Sean Ross Abbey in Roscrea, Co Tipperary
The Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation has announced it will carry out a “geophysical survey” of a children’s burial ground at Sean Ross Abbey in Roscrea, Co Tipperary – which was a mother and baby home from 1930 to 1970.
This will begin tomorrow and is expected to take one day.
[According to Mike Millotte’s Banished Babies, 438 babies were secretly exported from Sean Ross Abbey to the US for adoption.]
Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone told RTÉ’s News At One that the MBHCI received “new information from a member of the public in relation to the burial grounds” at Sean Ross before Christmas.
She also confirmed that Cabinet has approved a request from the MBHCI for an extension of a year before publishing its final report.
Survivors, family members and supporters of people who lived in the Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, Co Galway first became aware of this request for an extension via a report in The Irish Times on January 9.
The extension means the final report will be published in February 2020.
Ms Zappone also said the commission has said it will publish an interim report on March 15 “on burials for all of the institutions that they are investigating”.
On News At One, journalist Aine Lawlor asked Ms Zappone about the exclusion of survivors of Bethany Home from the State redress scheme.
Ms Lawlor put to Ms Zappone that any delay in including the Bethany Home survivors “compounds the injustice being done to elderly people at this state, time is not on their side”.
Ms Zappone said:
“Yes, I deeply appreciate those views that are being expressed. I am aware of that. May I say that, in relation to the Bethany Home, of course, I think many are aware, there was a decision made not to extend the original redress scheme to them, subsequent to the Ryan Report.
“That decision is being reviewed by a number of, on a number of occasions, by a previous Governments. My own Government looked at it again and ultimately decided that we needed to wait in order to have the final reports from the Mother and Baby Home Commission.”
Ms Lawlor put it to Ms Zappone that the survivors of Bethany Homes “don’t have a year to play with”.
Ms Zappone said:
“Again, I’m fully aware of that Aine, because I have met many of these people. I aware of the recommendation of the commission. At the same time, they have not provided us with a report in terms of findings of, final findings of abuse or neglect.
“And so we decided that it was not appropriate to deal with redress…but on the basis of that decision, I did move forward and establish a collaborative forum of representative stakeholders across all of the mother and baby homes to see what kind of supports maybe we could provide to former residents in relation, while we are waiting for the final findings of the commission.”
Ms Zappone has delivered a fourth interim report from the commission to Cabinet today and it states that the commission’s confidential committee has met with 519 former residents or other people connected to the institutions under investigation.
Meetings were not only held across Ireland but also in Birmingham, Manchester and London, while 26 people are still waiting to be heard – including residents in the US who will speak to the committee via Skype.
The commission is also arranging to have affidavits sworn in some cases.
The fourth report also states that “considerable work remains to be done to cross reference” the information the commission has regarding registers of entry, exit, birth and death.
The report notes that the commission has received “extensive material” from the Department of Health and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs but the commission “only recently received the bulk of this material and further material is in the process of being provided”.
It also states that the commission is “painstakingly analysing” more than 100,000 pages it has received in discovery from the two departments and cross referencing them with records maintained in the institutions.
The first tranche of discovery consisted over more than 12,000 pages in March 2017; more than 54,000 pages in March 2018; 36,000 pages in June 2018, while the commission learned in November 2018 that 277 more relevant files – likely to run to “many thousands of pages” – are also available.
The report also says the commission is “dismayed” by the documentation it has received from the HSE.
“The Commission acknowledges the efforts made by the HSE staff to find relevant documentation but it is dismayed that so little has been found. It is clear that the HSE does not have any system, much less a proper system, of storing and archiving material.”
“It is difficult to understand how relatively recent documentation is not available. For example, the North Western Health Board, and subsequently the HSE, was intensively involved in the running of one of the institutions under investigation – The Castle, Newtowncunningham, Co Donegal. This opened in 1984 and closed in 2006. The HSE has been unable to provide any documentation on its involvement with this institution.”
Listen back to Ms Zappone on RTE Radio One in full here