Tag Archives: mother and baby homes

From top: one in three ‘illegitimate babies’ died in their first year, an “excessive” rate fully five times that of legitimate children; Simon Hall

No one of illegitimate birth shall enter the assembly of the Lord; none of his descendants, even to the tenth generation, shall enter the assembly of the Lord.

Deuteronomy 23:2

In 2014, Catherine Corless brought the attention of the world to bear on Tuam, County Galway and St. Mary’s Mother and Baby Home. That summer, she was interviewed by RTÉ alongside Fr. Fintan Monahan, now Bishop of Killaloe.

Fr. Monahan was asked about the treatment of “illegitimate” children, and he gave the following response:

“I suppose we can’t really view the past from our point of view, from our lens.”

This is a popular refrain. The trouble is that it’s not quite true.

A great many people spoke up about the plight of illegitimate children throughout the twentieth century.

In this article, I will present statements from both the Registrar-General and Dr. Isabella Webb in 1924, the Relief Commission in 1927, Colonel Moore in 1930, Dr. Conn Ward in 1934, Dr. Robert Rowlette in 1936 and 1937, Inspector Alice Litster in 1939, an unnamed inspector in 1947, Dr. Noel Browne and Peadar Cowan in the 1950s, alongside Mary Robinson, Michael D. Higgins, and John Horgan in the 1970s.

Illegitimacy was a concept found in canon and common law referring to children born out of wedlock. The women and children of such unions were profoundly stigmatised.

Mothers who gave birth to illegitimate children were censured by society, leading many families to force unmarried pregnant daughters into Mother and Baby homes or Magdalene laundries, eventually giving up their infants for adoption or placing them into care. Canon Law excluded illegitimate children from all ecclesiastical office.

Professor Diarmuid Ferriter notes that it was in the summer of 1922, mere months after the establishment of the Free State, that the religious orders proposed segregating unmarried mothers away from other residents of the state’s workhouses, soon to be re-designated as County Homes.

This was the beginning of the state’s complicity with the operation of so-called Mother and Baby Homes.

These religious-run institutions operated from 1922 until as late as the 1990s. UCD’s Professor Lindsey Earner-Byrne has counted at least 89,247 illegitimate births in the state between 1922 and 1973. This is a conservative lower-bound.

Almost immediately, though, alarms were raised about conditions in these institutions. Over the coming decades, numerous government officials, politicians, and state inspectors spoke up about the plight of illegitimate children.

In 1924, during the life of the Cumann na nGaedheal government of W. T. Cosgrave, the Registrar-General for Saorstát Éireann released their annual report of numbers of marriages, births, and deaths. It included information about the high mortality rate for illegitimate infants.

The number of deaths of illegitimate infants under one year of age registered in Saorstát Éireann during the year 1924, was 529, consisting of 280 deaths of males and 249 of females.

Based on the number of illegitimate births registered, the resulting mortality rate is 315 per 1,000 births for both sexes, 330 per 1,000 for males and 300 per 1,000 births for females, as compared with 344, 375, and 311, respectively, in 1923. These rates must be regarded as excessive.

It may be stated that the illegitimate infant mortality as derived from the records for 1924, is about 5 times the mortality among legitimate infants, which as 65 per 1,000 births for both sexes, 72 per 1,000 for males, and 58 per 1,000 births for females. In other words, one out of every 3 illegitimate infants born alive in 1924, died before the completion of its first year of life.

In Northern Ireland in 1924, the illegitimate infant death-rate was 188 per 1,000 births and, in England and Wales, the illegitimate infant death-rate was 133 per 1,000 births, or about one death to every 8 illegitimate infants born alive. This rate is about twice that for legitimate infants, and it may be said that this proportion is maintained for that country yearly from 1906 onwards.

So, about one in three illegitimate babies died in their first year, an “excessive” rate fully five times that of legitimate children. The illegitimate infant death-rate in Ireland was nearly two-and-a-half times the rate in England and Wales, for example. A graph of these numbers makes the comparison clear.

Yet, for those children that did survive their first year, life was not so easy. In that same year, 1924, the pioneering Irish pediatrician, Isabella Webb, wrote about illegitimate children in The Irish Times in an article discovered by Dr. Elaine Byrne. She wrote:

A great many people are always asking what is the good of keeping these children alive? I quite agree that it would be a great deal kinder to strangle these children at birth than to put them out to nurse.

Dr. Webb was being deliberately provocative. This was stinging criticism of how these children — the lucky ones who survived infancy — were being treated in broader society.

A Commission on Relief of the Sick and Destitute Poor, including the Insane Poor, was appointed on 19th March, 1925. Their report was released in 1927. It concluded that the “County Homes,” former workhouses, were “not fit and proper places,” particularly their “maternity departments,” and recommended the following:

We are of opinion that all private Maternity Homes should be licensed annually by the local authority, and that no license be granted unless the Home is properly and suitably equipped for the purpose, and that it was in charge of a respectable person trained in maternity care and nursing.

The Commission ominously warned:

It cannot be too strongly emphasised that if failures or even scandals are to be avoided the homes must continue as at present to be carefully selected, and precautions taken to see that the foster parents are fit for the trust placed in them.

Regrettably, scandals are exactly what we would get.

In June 1930, the government passed the Illegitimate Children (Affiliation Order) Act, to make provision for the imposition on the father of the obligation to contribute to the support of their own child, however illegitimate.

During debate on this bill, Fianna Fáil’s Colonel Maurice George Moore of old Moore Hall in County Mayo made this harrowing statement about the treatment of women at this time, particularly in rural areas:

The position of these girls in the country is ever so much worse than can be imagined by people who are not acquainted with the matter. In Dublin people can go here and there and cover up these things, but I know of cases in the country where girls who made one mistake were absolutely boycotted, turned out practically like lepers, driven out of their parents’ houses and obliged to live in such places as a little mud house on the side of a bog all their lives in the most terrible way. I think anything that can be done to ameliorate that state of affairs ought to be done, and I look forward with hope to this Bill to help their cases to some extent.

Then, in 1934, during the life of the Fianna Fáil government of Éamon de Valera, and in direct response to the Relief Commission report of 1927, the government passed the Registration of Maternity Homes Act, in order to try to improve standards.

Fianna Fáil’s Dr. Conn Ward, a medical doctor and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Local Government and Public Health, repeated the findings of the 1924 Registrar-General’s report and put the following on the Dáil record:

From the Registrar-General’s Report for 1924, it appears that one in every three illegitimate children born alive in 1924 died within one year of its birth, and that the mortality amongst these children is about five times as great as in other cases.

It is high for many reasons, but there is one to which we wish specially to refer. The illegitimate child being proof of the mother’s shame is, in most cases, sought to be hidden at all costs.

What frequently happens is that the mother, or the mother’s family, at the time the mother leaves the hospital or home, make arrangements with someone to take the child, either paying a lump sum down or undertaking to pay something from time to time.

These arrangements are often made or connived at by those who carry on the poorer class of maternity homes, and the results to the child can be read in the mortality rates.

If a lump sum is paid or if the periodical payment lapse, the child becomes an encumbrance on the foster mother, who has no interest in keeping it alive.

Read that statement again: “It is high [the mortality rate] for many reasons, but there is one to which we wish specially to refer. The illegitimate child being proof of the mother’s shame is, in most cases, sought to be hidden at all costs,” he says.

Independent TD for Dublin University, Dr. Robert Rowlette, another medical doctor, rose from his seat in Dáil Éireann in April 1936. This was exactly twenty years after the Proclamation had been defiantly read from the steps of the GPO, a declaration which had promised that all of the children of the nation would be cherished equally.

Dr. Rowlette was angry. He stood up and condemned a report from the Department of Local Government and Public Health which had provided the following inadequate explanation for the fact that the infant mortality rate amongst illegitimate children was much greater than the rate for legitimate children:

Doubtless the great proportion of deaths in these cases is due to congenital debility, congenital malformation and other ante-natal causes traceable to the conditions associated with the unfortunate lot of the unmarried mother.

Dr. Rowlette responded furiously to this suggestion:

I do not know on what that is based. I do not know of any evidence that will prove that there is greater general congenital debility or malformation in the illegitimate child than in the legitimate child. I suggest the difficulty is not ante-natal but is rather post-natal, that is, the lack of care given to the illegitimate child compared with that given to the child that is more welcome. I know it is a difficult problem but I do not know whether any particular attention is paid to it, or whether any particular scheme has been tried to ensure that these children whose lot, at best, should call for sympathy, are given the same chance, or nearly the same chance as the legitimate child in getting through its first year of life. It is a disgrace to a civilised country, and to a Christian country like this, that three-and-a-half times more illegitimates are condemned to death in the first year of their existence than legitimate children. The responsibility rests upon the community. I press upon the Minister the necessity of taking special steps to deal with this blot on an otherwise satisfactory report in regard to infantile mortality.

Once again, it’s worth emphasising his point: “I suggest the difficulty is not ante-natal but is rather post-natal, that is, the lack of care given to the illegitimate child compared with that given to the child that is more welcome,” he said. It was the lack of care which was killing these children at a much higher rate.

It goes without saying, perhaps, that the then-Minister for Local Government and Public Health, Seán T. O’Kelly, did not take any special steps in this regard.

Then, exactly one year later, in April 1937, during questions put to Minister O’Kelly, Dr. Rowlette made another statement on the same issue, this time echoing an internal department report which demanded an investigation:

In the year 1934-5 there were 2,030 illegitimate children born, and 538 died under the age of one year. That is to say, the mortality amongst illegitimate children was something like 26 per cent., while the general mortality all over the country was 7 per cent. That is a shocking position in a Christian country and I draw the attention of the House to the demand that was made in the report of the Department on this topic for 1934-35:

“This mortality rate is out of all proportion to the corresponding rate in respect of legitimate infants and calls for investigation as to its causes and as to what measures should be taken to effect a reduction in this abnormal mortality.”

That is a sentiment with which I think we are all in thorough sympathy and I press upon the Minister to consider inaugurating such an investigation, whether by a committee or by officers of his Department if he can spare them, because it is a shocking comment on the civilisation of the country, that a child, unfortunate enough in other respects to be born illegitimately, has four times a greater prospect of dying in the first year than the ordinary child.

This is truly significant. Official government reports, plain for all to see, had triggered calls within the department and then inside the Oireachtas for an investigation into the treatment of illegitimate children as early as 1937. Of course, no such investigation was ever inaugurated.

Continue reading

From top: Trials at Mother and Baby Homes were overseen by Professor Patrick Meehan and Professor Irene Hillary both attached to the Medical Microbiology Department at University College Dublin; logo of GlaxoSmithKline which took over Burroughs Wellcome in 2000

“The Minister [Roderic O’Gorman] said he did not know what was in the documents. Is there information on, for example, forced adoptions, the physical abuse perpetrated in these institutions and the medical experimentation that was discovered?  This is all absolutely essential information and it will be locked away. We will not have access to it. Is there information on the collusion of the State with church organisations in continuing this practice over decades of our history? That knowledge is what we will lose when the documents are sealed.”

Social Democrat TD Gary Gannon, in the Dáil on Wednesday night.

In 2014, we published a timeline of the known medical trials conducted on children in Mother and Baby Homes in Ireland.

This included the reaction by successive health ministers, including current Taoiseach Micheál Martin, and the contemporaneous expansion in Ireland of the medical companies involved in those trials.

Thousands of children took part, without any consent in these trials at the homes going back to the 1930s, with many files sealed for 75 years.

With a bill currently going through the Dáil that would seal all the records of the Mother and Baby Home Commission, possibly including records of these trials, we reprint the timeline:

1930-5: Burroughs-Wellcome trials (“the 1930-35 trials”) of the APT (Alum-Precipitated Toxoid) vaccine for diphtheria carried out on 2000 children in residential institutions. Stage 1 of the trials took place in 1930 and include 405 children in residential institutions in Cork City, most likely the St Joseph’s Industrial School for Boys, run by the Presentation Brothers, and St Finbarr’s Industrial School for Girls, run by the Sisters of the Good Shepherd.

Children taking part in Stage 1 suffer severe adverse reactions. Stage 2 of the trials takes place in 1934 and includes 320 children from residential institutions. Again adverse reactions are recorded. Stage 3 takes place in 1934 and involved 250 children from an unidentified institution for boys and Stage 4 takes place in 1935 and involves 360 children from St Vincent’s Industrial School, Goldenbridge, St Joseph’s School for Deaf Boys, Cabra, and St Saviours’s Dominican Orphanage, Lower Dominic Street.

1961: Burroughs-Wellcome trial of the effectiveness of the polio vaccine when added to the three-in-one (whooping cough, diphtheria and tetanus) vaccine carried out on 58 children in residential institutions only one of which (Bessborough, Co Cork) is identified. 28 of these children receive the proposed quadruple vaccine, with 30 getting the separate three-in-one and polio vaccines.

The study concludes that there is a lower polio antibody response in those given the quadruple vaccine, and that it may, therefore, be less effective. Sixteen of 25 infants from one home develop vomiting, diarrhoea and fever after their second immunisation. Their symptoms last a few days before complete recovery. Some 36 infants from both groups are subsequently identified as having an inadequate polio antibody response, and receive booster doses. There is no further follow-up of the children involved.

1965: Trial of a ‘five-in-one’ vaccine carried out on Philip Delaney at Bessborough Mother and Baby Home, Cork.

1971: Burroughs-Wellcome trial (“the 1971 trial”) of intra-nasally injected rubella vaccine carried out by Burroughs Wellcome on 69 children in unidentified residential institutions. 11 children with no rubella antibodies and one with receive the intra-nasal vaccine, while six others without antibodies are used to monitor whether the vaccine virus was transmitted. There is no follow-up.

1973: Burroughs-Wellcome trial (“the 1973 trial”) of a modified three-in-one (diphtheria, whooping cough and tetanus) vaccine is carried out on 53 children (including mentally and physically handicapped children) in residential institutions in Dublin (St Patrick’s Home, Madonna House, the Cottage Home, the Bird’s Nest and Bohernabreena), all of whom receive the modified vaccine. The trial also includes 65 children living at home, 61 of whom receive the original vaccine. Some of the residential institutions mistakenly believe that their residents are getting the original vaccine.

1977-1984: Following concerns as to the safety of the three-in-one vaccine generally, then Health Minister Michael Woods sets up an Expert Medical Group (“the Expert Medical Group”) to deal with applications by persons alleging to have been brain damaged by the three-in-one vaccine. There are 93 applicants, 16 of which were offered ex gratis payments with 77 applications being declined. It is not known whether or not any of the applicants included children who had formed part of the 1973 trial or indeed whether or not the Expert Medical Group considered the 1973 trial at all.

1979: Construction of new £1.25 million Wellcome Ireland Limited factory in Tallaght commences.

1981: The Irish Times reports that since 1975 the Wellcome Foundation has donated £240,000 to Irish veterinary research.

1992 :Supreme Court decision in Best v Wellcome, a case successfully brought by Kenneth Best for brain damage caused by a batch of the original three-in-one vaccine. Chief Justice Liam Hamilton found Burroughs-Wellcome to have been negligent and awarded Best £2.75 million.

1993: The then Minister for Health Brendan Howlin, through his private secretary, writes to a former resident of one of the homes used in the 1973 trial, stating that the Department of Health had inquired and was satisfied there was no added risk whatsoever to the children who received the vaccines.

It iremains unclear whether or not Mr Howlin was referring to the inquiry carried out by the Expert Medical Group, which as stated focused on the three-in-one vaccine generally, or a separate inquiry.

1995: Burroughs-Wellcome merges with Glaxo to form Glaxo-Wellcome. At the time of the merger Burroughs-Wellcome employs 30 people at its Irish distribution centre in Tallaght. Glaxo employs 100 people at its manufacturing facility in Rathfarnham. It also carries out packing, distribution and some research activities at its Dublin plant. Glaxo’s Irish operation records an annual profit of just under £2 million.

1997:As a result of an investigation by the Irish Independent, the involvement of children in residential institutions in the 1973 trial is made public for the first time.

In response, the Department of Health states that all affected persons who had requested information had been provided with a full copy of their files by the Expert Medical Group in 1977-84. However most if not all of the institutionalised children part of to the 1973 trial – even if aware of having been subjected to the vaccine – would have been too young to have made an application to the Group during this period.

1998: Minister for Health Brian Cowen refers the issue of vaccine trials on children in residential institutions to the Chief Medical Officer, Dr Jim Kiely, for the purpose of compiling a Report on the 1961, 1971 and 1973 trials (“the Vaccine Trials Report”).

2000: In January, Glaxo-Wellcome merges with Smith Kline Beecham to form GlaxoSmithKline. Newspaper reports of the merger, which is described as unlikely to result in job losses in Ireland, state that Smith Kline Beecham has two manufacturing plants in Ireland, one at Ringaskiddy, Co Cork and the other at Dungarvan, Co Waterford, employing more than 660 people, as well as a Dublin-based marketing and sales operation employing 130 people.

Glaxo is described as employing 110 people in Ireland – packaging, sales and distribution and in drug testing. It is also stated that Glaxo has recently approached IDA Ireland for exploratory talks about establishing a manufacturing plant from which to serve the European market, although no definite proposal has yet been put forward.

In November the Vaccine Trials Report is furnished to the Oireachtas. Little or no documentary evidence of the trials is available from Glaxo-Wellcome, the Department of Health or any of the residential institutions identified by the consultant who conducted the trials, Dr Irene Hillery.

Addressing the Dail, Micheal Martin, Minister for Health, expresses concern about the lack of consent given by or on behalf of the children involved in the trials, stating that it is important

“to move heaven and earth to find out… the State must fight fiercely for all of that child’s rights, including bodily integrity. The State does not have the right to view children in care as lesser citizens.”

Mr Martin goes on to reassure the Dáil that the trials appear to have had no medically negative consequences for any of the children. In fact, lack of documentation had made it impossible for Dr Kiely to reach a conclusion on this point, he did however reference in the Report possible negative consequences for the children concerned.

The Government subsequently extends the terms of reference of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (“the Child Abuse Commission”), to include the 1961, 1971 and 1973 trials, despite objections that the jurisdiction of the Commission, as set out in the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse Act 2000, did not permit such a referral.

2001: GlaxoSmithKline announces that it will cut 104 jobs out of a total of 381 at its Dungarvan plant following a decision to transfer the manufacture of Sensodyne toothpaste to its Maidenhead operation in England, describing the move as part of a worldwide review of the group following the merger between Glaxo Wellcome and SmithKline Beecham. IDA Ireland and the Tanaiste, Mary Harney, are called on to create alternative employment in Dungarvan.

2003:  With public hearings relating to the 1961 trial due to commence in June, the Child Abuse Commission issues a direction for the attendance of Professor Patrick Meenan, former head of the Department of Microbiology and Applied Medicine at UCD, who had been involved in the 1961 trial.

In June, Mr Justice Smyth grants an application by the Commission for an enforcement order against Professor Meenan, stating that he was “a significant and important person” at the time and it was neither unfair nor unreasonable of the Commission to have described him as a central witness. Mr Justice Smyth notes that the Commission had invited Professor Meenan’s solicitors to apply publicly to exclude him on health and other grounds from giving evidence.

In July, it is announced that GlaxoSmithKline will invest E7 million in a new research and development laboratory at its operations in Carrigaline, Co Cork, that will create 10 graduate level jobs. The Tanaiste, Mary Harney, welcomes the announcement as further proof of the Republic’s emergence as a leading player in pharmaceuticals

In August, the Supreme Court allows Professor Meenan’s appeal, holding that requiring him to make a a public application to be excused is unreasonable and fails to show sufficient sensitivity to the very great effort participation in the public forum sought might represent to a man in his 87th year. The Court also expresses the view that the vaccine trials were not ‘abuse’ within the meaning of this term as used in the 2000 Act, raising questions as to the jurisdiction of the Child Abuse Commission to consider this issue.

In September, Judge Mary Laffoy resigns as Chair of the Child Abuse Commission, accusing the Government of delaying and obstructing the inquiry.

2004: In Hillery v Minister for Education, Mr Justice O’Caoimh holds that the Commission has no jurisdiction to consider the question of vaccine trials, for the same reason as the Supreme Court in Meenan, namely that the vaccine trials are not ‘abuse’ within the meaning of the 2000 Act. However he states that there may be issues relating to the trials which could be the subject of an appropriate form of inquiry carried out by other machinery.

Meanwhile, the Interim Report of the Child Abuse Commission, published prior to the judgment in Hillery, references the receipt of documentation from Wellcome evidencing vaccine trials additional to the 1961-1971 and 1973 trials.

2005: Minister for Health, Mary Harney, announces that there is to be no further examination of vaccine trials, saying that this is not possible following the Meenan and Hillery decisions. However this assertion by Ms Harney conflicts with the dicta of Mr Justice O’Caoimh in Hillery above.

2006: It is announced that GlaxoSmithKline will part fund a EUR 13.7 million project at University College Cork on research into gastro-intestinal diseases. The project, which will create 50 jobs, is also tunded by IDA Ireland. Speaking at the launch in UCC, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Micheál Martin describes the project as a major breakthrough in the promotion of drug discovery research.

Discussions commence between the Child Abuse Commission and the Department of Health regarding return of the documentation obtained by the Commission in the course of its inquiry into the vaccine trials.

2008: It is announced that GlaxoSmithKline is to create 50 new jobs with an €30m investment in the expansion of its existing over-the-counter (OTC) pharmaceutical manufacturing facility in Dungarvan, Co. Waterford.

2009: In November, it is announced that GlaxoSmithKline will close Stiefel Laboratories in Sligo, purchased by it in July, with the loss of 250 jobs.

2010: The Irish Independent reports that Mari Steed, a former resident of the Bessborough Mother and Baby home, is to take an action against Wellcome in the U.S. courts and against the Sacred Heart Order in the Irish courts.

Further newspaper reports reference a number of additional victims, and additional vaccine trials, including John Barrett who alleges that unidentified tests were carried out on him at the Lota Industrial School, and Philip Delaney, the documented subject of a ‘five-in-one’ vaccine while in the care of Bessborough mother and baby home in 1965, above. GlaxoSmithKline neither confirms nor denies Mr Delaney’s assertion, and the Department of Health deny all knowledge of the ‘five-in-one’ trial.

Meanwhile, documentation relating to the investigation into vaccine trials referred to by Brendan Howlin in 1993 cannot be found. It is unclear whether or not this documentation relates to the 1977-1984 Working Group or some other investigation.

Following a formal request by Fine Gael health spokesman James, Reilly, the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children writes to the Department of Health, GlaxoSmithKline and other pharmaceutical firms asking them to hand over all files on vaccine trials carried out on children in residential institutions “as a matter of urgency” stating they may call for a formal investigation after a detailed examination of the files.

2011: GlaxoSmithKline confirms that it “continues to hold records relating to the Irish vaccine trials conducted by The Wellcome Foundation Limited and intends to do so for the foreseeable future” but refuses to hand these records over without a judicial order.

The Department of Health states that all departmental records (except presumably those relating to the missing inquiry referenced by Brendan Howlin) are retained “in line with normal procedure”. It writes to the Child Abuse Commission stating that the Commission cannot hand over documentation to the Oireachtas committee or to participants since legally “it is not possible for that material to be used for any other purpose” other than … Commission investigations and that they should return all documentation to the source that originally provided it”. The Commission states that it is currently engaged in cataloging the documentation and has not commenced returning it.

The HSE confirms that while it is to receive 15,000 adoption files from Bessborough, it “has been advised that immunisation records will continue to be the responsibility of the order”. The Sisters of the Sacred Heart at Bessborough say that their files are held in secure storage and they have “no intention” of destroying them.

In July, GlaxoSmithKline announces that 150 workers at its Dungarvan plant are to be made redundant.

2012: In August, the Child Abuse Commission announces that it has commenced the return of material supplied to the Vaccine Trials division to its original sources.

In October, GlaxoSmithKline reverses its decision to shut Stiefel Laboratories in Sligo, saving 120 jobs.

2014: In June, reports of a mass baby grave and evidence of high infant mortality at a mother and baby home in Tuam, Co Galway, reawaken public concern regarding treatment of children in care, bringing the vaccine trial issue once again to the forefront..

Dr Kevin McCoy, a former member of the Chlld Abuse Commission, and former Chief Inspector of the Inspectorate of Social Services in Northern Ireland, states that to his knowledge and belief Child Abuse Commission documentation relating to the vaccine trials has been retained and is to be housed in the National Archives for 75 years before limited access to it is allowed.

In the same month, Michael Dwyer of Cork University\s School of History, uncovers references in British Medical Journals to the 1930-35 diphtheria vaccine trials cited at the start of this timeline. GlaxoSmithKline’s response is as follows:-

‘The activities that have been described to us date back over 70 years and, if true, are clearly very distressing. ‘We would need further details to investigate what actually took place, but the practices outlined certainly don’t reflect how modern clinical trials are carried out. We conduct our trials to the same high scientific and ethical standards, no matter where in the world they are run.’

Earlier: I Didn’t Want To Ask The Survivors To Wait More

Previously: Medical Trials And The Law


This morning.

The Seanad.

Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration Roderic O’Gorman is speaking on his bill that will allow the Mother and Baby Homes Commission’s archive to be sealed for 30 years (except for a database on mothers and children detained in 11 institutions which it wants to give to TUSLA).

Minister O’Gorman said:

“As colleagues will know, access to information is a recurring and priority concern for those directly involved in the Mother and Baby Home institutions

“This legislation…urgent measure in terms of preserving valuable databases and records…speak to that very concern.

“I understand that there are genuine expectations that this database should enable additional information available to residents.

“In that regard it is essential to understand that Tusla is still bound by the continuing significant constitutional constraints in terms of access to information.

“This can only be addressed by future legislation which is something to which I am absolutely committed.

“I appreciate that some stakeholders have argued that the database and related records should be transferred to a body other than Tusla.

“The rationale for specifying Tusla as the recipient of the database is that it already has statutory responsibility for adoption tracing services under the Adoption Act of 2010 and already dedicates substantial resources and expertise to carrying out tracing functions.

“Crucially it currently holds the originals of many of the institutional records. Legally this enables the maximum value to be obtained from the database in the immediate term while comprehensive information and tracing legislation is being put in place.”

“A transfer to any statutory body, other than Tusla, such as the Adoption Authority of Ireland, would mean that two different statutory bodies withholds the same records with Tusla holding the originals and the AAI holding the database and associated copies. Such a duplication would inefficient and would lead to confusion.”

“Tusla will be fulfilling an important…safeguarding this database in the immediate term. The appropriate body to retain such records in the long term will be subject of further consultation and consideration in the course of bringing forward new legislative proposals for enhancing information and tracing services. I will of course seek further engagement with stakeholders as I advance these deliberations.

“Due to the urgent need to pass this legislation before the commission is dissolved, I appreciate there has been limited time to review the proposals.

“The requirement for pre-legislative scrutiny was waived by the House Business Committee at my request. However, I hope with the recent briefings I provided, as well as the information outlined today, I hope these have been helpful to you all.”

Watch here

More as we get it.

Last night: Sealing Their Fate

In the second part of his investigation into Ireland’s Mother and Baby Homes,  Aljazeera journalist Laurence Lee looked at Sean Ross Abbey, Roscrea, County Tipperary.

The abbey  was a mother and baby home from 1930 to 1970 run by Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

Laurence says (from @13:25 )

‘In the mid 1980’s Michael Donovan was working as a gardener in Sean Ross Abbey when he was asked by the Nuns to help landscape an overgrown area of scrub.

Michael said:

“ The tractor drove down this way and turned over the sod and I just noticed lots of small bones”.

That area where Michael found the bones is now a carefully tended burial ground known as the Angel’s plot. But that plot is not all it seems.

Nine years ago the nuns admitted 269 babies died in Sean Ross, a number that could plausibly be buried in this plot but it is now clear that over 1,000 babies died here.

So where are they?

This Photograph (above) was taken in 1974 not long after the Nuns closed the Home, but there is no obvious sign of the Angel’s plot which the nuns now claim was a consecrated graveyard where they buried babies in individual coffins.

However, we’ve established that the area above this hedge (green line) which takes up the top third of the claimed angel’s plot actually contains a pit used by the Nuns for the mass burial of unbaptised babies and stillborns.

Toni Maguire, an archaeologist and anthropologist who specialises in the location and excavation of unmarked graves, says:

“They have no death certificates for these infants and those infants are not included in the 1000 plus babies for Sean Ross Abbey.”

With that area unavailable for the thousand burials, it is even clearer that the remaining area cannot be the true extent for the graveyard.

The most probable scenario is that it in reality extends to a faintly visible pathway (above) on the 1974 picture right up to the walled garden (at left).

And that is a cause of deep concern because of something else we discovered.

This plan produced by Tipperary Town Council was submitted to the Commission. A copy has found its way to us.

It describes a sewage pipe installed in the late 90’s which runs from an inspection hatch directly beside the current Angel’s plot to another inspection hatch at the other end and beyond,

But as we have established that plan is wrong in several important respects.

The inspection hatches are actually situated above  (marked in blue) and between them in a project apparently agreed between the Nuns and the council a sewage system has been constructed on land which may well contain child burials.

Our investigation suggests that the system above includes a settlement tank, an overflow pipe here and a sewage outlet pipe cutting through the probable burial grounds and emptying into another tank constructed within the current angel’s plot.

Disturbingly around the same time the sewage system was installed yet more damage was done to the potential burial grounds when they were planted with fast growing conifers.

Toni Maguire says

“what they’ve done they have not planted the trees over the area where the pipes been laid, the roots obviously damaged the pipes and would do exactly the same thing to any burials that may be included in that land as well.”

In early 2019, the Commission ordered a ground penetrating radar survey of the plot followed by test excavations

They still have not said what they found but we can reveal the survey confirmed existence of a tank within the Angel’s plot.’

Part 1 here

Previously~: Sean Ross Abbey on Broadsheet

Thanks Breeda Murphy

“10 of the 14 mother and baby homes were run by Catholic orders. In this film we investigate evidence that between 4,000-6,000 babies and infants died in their care.”

Journalist Laurence Lee.

‘Ireland’s Mother And Baby Scandal’.

A short but excellent documentary broadcast on AlJazeera last night exploring the scandal of Tuam and beyond.

Thanks Bebe

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone

This morning.

Conall Ó Fátharta of The Irish Examiner has obtained a copy of a report by the Collaborative Forum on Mother and Baby Homes, set up last year by Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone.

The forum presented its report to Ms Zappone last December but she has declined to publish it citing advice from the Attorney General.

Via The Irish Examiner:

In a lengthy section on information and identity rights, the report states that Tusla representatives informed it that it assesses the likelihood of harm being caused to wider birth families by the release of personal information to an applicant.

In exchanges with the forum, Tusla representatives indicated that identity and personal information applications are assessed in part by reference to the level of harm acceding to such requests may cause,” states the report. “Neither the statutory basis for such a criterion, nor the nature of how harm is determined, was clear to forum members.”

The forum states its belief that since Tusla began taking ownership of the files of former adoption agencies in 2014, it has been pursuing “a practice of withholding identity and personal information from applicants detained as children across various institutions on the basis that to release this information, could cause harm to the wider family members of the applicant”.

In a statement, Tusla said that in the absence of any specific legislation to regulate information and tracing services, it can only “lawfully release information relating to other persons [e.g. birth parents] with their expressed consent.”

Tusla considers damage release of personal information can cause (Irish Examiner)


From top: Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone; Pope Francis and Paul Redmond, a message left for the pope in his book The Adoption Machine which Mr Redmond gifted the pope during his recent visit to Ireland

This morning.

Paul Redmond, chair of the Coalition of Mother And Baby home Survivors and author of The Adoption Machine, has resigned from the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone’s survivors’ forum.

Mr Redmond has released a statement, saying:

“I am absolutely heart sick at Zappone’s latest, cynical, time wasting farce which is of no benefit to living survivors. CMABS biggest demand since 2014 has been the full inclusion of ALL survivors in the current Inquiry into Mother and Baby homes.

“However, Zappone has fought this at every opportunity and has now excluded them from the remit of the so-called Survivors Forum as well as excluding any discussion of the long delayed Adoption Bill to open the adoption records.

Attempts to have these issues included in the agenda of the forum have failed and it is clear the civil servants running the forum have their own agenda to limit and frustrate the survivor and adoption communities at every turn.

Zappone has cold heartedly refused to release the funding for memorials promised to the community in January 2015 and has instead frivolously spent our memorial funding on advertising a forum to discuss the memorials over the course of at least a year!

“It’s simply unbelievable. This is beyond hypocrisy and a complete waste of hundreds of thousands of euros of taxpayers money to stall instead of taking action.

“Minister Zappone’s two and half years in office has seen progress for the living survivor community stop dead and it is clear she needs to resign immediately and allow a decent and compassionate person do the job she point blank refuses to do.

My biggest regret is not listening to Derek Leinster of the Bethany Home Survivor’s Group ’98 who boycotted this forum from the beginning declaring it would be of no benefit to our community. He was correct.

“I decided to participate and try and turn it around and transform the forum into a fast tracked series of recommendations to the minister for the urgent issues our community needs addressed but, the forum was perverted and warped from the start by Minister Zappone and her civil servants to ensure the survivor community could make no progress on the substantive issues.

“Zappone is guilty of one of the lowest, dirtiest, most mean spirited political tricks seen in recent years.

“CMABS has engaged an eminent lawyer to bring a formal complaint to the United Nations Committee Against Torture about Zappone’s complete lack of action on survivor issues as well as this disgusting forum designed to sidetrack and divide the survivor community and subvert progress.”

The Collaborative Forum of Former Residents of Mother and Baby Homes and Related Institutions was set up separately to the ongoing Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes.

At the time of its establishment, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs said:

“The establishment of the Collaborative Forum is a new approach in the State’s response to the theme of ‘nothing about us without us’ which has emerged from the former residents who have participated in consultations to date.”

In a letter to Ms Zappone announcing his resignation, Mr Redmond wrote:

I am hereby tendering my immediate resignation from the Consultative Forum on the Mother and Baby homes.

I believed at the outset – and stated it publicly – that I believed the forum would be a a talking shop and achieve nothing. Sadly this is the way it has turned out.

In accepting the invitation to the join the forum, I believed that I would be able to achieve something for the survivor community who were treated horrifically in the Mother and Baby homes in what was a form of ‘internment without trial’.

However, I did have very serious misgivings about the way the forum was set up and constituted. Nevertheless, I did go ahead and accept the invitation to join the forum in the hope, as I said above, of achieving something for the living survivors of the homes as well as our fallen crib mates who were effectively neglected to death by uncaring nuns while the State turned a blind eye and handed over the cheques.

Sadly for the survivors I represent, my concerns have been borne out as regards how the forum is being conducted.

In particular, the manner in which the forum is chaired by an ex-Secretary General of a government department [Community, Equality and Gaeltacht affairs] was a source of great concern to me.

Regardless of the calibre of the individual involved (and I accept Gerry Kearney is a very decent and capable person), the chair should have been a genuinely neutral outsider.

In addition I do not think that the chairman, a former senior civil servant, could be independent in a situation where the State is culpable for what happened in the mother and baby homes regardless of his personal integrity.

I also note for the record, that you Minister Zappone, have also politically limited the agenda of the forum from the start and have excluded the three most important issues on which many survivors, as represented by the Coalition of Mother And Baby home Survivors (CMABS), have campaigned; namely the full inclusion of ALL survivors in the current inquiry into mother and baby homes and, an immediate acknowledgement, apology and redress for an aging survivors community as recommended by the inquiry itself in its interim report in 2017.

CMABS also notes that the urgent issue of illegal adoptees has also been excluded from both the inquiry and, now from the forum.

This is disgraceful behaviour by a minister supposed to represent survivors and adoptees in these difficult times.

Furthermore, the way certain aspects of the forum have transpired is a cause for further concern. For example, chairpersons of sub-committees were not appointed by objective criteria and, my efforts to have certain matters of the utmost importance moved onto the agenda, were dismissed without cause.

There are several other flaws in the fundamental operation of the forum.

CMABS are aware that a formal complaint has already been submitted to the United Nations about this forum and, we have retained the expertise of an eminent lawyer to take our further complaints directly to the United Nations Committee Against Torture.

This current political stalling and disingenuous delaying tactics cannot be allowed to continue.

I sincerely hope, as a survivor of a Mother and Baby home, that all survivors will get justice at the end of the day.

However, this forum is certainly a hindrance to that aspiration and of no practical help to the living survivor community.

Meanwhile Minister Zappone, as the forum fiddles, survivors continue dying

I remain, etc.,
Paul Jude Redmond.

Coalition of Mother and Baby Homes (Facebook)

Previously: ‘I Hope This History Informs Your Response’


From top: Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland Eamon Martin outside the offices of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference in Maynooth, Co Kildare, last month, as the details are published for the the pastoral visit of Pope Francis; Tuam survivor Peter Mulryan and historian Catherine Corless; Ciaran Tierney

The only surprise about the revelation that survivors of institutions and clerical sex abuse are planning to protest during the visit of Pope Francis to Ireland in August is that anybody might be surprised.

There are thousands of people across Ireland, the UK, the USA, and Canada who are waking up to the injustice inflicted upon them and their families. They are determined not to be silenced anymore.

They want the Catholic Church to face up to the abuse inflicted on young mothers and their children in both Magdalene Laundries and Mother and Baby Homes throughout much of the 20th century. As far as many of them are concerned, the religious orders have never faced up to their crimes.

All across Ireland, hundreds of people believe they may have uncles, aunts, brothers, or sisters scattered across the globe.

They believe they have close relatives in cities such as Boston, Chicago, or New York who have no idea of their own true identities, as they were adopted out, illegally and for cash, by nuns whose only concern was that they ended up in good Catholic homes.

The history of Catholic institutions in Ireland in the 20th century is one of physical and emotional abuse, shame, judgement, and even baby trafficking and child abduction, as many “illegitimate” children were forcibly taken from their traumatised mothers after they were transferred to institutions all across the country.

This is not ancient history, as we saw in the emotional but wonderful scenes in Dublin two weeks ago when more than 200 former residents of Magdalene Laundries were honoured in public for the first time.

Many of them flew home from the US and the UK, because the shame of their incarceration – or giving birth outside marriage – ensured they could never return to the towns or villages they came from.

The last Magdalene Laundry only closed down in 1996. Some of the women were so institutionalised after spending three decades in these harsh institutions that they did not wish to leave even when presented with the opportunity to do so. They had given up the will to live independent lives.

The youngest woman to have given birth in a laundry is still only 40 years old. These are real, living, breathing people and now they want the truth – and justice – after so many years of secrets, lies, and shame.

The children born in these horrible places did not all end up living in Ireland. They were trafficked in their hundreds to the USA, their birth records falsified, and to this day many do not even realise that they were adopted or born in Ireland.

When we talk about the 796 ‘Tuam Babies’ we should remember that they are not just skeletons buried in and around a septic tank in a North Galway Mother and Baby Home.

They are the flesh and blood of people like Peter Mulryan, a noble man in his 70s who wants to know what became of the little sister he never knew he had for most of his adult life.

Until he finds proof of her death, for all he knows Peter’s younger sibling could be living out her life somewhere in North America, totally oblivious to her roots or where she came from.

This need to know the truth seems to be of hugely important to the survivors and their children as they reach old age. Who would not want to know what happened to a sibling if he or she was forcibly removed from a tearful mother’s arms?

Even if they knew nothing about them for most of their lives.

Birth records were falsified, an order which ran a notorious Mother and Baby home is now making money from private health care, and religious orders are refusing to hand over records until they receive legal indemnity for crimes committed in the past.

Institutions circumvented the rules to send children out for adoption and priests were moved around from one parish to another when ordinary people raised concerns about clerical sex abuse. For many victims and their families, peace will only come when they hear full apologies and they receive redress for the crimes which destroyed so many lives.

Most of all, people just want to hear the truth.

It’s a theme which recurs again and again in ‘My Name is Bridget’, the new book by journalist Alison O’Reilly which examines the desperately sad case of a woman who had two sons taken from her in the Mother and Baby Home.

Bridget went on to live in Dublin, marry a good man, and have a daughter who never knew about the two older siblings who were seized from her mother in Tuam. It was only after Bridget died that Anna discovered she had two missing brothers, who may or may not be buried in that infamous septic tank in Co Galway.

Right now, Anna, Peter, and other survivors of the Tuam Mother and Baby Home are waiting on tenterhooks to see if Galway County Council are prepared to undertake a full excavation and examination of the Tuam site.

They will be shocked and dismayed if the authorities try in any way to cover up what happened in Tuam after all the pain they endured.

Decades may have passed, but they are still entitled to find out what happened to close family members – were they buried in an unmarked grave or were they trafficked to America?

in a letter to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone, Anna wrote:

“This is a national scandal, not a popularity contest for who wants the tidiest cover-up. This can’t be the same as in the 1970s. How dare you,”

Anna sent copies of the letter to every member of Galway County Council to make it clear that she and other family members would not accept any kind of ‘cover up’ at the site.

Alison’s book is a very topical addition to the national debate. It shows how important identity is to the adopted and the truth is to survivors of institutions and their families.

In a powerful chapter at the end of her book, entitled Snapshots of Stolen Lives, Alison spoke to a number of survivors about their need to find the truth, justice, and peace.

“Everyone deserves to know who they are and it should not have taken this long and I should never have had to fight so hard,” said Breda Tuite, who was adopted through the St Patrick’s Guild Agency in Dublin in 1959.

It took Breda, from Dublin, years to track down her late mother from Co Kerry. For her, there was a kind of healing in visiting her grave and meeting her friends and family.

Sharon McGuigan was just 16-years old, an innocent child, and had been groomed by an older man when she became pregnant in 1985. She was admitted to the Dunboyne Mother and Baby Home in County Meath and gave birth to a daughter in February 1986.

The daughter was taken from her and adopted. Sharon had no say in the matter. Her daughter is still not ready to meet her but Sharon hopes to build a relationship with her some day.

“We should not have been made to feel so shamed and to be cast aside,” Sharon told Alison O’Reilly. “I just want to tell my story and not to be mistreated because of something that wasn’t my fault. I want an acknowledgement of what happened to women like me.”

Anna Corrigan has described the Tuam grave as a jigsaw which needs to be put back together. The survivors and their families point out that there were many institutions like Tuam all over Ireland and an awful lot of healing still has to take place for those who had no voice for far too long.

They believe that religious orders were engaged in criminal behaviour during the darkest days of 20th century Ireland and it is time the Catholic Church faces up to issues such as the shaming of pregnant women, child abductions, and the trafficking of Irish babies to the USA.

They believe that the visit of Pope Francis to Ireland will be a pivotal moment for the Catholic Church on the island.

If he listens to the people who had their identities stolen or who were separated from their families, a huge amount of healing can occur in August.

Otherwise, Pope Francis can expect very vocal – and hugely embarrassing – protests from victims who are not prepared to be silenced any more.

Ciaran Tierney is a journalist, blogger, and digital storyteller, based in Galway, Ireland.

Victims vow to protest when Pope Francis visits Ireland (Ciaran Tierney)


From top: Sean Ross Abbey, Roscrea, County Tipperary; Catherine Sheehy (right) with Kevin whom she named William; Kevin Battle today in Portland, Maine, USA

Kevin Battle was a baby when church officials raided his family home in Ireland and plucked him from the arms of his mother, an unmarried 24-year-old who had run away from the convent where she and hundreds of other Irish girls were sent to give birth to secret children.

After raising the boy she named William for more than a year, his mother [Catherine Sheehy] couldn’t bear to give him up, so she grabbed her chubby-cheeked boy and escaped home to her family in County Limerick.

But the nuns had plans for the boy, so they tracked down the mother and child and forcefully reclaimed him.

Within weeks of seizing the baby, the Catholic Church sold him to an Irish couple in New York grieving the death of their own infant.

The price? A $1,000 donation to the church. Records show that the convent, Sean Ross Abbey, secretly exported 438 children like Battle to America.

Yet Battle, a retired South Portland police officer who works as a harbor master and state legislator, grew up knowing none of this.

He’d always known he was adopted. He’d searched for his mother, following the paper trail to Ireland in 1978, but the nuns there told him she was dead…[more at link below]

Maine man learns truth of his past: Nuns stole him as a baby from his mother in Ireland (Penelope Overton, The Portland Press Herald)

Previously: ‘They Wouldn’t Have Been Believed’

Pics via Portland Press Herald

Thanks realPolithicks