass graves at Tuam, Bessborough, Sean Ros and (2) to clear the way for the commercial developments on other sites which are stained with the cruelty to generations of Irish women and children.

I am not aware of when the responsibility for burials, burial grounds and the exhumation of human remains became the responsibility of this so-called “Department of Children”.

Neither, am I aware of when responsibility for dealing with unexplained deaths was removed from the Coroners Service, the Department of Justice or An Garda Síochana to this “Children’s Department”

But perhaps the members of the Committee know best. They are perhaps better educated than I was. I was simply a hungry and frightened child in the Tuam ‘Home’ before being ‘boarded out’ as a child farm labourer in a cruel environment. They have ‘satisfied’ themselves that they are acting lawfully.

I am aware of course that it is ‘customary’ that the advice of the Attorney General is not published. I simply asked the Committee if they had sought advice. Their reply was to tell me to ‘take a hike’ that it was none of my business, whether they had or not.

I find their reply whether intended to be or not, offensive. I find it insulting and disrespectful.

My sister who I never met and who has no recorded burial place, lies in the Tuam cesspit into which hers and the bodies of other infants were thrown.

Not a single “Medical Certificate” is to be found for the children of Tuam.

Their Death Certificates are works of fiction.

This Committee now sits to consider a Bill which denies my sister and so many other children, even the dignity of possibly determining her cause of death.

Shame, I say. Shame on you all for even looking at this get out of jail card for the State and the Institutional Catholic Church.

I do not want your soft words.

I do not want your sympathy.

I want justice for all the children whose lives were lost due to the indifference and cruelty of Church and State.

I note that the only amendments to this Bill since the departure of Mr Woulfe and the creation of this new Government are designed to ensure that the owners of the sites where these children lie, are are adequately compensated for any inconvenience when removing the bones of the children.

It would indeed be a crime if the dandelions and weeds that sprout from mass graves of children were to be disturbed before these lands are converted into commercial developments.

Tread softly, for you tread on the bones of my family and those of my fellow survivors

Yours respectfully,

Peter Mulryan
‘Former Inmate of the Tuam Mother and Baby Prison’.

Meanwhile…

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) is calling for the Institutional Burials Bill to be significantly reformed.

ICCL and others believe this [not having a coroner] could impede an effective investigation into the cause and circumstances of death.

Overall, it believes the bill is inconsistent with a transitional justice approach.

Call for reform of mother-and-baby homes excavations legislation (RTÉ)

Yesterday.

Further to the announcement of an Inquiry to examine Mother and Baby Homes in Northern Ireland.

Adoptee and activist Eunan Duffy hosted a panel discussion, organised by Amnesty and Ulster University, examining what an inquiry – co-designed by survivors – should look like.

Contributors included Irish Examiner journalist turned academic Conall Ó Fátharta (@39.27).

Last week: Birth Mothers And A sense Of Agency

Saturday.

Outside The offices of the Mother and Baby Home Commission, Dublin 2.

Mother and Baby Home survivor Sheila O’Byrne (top) joined a protest organised by ‘Baby Shoes Remember’ highlighting the treatment of witness testimony by the Mother and Baby Home Commission and the whitewashing of the gravity of crimes committed against women at Mother and Baby Homes in the Commission’s final report.

‘Baby Shoes Remember’ is a group that commemorates Church and state crimes against women and children.

Leah Farrell/RollingNews

Yesterday evening.

Deputy Whitmore’s bill will be introduced next week.

She said:

“The Social Democrats will be looking for cross-party support for our Bill and call on all members of the House to vote in favour of this legislation so that answers can be found. We cannot allow the State to fail the survivors of Mother and Baby Homes again.”

Yesterday; No Compelling Reason

Breeda Murphy, PRO of the The Tuam Mother and Baby Home Alliance and adoptee and activist Eunan Duffy on the release of a report looking at Northern Ireland’s Mother and Baby homes, launched last week by, top from left: Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill,  retired senior police officer Judith Gillespie, who led the review and First Minister Arlene Foster…

…and the similarities with Dublin in denying and delaying justice for survivors.

This is the seventh in a series of shows with Eunan and Breeda dealing with Mother and Baby Homes across the island of Ireland and the issues facing birth mothers and adoptees. All are available on our YouTube channel.

Yesterday: The Survivors Of Northern Ireland’s Mother and Baby Homes

Pic: BBC

Meanwhile…

Mayo County Council has become the latest local authority to apologise for its role in the operation of mother-and-baby homes.

Almost a third of all mothers admitted to the mother-and-baby home in Tuam, between 1925 and 1961, were from Co Mayo.

Capitation payments were made by the council to the Bon Secours Sisters, for the women and children sent from the county to the Tuam home, over that 36-year period.

A special meeting of the council is being held virtually this afternoon, following the publication of the final report of the Commission of Investigation last month.

Mayo County Council apologises over mother-and-baby homes (RTÉ)

RollingNews

This afternoon.

Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster (above) launched the publication of a Stormont-commissioned report into mother-and-baby homes and Magdalene Laundries in Northern Ireland.

The research carried out by Queen’s University and Ulster University examined whether a public inquiry should be held into the homes.

Ms Foster said:

“First and foremost, we want to offer our personal thanks to those women and their now adult children who came forward to contribute to the research. Your voices were silenced for so many years. That was a significant wrong.”

“This report is an important first step towards a full understanding of what happened to thousands of women and their children in our recent past.”

“It helps is to reflect upon and recognise how poorly they were treated, often in ways that lacked even a basic level of compassion and kindness.”

“…they have been told of the Executive’s decision today to a victim-centred independent investigation into these historical institutions.”

“This will be co-designed with victims and survivors and will give them the opportunity to influence the aim of the investigation, how it should be conducted, how it should be conducted, who should participate in, who should chair it and how long it should take.

“It is with huge regret that we acknowledge the pain of those experiences and the hurt caused to women and girls who did nothing more than be pregnant outside of marriage, some of them criminally against their will.”

“…I also have hope that this will be the beginning of a healing journey for the thousands of people who were harmed by their experience in the institutions, both at the time and through their life time.”

The report’s key findings:

It describes as a “conservative estimate” that over 10,500 women and girls entered the institutions between 1922 and 1990

The majority of them were from NI (86%), with the remainder from the Republic of Ireland and Great BritainAbout a third of those admitted were under the age of 19, with the youngest child to be admitted aged 12

A number were the victims of sexual crime, including rape and incest

Living conditions and care for residents were recorded in little detail but personal testimonies revealed “strenuous physical labour” being expected of them late into their pregnancies

It is “indisputable” that there was “considerable movement” of babies from some of the homes in NI to the Republic of Ireland.

NI mother-and-baby homes: Investigation promised into ‘significant wrongs’ (BBC)

Meanwhile…

This evening.

Thanks Breeda and Eunan

Yesterday.

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

Meanwhile…

Members of the public pay their respects at the grounds where the unmarked mass grave containing the remains of hundreds of infants who died at the Bon Secours mother-and-baby home in Tuam Co Galway from 1925-1961 rests

Purple Violas

Mid January,
Pottering in the garden,
I sit a moment in the noon sun
Deadhead winter violas
Now heavy with seed.
On the radio, there is a state apology
For the institutional abuse,
Of countless mothers and babies,
Vulnerable and unwanted, the unholy,
Treated like dirt,
And I am heartbroken again
For a lie does not become truth,
A Wrong does not become right
Simply with acceptance.

I gather the seed pods from the spent flowers,
Lay them in rows
Along the stone wall to dry.
I will replant these babies,
Nurture them strong
An small offering for every wounded mother
In this country.

Maire Morrissey Cummins

RollingNews

From top: Trína Mulryan and Dr Maeve O’Rourke on RTÉ’s Prime Time last night; at the Tuam mother and baby home in Galway

Last night.

During an item on the final report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes on RTÉ’s Prime Time, in which Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman was present in the studio…

Trína Mulryan, daughter of Peter Mulryan, spoke about the Certain Institutional Burials (Authorised Interventions) Bill which the Tuam Home Survivors Network believes will prevent the holding of any inquest into the deaths of at least 9,000 children and mothers, in mother and baby homes.

Ms Mulryan said:

“First of all, I’d just like to comment that Roderic O’Gorman mentioned there, that he had a number of weeks to read a printed-out version of the report. Survivors and family members affected by this got a number of hours and we haven’t got a printed-off version and we’ve barely been able to look at it.

“So it’s very difficult to actually comment on the report at all but what I will say is that what is very concerning about Tuam in particular, it does call out Tuam as being particularly different to the rest of the mother and baby homes for very negative reasons. And how the children and babies were actually buried there.

“And there is very, very strong evidence to support that there should be a Coroner assigned to work on an inquest to determine how those babies and children died in Tuam. The report just reiterates the fact that the mortality rate was much higher than it should have been and the fact that the conditions were dire.

“So, we’ve asked this question multiple times of Roderic O’Gorman, of Leo Varadkar and we have never received an answer – why there is not a full and proper investigation into how and why they died.

“There’ll be no satisfaction and no truth from any report unless we know that the proper process, the law of the land, is followed, and that those babies and children are given not just a dignified burial but actually the truth of how and why they possibly lie in the grounds of that former mother and baby home institution, why they lie there.

“We don’t even know, we can’t trust the documentation so we can’t say the full picture is painted in the report. What is in the report, the survivors and family members have lived through this, it’s not surprising.

“I will say as well there was a small amount of people who were actually involved in interviews for this report. There are many other people that are living abroad that weren’t interviewed for this. So there are many reasons to believe that the report is not painting a true picture.

“But for the family members of those babies and children, there is no closure until the proper law of the land is followed through an inquest which the legislation the Government is trying to bring in is trying to bypass that process and that’s not good enough. And we will not accept that.

Later, human rights lawyer and Director of the LLM Human Rights Law Clinic at the Irish Centre for Human Rights in NUI Galway Dr Maeve O’Rourke was also asked about the report. Initially, she was asked if the State was stepping up by offering an apology and redress.

Dr O’Rourke said:

“I think all we need to hear is what we heard from the Mulryan family which is that they would like the law of the land to apply. And so it’s really interesting to hear the minister already, as a legal expert, starting to parse the commission’s report because he can see, and I can see, and we can all see that this commission was an interesting procedure and, primarily, is about opening up a story to the public.

“It’s not a justice measure. It’s an aside to the justice measures of our democracy.

“There is a need for inquests, there is a need for Garda specialised investigations, there is a need to enable people to access court and there, of course, are needs for immediate restorative justice measures.

“There’s a massive need for an immediate access to information. The way that this commission operated, I mean we see today in the levels of stress that it has caused to people for everything to be secret for five years until finally they’re allowed to comment. This is not how inquiries into human rights violations are supposed to happen under European or international law. It’s not how they happen in England.

“People who are affected by Tuam and every single institution and, more to the point, by the adoption system as a whole did not have access to any of the evidence coming in, they didn’t have access to their own testimony, they didn’t have access to their own records, they couldn’t suggest lines of inquiry. And so really the Government needs to step up now and it needs to go beyond the limitations of this commission which it had a great part in creating in that the Oireachtas of course set up the 2004 Commissions of Investigation Act – that says nothing gathered can be given to the guards or to the courts.

“But also, you know, it has stood by for five years, while people like the Mulryan family have been saying where is the inquest? The coroner has sufficient powers.”

Dr O’Rourke added:

The Government tomorrow could put one section amendment to the Civil Registration Act, in any single bill going through the Oireachtas, to say ‘the registrar general shall give to every person the information they need to retrieve their publicly registered birth certificate‘.

“Dr Conor O’Mahony who is the Government’s own advisor on children, to the Department of Children, on human rights, said this morning, and I absolutely agree with him, that the way of balancing the right to identity, which is absolutely fundamental, in a democracy – who am I? – the way of balancing that with the right to privacy is to give access to information and then to enable people to voluntarily disclose their contact details to each other. Not to reveal them without people’s consent but who I am, is absolutely fundamental and it cannot be kept from people.”

Watch back in full here.

UPDATE:

Meanwhile, this morning, on RTE’s Morning Ireland, broadcaster Mary Wilson put it to Dr O’Rourke that the report has been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Ms Wilson asked what value “at this time and distance” could inquests serve.

Dr O’Rourke said:

“So the coroner has an obligation, under the 1962 Coroner’s Act to hold an inquest wherever there is an unexplained or suspicious death and the practice, as well, is that inquests are ordinary where people have died in the care of the State. And the point there is is that it is about the individual, it’s about establishing a relationship to that individual, who they are, how they died and that’s what the families are looking for and that is what they’ve been telling us since day one, since the beginning of this investigation. We need to know our own circumstances.”

Ms Wilson then asked if there is nay further information that could be gleaned from inquests that are not already known from the report or from research by survivor groups or people such as Dr O’Rourke.

Dr O’Rourke said:

“But sure nothing to date has given access to the individuals to their own files or their own family files. This has all been an exercise in talking to the public in general terms. There still are no statutory rights. And in practice people’s rights are being denied to their own information, to their own family files.

We have, in my opinion, an existing situation of enforced disappearance which is one of the most serious violations of international law, where someone is institutionalised with the involvement of the State, following which their fate and whereabouts is not disclosed by the State to their family and that needs to be remedied immediately by the Government now.”

Listen back in full here