Tag Archives: Tuam

Special rapporteur on child protection Geoffrey Shannon; journalist Conall Ó Fátharta

Conall Ó Fátharta, in The Irish Examiner, reports:

The Mother and Baby Homes Commission is obliged under human rights law to provide information to family members about where their relatives are buried — despite claiming it is legally prohibited from doing so.

That is according to a number of legal experts who have said that not only is the commission misinterpreting the Commissions of Investigation Act in claiming it can not release such information, but that it is also obliged to under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

In a report prepared for the Government on the human rights issues arising from the infant remains discovered at Tuam, special rapporteur on child protection Geoffrey Shannon pointed to two decisions of the European Convention of Human Rights which found that, under Article 8, “family members of a deceased have a right to information regarding the fate of their loved one”, and that this includes burial location.

There you go now.

Legal experts: Commission obliged to provide burial info (Conall Ó Fátharta, Irish Examiner)

From top: Tuam; Fianna Fáil TD and spokesperson for Children and Youth Affairs Anne Rabbitte; yesterday’s Sunday Business Post

From the party that gave you the indemnity deal

Journalist Michael Brennan, in yestersay’s Sunday Business Post reported that Fianna Fáil had called on the Minister for Children Katherine Zappone to stop her plans to excavate the site of the former Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, Co Galway.

Mr Brennan reported:

Fianna Fáil children’s spokeswoman Anne Rabbitte said the estimated €13 million cost of excavating the Tuam site could not be justified when the money could be spent helping the children of today.

“There has to be a dose of reality and realism in all of this. Children living in hubs feel like they are prisoners. We will go down in history as the politicians that failed the children of the 21st century,” she said.

…“It’ll never be finished in her lifetime because no cabinet will approve a carte blanche cheque for an excavation if we don’t know where it will end. It’s a wilful waste of public money that could be spent on the children of today,” she said.

Rabbitte questioned if Zappone wanted to dig up every ‘cillín’ in the country (cilliní are traditional burial grounds for children who were stillborn or died before being baptised). She said that a better solution would be to agree a way of reverently remembering the children through commemorative plaques or gardens of remembrance.

Good times.


Meanwhile

Yesterday, outside the office of Terry Prone’s Communications Clinic…

FF wants €13m Tuam cash diverted to homeless children (Sunday Business Post)

Previously: Death In Tuam

Reputable History

Our Worst Fears

UPDATE:

This morning.

On Galway Bay FM show Galway Talks With Keith Finnegan, Ms Rabbitte and historian Catherine Corless spoke about the matter.

Ms Corless asked Ms Rabbitte directly to explain her “bare turn around on her views on Tuam” as the TD previously said she was supporting excavation.

Ms Corless added that Ms Rabbitte had upset many survivors by saying excavating the site at Tuam would be a waste of money.

Ms Rabbitte told the show:

“I suppose where Anne Rabbitte is coming from, and what I’d like to say Catherine is, I’m looking for a timeframe, you can’t blame me for that.

This can’t go on forever and interim report after interim report. It’s not fair on the survivors, it’s not fair on the good work that you and all your people have done.”

Mr Finnegan asked Ms Rabbitte:

“But did you use the words, money was squandered in the Tuam mother and baby situation?”

Ms Rabbitte said:

“A paper never refused ink and that is not what I said. I never, it would not come out of my mouth.” 

Ms Corless asked if Ms Rabbitte was misquoted, to which Ms Rabbitte said:

I never said there was money squandered on the Tuam… and baby home. What I’m saying is we need to have accountability…”

Listen back in full here

This morning.

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone has published the Fifth Interim Report from the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes.

The report examines the burial arrangements at institutions including the Tuam Mother and Baby Home.

Via The Department of Children and Youth Affairs:


The Commission has stated that it will include an analysis of the causes of deaths and the registration of deaths [at Tuam] in its final report which is due by February 2020.

The report makes a number of findings in relation to the burials at Tuam:

The Commission states that it is clear that many of the children who died in the Tuam Home are buried in the underground chambers.

The report states that these chambers were not a recognised burial ground or purpose built burial chamber and that it did not provide for the dignified interment of human remains.

The Commission concludes that there is little basis for the theory that rather than having died, the children were ‘sold’ to America.

The report makes no specific recommendations but calls on anyone who may have information relating to the Tuam site to come forward and speak with them.

The report also examines the burial practices in a number of other institutions including Bessborough, Bethany Home, Castlepollard and Sean Ross Abbey.

In the case of Bessborough, the Commission found no physical or documentary evidence of systematic burials within the grounds, but considers that it is highly likely that burials took place there.

The Commission did not consider it feasible to excavate the full 60 acres involved, let alone the rest of the 200-acre estate on which the there has been extensive building work since the institution closed.

In Sean Ross Abbey there is a designated child burial ground in the grounds of the institution. The Commission has undertaken a geophysical study and subsequently a test excavation of the site and the results of this excavation are currently being examined. The Commission will report on this in their final report.

More as we get it.

Read full report here.

Thanks Bebe

The Fifth Interim report of Commission of Investigation (Mother and Baby Homes and certain related Matters) will be published ” as soon as possible’ said Minister for Children Katherine Zappone.

Ms Zappone told Catherine Connolly TD that ‘Subject to advice and approval it is my intention to publish the report prior to Easter’

Separately, in a written reply this week to Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald, Ms Zappone also said the report includes burial arrangements “in circumstances where the [children’s] remains were initially transferred to educational institutions for anatomical examination”.

Ms Zappone stated:

It is a substantial report which focuses on the burial arrangements of persons who died while resident in these institutions.

The report includes extensive technical reports prepared in the course of the Commission’s investigations into the burial site associated with the institution formerly known as the Tuam Mother and Baby Home and the Commission’s assessment of burial arrangements in respect of a number of other institutions within its remit.

It also reports on burial arrangements in circumstances where the remains were initially transferred to educational institutions for anatomical examination.

I intend to seek formal Government approval to publish the report after I have the opportunity to discuss the report with the Commission and consult the Attorney General as appropriate. I will seek to conclude these considerations as soon as possible.

The dignity and memory of those who died in these institutions is central to my approach to these matters. I am mindful of the expectations of their families for an early publication date of the report.

My Department will advise representative groups, and those who have been in contact with the department on these matters, of developments prior to the publication of the report.

Given the importance and sensitivity of these matters, I do not propose to comment further on the contents of the report in advance of it being made public.

Previously: Tuam and DNA

At the site of the former Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home in Tuam; Minister for Children Katherine Zappone; Sr Marie Ryan, of the Bon Secours in Ireland

Yesterday.

Right to Know journalist Ken Foxe published a “strictly private and confidential” letter sent from the leader of the Bon Secours in Ireland Sr Marie Ryan  to the Minister of Children Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone last August.

The letter concerned the Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, Co Galway, where the State issued 796 death certificates for children but burial records only for two.

The home closed in 1961.

The letter to the minister was written in response to Ms Zappone asking to meet with members of the order so they could discuss the Tuam home and how the order could share, with the State, the “cost implications” of the current investigations at the home after “significant quantities of human remains” were confirmed to have been found at the home two years ago.

Sr Ryan, on behalf of the nuns, told Ms Zappone they were surprised she asked to meet with them while the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes is ongoing.

The nun then went on to firmly state that the Tuam home was operated on behalf of the Irish Government.

Sr Ryan wrote:

“This was an institution created and operated by the Irish state.”

“Given the passage of time, it certainly appears to us, that the Home was not only under the stewardship of the Sisters at that time but under the supervision, direction and inspection of the local authority Galway County Council and also the Department of Health.”

She also said after the home closed in 1961, the nuns sent “all documentation” and “official Home Records” to Galway County Council and that the nuns haven’t had “full and open access” to these records which are now with the commission.

She said it seems Galway County Council were involved in paying for a doctor and a chaplain at the home and that Department of Health inspectors inspected the home.

Sr Ryan added:

“The deaths of the infants were registered at that time and it would seem to us that it would follow that Galway County Council, the Department of Health and the doctor employed by the local authority for the Home would have been fully aware of the fact of these deaths and no doubt then would have been aware that burial arrangements would have to be made for the remains.”

Mr Foxe tweeted the following on the correspondence:

Right To Know

Previously: The Wages Of Spin

Our Worst Fears

Mike Hynes tweetz:

The names of the 796 souls lost at St Mary’s in Tuam, brought back into our consciousness through this tapestry of their names that now hangs in Áras Moyola at #NUIG [National University of Ireland Galway]

Related: University launches Tuam mother-and-baby home oral history project (Patsy McGarry, The Irish Times)

This morning.

The Tuam Home Survivors’ Network has urged the Government to begin collecting DNA samples from the mass grave immediately.

In December, it was announced that excavation of the site would begin at the end of 2019.

Network spokesperson Breeda Murphy writes:

This work should proceed in a way that will be of greatest benefit to the greatest number of survivors, victims and families.

For this to be achieved, as much information as possible should be obtained from each sample of human remains. The quantifying of the DNA extracted is the paramount task to be accomplished.

Based on this quantity, a decision can then be made on the best method to use to achieve best outcome:

High yield of DNA – Standard Forensic testing using Short Tandem Repeat (STR) analysis to determine relationship to those searching for a family member; if no match is found , move on to DNA Microarray technology using single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) analysis to search genealogy companies. Then perform whole genome sequencing (WGS) for further information on genealogy, medical history, etc.

Low yield of DNA
– Proceed directly to WGS to obtain the greatest amount of information possible.

The methodology of course, should be peer reviewed and/or follow guidelines from other sites for example, World Trade Centre, California fires, ancient sites, etc.

In the event, the quantity is insufficient for current analysis, it should be safely and appropriately stored future analysis when technology advances will present new opportunities for matching.

There is a certain urgency to this process given age profile and health status. R

esults from our ageing and in, some cases, frail membership should be banked to eliminate any delay in returning human remains to identifiable relatives for dignified burial

Tuam Home Survivors’ Network

Meanwhile…

Report in The Irish Times on Wednesday, January 9; Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone; debate in the Dáil last Thursday

On Wednesday, January 9 last, the Religious Affairs Correspondent for The Irish Times Patsy McGarry reported that the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation was to seek an extension of a year before publishing its final report which was due in February.

The report took survivors, family members and supporters of people who lived in the Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home by surprise.

Following on from the report in The Irish Times, Broadsheet contacted the Department of Children and Youth Affairs on January 9 and asked a spokesman to confirm if The Irish Times article was correct; if it was, to set out the reasons for the seeking of an extension; to outline when the MBHCI made the request for an extension of Government; and to explain when the survivors/survivors’ groups were informed of the request.

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone’s department responded at 5.45pm that evening, essentially confirming The Irish Times article, but without answering the other specific questions, stating:

“The Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes has written to the Minister to seek an extension to the time frame for delivering its final reports. The Minister is considering the request and will meet the Commission next week to discuss it further.

“The Minister will then respond to the request in consultation with her cabinet colleagues.

“The Minister has given a commitment to interested parties to communicate any updates in relation to the Mother and Baby Home issue in as timely a manner as possible.

“The Minister will use existing channels to communicate
with interested parties, including survivors and their advocates in advance of any public statements on this matter.”

Yet, when the matter was raised with Minister Zappone in the Dáil last Thursday evening by Galway West Independent TD Catherine Connolly, Dublin Fingal Independent TD Clare Daly, and Dublin South Central Independent TD Joan Collins, Ms Zappone said “the coverage was misleading”.

She also eventually confirmed, after being asked several times, that she had received the request from the commission in December.

Ms Collins said:

“I ask the Minister to correct me if I am wrong, but my information is that the report was finalised in early December last and had been sent to the Attorney General pending transmission to the Minister and the Cabinet.

“I have also been informed that more files from the HSE have emerged which is why, potentially, a further delay is being sought by the commission.

Survivors have been waiting anxiously for this report, as the Minister knows, and have been physically and emotionally shattered by the announcement in last week’s newspaper. It was a cold and calculated way to inform survivors and their families.

Some survivors in their 70s and 80s were outside the gates of Leinster House yesterday. They were cold and they were angry. It was a disgraceful way to treat these ageing people. Their rights and justice are being denied. Will the Minister please explain exactly what is happening and set out why there was no early warning of the proposed delay? These people are losing confidence in the Minister and her Government and in the commission.”

Ms Daly said:

“The request for a second extension from the commission is the last straw for many of us here and certainly for many of the survivors. The request should be refused.

“I am very curious to hear what the Minister’s attitude is and what level of warning she was given by the commission that this bombshell would drop a year almost after the last extension was granted. Many felt it was a step too far even then yet a year on, here we are.

“It is jaw-dropping to have a scenario in which four years later, we have had three interim reports comprising fewer than 40 pages between them. Of those interim reports, two sought more time while another focused on process. There have been no details and no findings and we must ask what in God’s name is going on in this gathering.

“As Deputy Joan Collins said, a suspicious person might wonder if things were being done in this manner so the community dies off.

The fact that they had to hear this as they did via a newspaper leak has caused more insult to them. In many ways, the process is as important as the outcome. The process here has been an abysmal failure and it has retraumatised many of the survivors.

“I do not necessarily blame the Minister and certainly not before we hear what she has to say. I assume she got the information. It is important for her to tell the House when she got it and whether it was flagged. If it was not flagged to her, why did the commission wait until the 11th hour? If it was flagged and everyone knew, why was it done like this? This is devastating and we need clarity around it. My attitude is that the request should be refused. It is too much.”

Ms Connolly said:

“Has the commission of investigation asked for an extension of time? If so, when was the request made, how was it made and how long has the Minister known?

“…From day one, there was confusion and delay. The third report asked for extension of time. While it caused real upset then, people accepted the assurance that the report would be published in February of this year.

“…Subsequent to what we found out in Patsy McGarry’s newspaper report earlier this month, it was claimed on the Department’s website that “reports in the media did not come from this Department and the speculation contained in these reports is inaccurate”.

“What specific inaccuracies are there? Has an extension been sought? If so, when and why was it sought? I will await the Minister’s answer before I give my opinion.”

In her response, Ms Zappone said:

“The scope of the investigation is broad. It was acknowledged at the outset that the timeframe was ambitious. I received the fourth interim report in December 2018. I met the chair of the commission, Judge Yvonne Murphy, last week to discuss the request for the extension of the timeframe for the delivery of the commission’s reports and to ensure I had a full understanding of the progress to date and the basis for the additional time being requested.

“I know it is important for the commission to complete this sensitive and complex work as soon as possible… There can be no shortcut to finding the truth.

“The interim report is short. Contrary to what the Deputies have suggested, it is not a proposal. It grounds the request for an extension of the timeframe to deliver the three reports from the commission by one year.

“As the request constitutes a change in the terms of reference of the commission, it is a matter for the Government to consider the request in reflection of its statutory provisions. Government approval is also required to publish the report. With this in mind, I intend to bring a memorandum to the Cabinet.

“I have already circulated a draft of the memorandum to Government Departments. I hope to have it on the agenda next week for discussion. Ahead of the Cabinet meeting, it would not be helpful to speculate on what the Government will decide.

I am conscious that the commentary on this issue in the media last week has caused distress and anxiety for those involved in this process. The coverage was misleading and did not originate from the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, as one of the Deputies mentioned.

“I reiterate my commitment to use existing channels to inform stakeholders of any developments in this area in advance of a public notice. I intend to make a public announcement following the Cabinet meeting to clarify the position for them….I will engage with stakeholders ahead of any public announcements. I hope to announce the details of the interim report as soon as possible.”

Ms Collins told Ms Zappone that she still didn’t answer her questions, namely when the commission requested an extension, if it was made at the beginning of December and, if it was, why weren’t the survivors not informed of this request before reading about it in The Irish Times.

Ms Daly said the essence of what was in The Irish Times article was correct – in so far as the final report will be delayed by a year.

She called for a report to be published in February outlining exactly what the commission has done to date, what needs to be done and a timetable of when the work will be done.

Ms Connolly said:

I am afraid I am not so sympathetic. I am holding the Minister to account because her answer is not acceptable. When and how was she approached by the commission in relation to an extension? Why are the grounds for an extension not set out in the Minister’s reply? Why do we not have a copy of the report? The lines that should demarcate who is responsible for what are being blurred.

“An independent commission of inquiry was set up. It has a duty to report in a way that we can see, read and look at. It is not acceptable that the Minister is not telling us where the report is, why we do not have it and what the grounds for the request are. It is ridiculous and utterly unacceptable that she is telling us there are grounds for the request but not telling us what those grounds are or when they were set out.

“The Minister referred to a meeting that took place last week. If there is a shortage of staff, as has been mentioned, we should know about that. If there is a reason the work cannot be completed on time, it should be made known to us in an open and accountable manner. That is the least we deserve in this Dáil so we can represent the people outside who have suffered greatly.

“The Minister knows well that I have attended many of the meetings. The anger on the ground is palpable. There was an absence of trust from day one. I went out on a limb to give the system a chance. Looking back on that, it was rather foolish. Since 2015, we have had nothing but delay, obfuscation and blurring of boundaries. The very least the Minister should do is tell us precisely when the request came and how it came. Regardless of the nature of the report the Minister has, she should publish it.”

It was after this contribution from Ms Connolly that Ms Zappone said the request was made in December.

She said:

“It is an interim report.

“There are procedures in terms of the establishment of the independent commission and the commission has requested an extension for the completion of its work. That request must be presented to Government, which must agree or not to it. Once that has happened, there will be the publishing of the report.

“That is the process and those are the procedures.

“I intend to do that at the next Cabinet meeting. When I have provided my Cabinet colleagues with the rationale for this, in addition to advising them of the discussions I had with Judge Murphy, which I sought as soon as I could subsequent to the presentation of that interim report taking account of the Christmas period, I will engage with my Cabinet colleagues and we will make a decision.

We will let the survivors and those primary stakeholders know. I will publish the report and we will publish our decision. Those are the proper procedures. The Deputies will know then what is the rationale in that regard. I am happy to come back to the House and discuss those issues with them.

“Second, as the Deputies well know, this is an independent commission and therefore there are certain things I can and cannot do. The commission has made this request and laid out its rationale. I am able to talk and have talked to it about that – I have spoken of that – to more deeply understand its rationale in this regard.

“Third, as I mentioned in my opening remarks, I know the Deputies – who represent the people concerned very well – would acknowledge I also am aware of how awful and difficult this news is for these people to receive. I understand that. I will be able to provide the Deputies with the rationale with regard to the response, and my own response specifically to what they have said, next week after I have given that to my Cabinet colleagues.”

Transcript via KildareStreet.com

Previously: ‘A Dishonest Exercise’

On Thursday, January 17, at 6pm.

At the Inspire Galerie, at 56, Lower Gardiner Street, Dublin 1.

An art exhibition, called Stay With Me, will be opened showing artworks created by people moved by the Tuam Babies story.

It will run for two weeks – ahead of the scheduled publication of Commission of Inquiry’s final report into the Bon Secours home in Tuam, Co Galway in February.

RTÉ journalist Philip Boucher Hayes will open the event while a woman who was illegally adopted is going to speak about how she found her family through DNA and has been reunited with them.

Previously: Some Element Of Closure

Inspire Galerie

Journalists Ciaran Tierney and Alison O’Reilly, and Anna Corrigan in Tuam earlier this month

This afternoon.

At 2pm at Trinity College Dublin’s Graduate Memorial Building.

The Untold Story of Tuam – A Panel Discussion.

With Irish Daily Mail journalist and author of My Name Is Bridget Alison O’Reilly and Anna Corrigan.

Ms Corrigan’s mother was Bridget Dolan who had two sons, William and John, at the Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, Co Galway.

There is a death certificate for John but not for William and Ms Corrigan believes William may have been adopted illegally to the US.

Ms O’Reilly and Ms Corrigan will also be awarded the Gold Medal of Honorary Patronage of the University Philosophical Society.

The Untold Story of Tuam – A Panel Discussion