Tag Archives: Tuam

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

 

Fran writes:

No true way…

Pope Francis In Knock (RTÉ)

Meanwhile...

Earlier: “Pope Francis Must Be The First To Set A Good Example And Resign”

From top: A ceremony for the lost children of Tuam on Monday night; The Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, County Galway

Lawyer Kevin Higgins currently advises survivors of Mother and baby Homes in developing a “strategy to hopefully achieve some justice”.

Mr Higgins represented 73-year-old Peter Mulryan, chairperson of the Tuam Home Survivors’ Network, whose infant sister Marian Bridget Mulryan is believed to be among the 796 children recorded as having died at the Bon Secours mother and baby home in Tuam, Co Galway between 1925 and 1961.

He also previously said that the Attorney General has the power to order a coroner to hold inquests into the deaths of any remains exhumed at the Tuam site.

Over the past four years researching the Tuam mother and baby home, Mr Higgins has looked at the role of the home’s Chief Medical Officer, from when it opened in 1925 until 1950, Dr Thomas Bodkin Costello, whom Mr Higgins describes as a “local worthy, doctor, enthusiastic antiquarian and by popular acclaim, all-round ‘good egg'”.

Dr Costello was a physician to institutions such as the Royal Irish Constabulary, the Post Office and later the Civic Guard (An Garda Siochana) of the Irish Free State. He was elected President of the Old Tuam Society, a member of the Royal Irish Academy and the National Museum of Ireland has items from his personal collection. He was married to Senator Eileen Costello.

He was also friends with the first president of the Irish Free State and founder of the Gaelic League Douglas Hyde, and poet WB Yeats.

Mr Higgins found, of the 796 death certificates related to Tuam, which say starvation or marasmus is the certified cause of death in 14 cases, only two inquests are recorded – one in 1925 and another in 1928.

He also found there were only three post-mortem examinations – one in 1926, another in 1927 and a third in 1952, with the latter taking place after Dr Costello’s retirement.

Mr Higgins also found there is no evidence of Dr Costello having attended a single birth or death of a child at the home.

In a a heavily-researched piece outlining some of his research, Mr Higgins writes:

Dr Costello belonged to comfortable and deeply conservative Catholic middle class, which redirected Irish Nationalism in the years after 1916.

By the time the Irish Free State came into being, the revolutionaries, poets and dreamers were largely dead or quite literally outlawed and supressed with a ferocity that matched anything British imperialism had inflicted on the Irish populace.

What is chilling however, is Dr Costello’s statement during his time as medical attendant to the Tuam Home in giving his professional opinion, that there was nothing unusual in half of all children dying before the age of five.

From the very beginning the members of the “Local Board” which funded the Tuam Home were every bit as exercised as the Poor Law Guardians of the Workhouse had been about the cost of keeping children barely alive.

The Connacht Tribune report of October 13th 1928 captures the outrage of Board members at the cost of maintaining children in the Home and their almost apoplectic spasm at the cost to the State at keeping them alive until the age of fifteen when ‘boarded out’.

Luckily Dr Costello was available to provide reassurance that the children of the Home would not be such a burden on the public purse. The published report records him telling the members that it was the international norm that half of all children worldwide died before the age of five.

It may have been the case that Dr Costello was a little out of touch or simply complacent that the death rate among the Tuam children was during some periods, merely four or five times that of the national average. Whatever his reasoning, Dr Costello clearly did not have extravagant expectations for the children under his care.

Dr Thomas Bodkin Costello whatever his personal virtues and talents exhibited an appalling degree of indifference in respect of the death toll in the Home, though in fairness to him there is no evidence that there was even a ripple at the level of any office in local or national government at the evidence that children were certified as dying from starvation, or that it led to any intervention.

However, what emerges from even a cursory examination of the 796 Death Certificates for the children of the Home is very worrying. Where the specific causes of death are clustered and attributed to something such as measles they must be regarded as credible. Being highly contagious and at a time when treatment was poor, this is not unduly surprising.

Many of the apologist explanations for the death toll in Tuam point out that babies and infants were accommodated in poor and crowded conditions not uncommon at the time, where illnesses such a whooping cough virus could have been expected to run amok.

The “Home” did not provide for quarantine or isolation but let ‘nature’ take its course. Deaths from whooping cough are recorded at intervals in some small clusters, The incubation period of whooping cough is generally seven to ten days and we can agree that Dr Costello may have then correctly identified it, despite the fact that it occurs without fever or inflammation. There are secondary and third phases, to this historic killer, the last being one of recovery if the patient survives.

What jars is the certification of death on the same day of two young girls both described as four-and-a-half-years old (in an institution where over 79% of children did not survive to one year), almost certainly unvaccinated and having allegedly lingered with whooping cough for eight weeks.

Had they survived, the recuperation period could certainly have taken that time, but they did not and having reached the third stage, they would not have died from it. It may be some consolation to think that both are enjoying retirement in some sunny American state as a result of the child-trafficking business conducted by the Bon Secours, or not.

From the 5 of April 1926 to 30 April 1926 measles is recorded as taking the lives of eighteen children, some undoubtedly because they were unnecessarily exposed to the sickness that killed them. The dreadful practice of allowing children with communicable sicknesses to remain in unsegregated wards continued for decades and undoubtedly caused many further deaths. There is no evidence however to suggest that measles could not have taken such a toll.

What is a little surprising is the length of time Dr Costello appears to state that a child suffered from measles before succumbing to it. It is difficult to accept that a young infant could have fought measles for ten weeks before dying. It simply flies in the face of general medical knowledge.

While it raises another issue, the period which frequently elapsed between the date on which a child was said to have died and the date of registration of their deaths by the local Civil Registrar was well beyond the norm.

This among other factors raises an inference that the signing of Medical Certificates certifying cause of death was often done some considerable time after the fact of death, on information later supplied to Dr Costello, rather than on foot of his attendance and treatment of a child prior to, or at the time of death.

Prior to the examination of the half-yearly Registers, the ‘Local Board’ received no immediate notification of death, even after the enactment of the Registration of Maternity Homes Act 1934, which required it to be done within twenty-four hours.

In any such intervening period of course, the Bon Secours Order was paid a capitation fee for that child, who was deemed to be alive and in the Home. Fraud was the norm rather than the exception. This is transparently the case. Registration and the issue of a Death Certificate are often much later than the date of death. No audit, cross-referencing this documentation with the capitation fees paid to the Bon Secours was ever carried out by the State.

In writing his Medical Certificates certifying cause of death. Dr Costello could dazzle with his Latin terms: cause of death for instance varicella, which to the layman means chickenpox. Again a highly contagious disease in crowded and poor conditions.

Dr Costello however, in certifying it as the cause of one child’s death, seems to suggest that it lasted up to five months, before finally taking its life. It did not.

A child is certified as dying from sub-cutaneous abscesses almost half a century after it was practice to successfully drain such abscesses by means of one of the earlier versions of the Penrose-drain.

One slightly surprising aspect of the Tuam records is the lack of a single reference to polio or poliomyelitis as Dr Costello would undoubtedly have called it. The deplorable and unhygienic conditions endured by children in Tuam might have been a breeding ground for this awful disease. But perhaps it did not register on Dr Costello’s radar.

The first polio vaccine was not introduced to Ireland until 1957 delivered orally to children on a sugar lump. Whether any children of the Tuam home ever received it prior to its closure in 1961 in uncertain, but not a single death is recorded over thirty-six years.

The number of Death Certificates however, in which meningitis is given as either as the cause or contributory factor in a death, suggests that he may not have recognised instances of polio; meningitis frequently being caused by the onset of polio.

The outbreaks of polio in Ireland which are recorded during the period in which the Home operated, did cause significant loss of life (and indeed severe incapacity in later life for those who survived). It is a little surprising that an environment such as Tuam should have escaped.

What is indisputable is that the unfortunate children in the Tuam Home received medical care at a standard well below that received by the general population and even further below that received by those who had the means to purchase decent care. What is also clear is that the causes of death on the alleged Medical Certificates are themselves suspect.

A much favoured explanation of the cause of death by Dr Costello as the Certificates show was debility. It is stated to be the main or contributory cause in the deaths of 193 of the 796 or some 25% of the children registered as dying in the Home.

The figure of 193 is provided by the Report of the Inter-Departmental Committee Report of July 16 2014, published in the wake of public concern over revelations about Tuam.

In systematically going through the deaths registered from such a cause it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that this was little more than a label of convenience used to explain the deaths of so many children.

If we add to the numbers of those certified to have perished from ‘debility’ to those whose deaths are attributed to their being ‘congenital idiots’ and those certified as dying from starvation we arrive at a total of 221 deaths out of recorded 796 deaths.

There will be resentment in some quarters at this unflattering examination of a doctor who was such a significant figure in Tuam and somewhat iconic figure in Irish cultural circles and polite society. It might be said that such an appraisal is made with hindsight, unfairly and without regard to the realities of the time. Not true.

Read Mr Higgins‘ research in full here

Thanks Kevin

Pics: Donal O’Keefe/Wikiemedia


From top: Minister for Children Affairs Katherine Zappone; Tuam; Options from the Expert Technical Group

This afternoon.

Following a leak in this morning’s Irish Times, The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone has published the Report of the Expert Technical Group (ETG) into the mass grave found at the former Mother and Baby Home, Tuam, Co. Galway.

Minister Zappone said.

“The Report identifies five possible options [see above] for managing the site and appropriately responding to the discovery of infant remains interred at this location.

The Report will now be shared widely and Galway County Council will facilitate a structured consultation process with a strong focus around Tuam.

“I want to ensure that whatever action is taken respects the memory and dignity of those who are buried there and takes account of the concerns and wishes of all who are affected, whether as former residents of thehome, relatives of those who may be buried there, or as local residents who live near the site”

Zappone urges cooperation on future of Tuam site (RTÉ)

Rollingnews

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Conall Ó Fátharta, of The Irish Examiner

It’s been almost two years since Conall Ó Fátharta first reported in The Irish Examiner that, two years before historian Catherine Corless raised fears about the Tuam mother and baby home in Co Galway, a HSE West social worker, in 2012, had expressed concerns that up to 1,000 children may have been trafficked to the US from the home.

The social worker came to the conclusion after she examined both the Tuam and Bessborough mother and baby homes while preparing material for the Magdalene laundries inquiry, led by then Senator Martin McAleese – material which was not included in the McAleese report.

Readers should note Fine Gael’s Dr James Reilly was the Minister for Health at the time, while Phoenix magazine has previously reported Dr Reilly paid The Communications Clinic nearly  €60,000 between 2012 and 2014  – out of an Oireachtas fund, called the Special Secretarial Allowance (SSA).

Further to this.

Yesterday.

On RTÉ’s This Week.

Presenter Conor Brophy spoke to Ó Fátharta about his research and asked what, if any, action was taken after the HSE social worker raised her concerns back in 2012.

Conor Brophy: “In 2012, the HSE had examined both the Tuam mother and baby home and Bessborough in Cork as part of the Magdalene laundries inquiry [by then Senator Martin McAleese]. It’s findings in relation to high mortality rates at both homes, as well as trafficking of up to 1,000 children from Tuam for adoption were described by officials as ‘shocking’ and ‘staggering’. The HSE recommended a fully fledged, a fully resourced investigation and a State inquiry be established.”

Later

Brophy: “Where did the reports go and what action, if any, was taken after this?

Conall Ó Fátharta: “Well that’s where you run into… it’s difficult to understand, first of all, why nothing was done. I suppose, the answer that I’ve gotten from the departments, while they initially said they hadn’t seen it, they then said that the important thing to note was that this was outside the terms of reference of the McAleese committee. It was specifically examining… Magdalene laundries and that any issues surrounding mother and baby homes, and any validated findings of concerns, I think was the wording they used, should be reported through a separate process. But to me, to my mind, it’s pretty clear that they were being reported. I mean, the wording was clear – ‘this needs to be looked at further’. You get the sense that they had only scratched the surface and the reason they were raising this at senior levels was because they felt, you know, someone needs to look at this, they need to look at it forensically. Again, the defence has always been that, you know, the McAleese committee wasn’t really tasked with this, somebody else needs to look at it, at a later date.”

“But as I’ve always said, and I’ve said it in innumerable pieces, the line that was thrown at me was kind of that, the findings, in particular in relation to the Bessborough report, were a matter of conjecture, which is a sentence that the author of that report does use but not in relation to infant mortality, and uses it in the context of ‘well, look, this is what I’m seeing, these are the concerns that come out of it, when you examine this documentation, and these are all conjecture, until somebody has a look and sees are my suspicions founded’. That’s the context of that wording. What you can’t deny is that the death rate figures are coming directly from a register and if the work of Catherine Corless, which is fantastic, was enough to launch a State inquiry, it seems beyond me why figures held by the HSE themselves, taken directly from the order, weren’t worthy of that same level of interest two years earlier.”

Brophy: “What, for you then, are the key questions now?”

Ó Fátharta: “They key questions, we’re probably trying to answer them now. My point has always been, we could be a bit further down the track with all of this. If the concerns raised about Tuam and Bessborough had been noted when they were reported in 2012, we could be at the end of a State inquiry into mother and baby homes. Who knows? We have to hope that the commission is now going to, it does seem like it’s going to broaden the scope a bit, more than Tuam. It’s clear that the same concerns that we’ve now found in Tuam were noted in other institutions. The figures are there. The records are there. So, it’s a matter of spreading the net a bit wider and looking at other institutions which it does seem like they’re going to do but, I suppose, we could be a little further down the track if the right people had been listened to back in 2012.”

Brophy: “That’s journalist Conall Ó Fátharta speaking to me earlier. Now, in addition to asking for a spokesperson from the HSE to join us, we submitted a list of questions to the HSE this weekend. Specifically, they were related to what, if any, notification was provided to the minister [for health, Dr James Reilly] back in 2012 and what steps were taken to investigate the findings contained in its own internal documents at the time. The HSE wasn’t in a position to provide us with a spokesperson. In a statement, the HSE said it was liaising with the mother and baby homes commission in relation to the disclosure of all documentation relevant to the commission’s work.”

Listen back in full here

SPECIAL INVESTIGATION: Government already knew of baby deaths (June 3, 2015, Irish Examiner)

Related: ‘The Irish Martin Sixsmith’ Episode 56 with Conall O Fatharta (YouTube)

Previously: Open The Files

Meanwhile, In Tuam

Pic: YouTube

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This morning.

In the Dáil.

Before deputies made statements about the confirmation last week that human remains have been found at the site of the former mother and baby home, run by the Bon Secours order, in Tuam, Co Galway.

The Minister for Children Katherine Zappone told the Dáil that, by the end of the months, she will publish an interim report that the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes gave her last September.

She also said a scoping exercise will be carried out to examine calls for an expansion of the commission’s terms of reference “to cover all institutions, agencies and individuals that were involved with Ireland’s unmarried mothers and their children.”

 

From Ms Zappone’s speech:

Experience tells us it can take time to shine a light on dark periods of our history. The truth is hidden. Sometimes hidden in plain sight.

It takes the brave testimony of survivors, long studies by historians and the dogged determination of investigative journalists to bring a spotlight to events which were previously only whispered about – in this case for generations.

It is now almost a week since the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes confirmed what we had all feared.

Today I wish to place on the record of this House the Commission’s update that significant number of human remains are buried in the site of the old Mother and Baby Home in Tuam.

For survivors, loved ones and campaigners such as the tireless Catherine Corless it was a moment of vindication. After decades and years of hard work, determination and unwavering commitment the truth has been laid bare for us all to see.

This House, and our entire state, owes a debt of gratitude to Catherine Corless for her work.

Many men and women alive today spent time in that institution, either as children or as young women. Today I offer them my personal solidarity and, as a citizen, my personal apology for the wrongs that were done to them.

Deputies will know that the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes continues its work.

You will also know that cases have been made that the terms of reference of this Commission should be reviewed.

I want to acknowledge the calls made since Friday for an expansion of the Terms of Reference to cover all institutions, agencies and individuals that were involved with Ireland’s unmarried mothers and their children.

I can commit to Deputies that a scoping exercise will be carried out to examine this. As Minister I will be announcing the detail of this exercise in the coming weeks. As Minister I will also be publishing the second interim report of the Commission by the end of this month.

I am also mindful that by design the Commission is largely concerned with questions of legality; of legal liability, of compliance with the laws of the day and so on.
These are important questions.

They are however not the only issues which we should consider.

What happened in Tuam is part of a larger picture.

Part of a tapestry of oppression, abuse, and systematic human rights violations that took place all over this country for decades.

As a modern open society we must not treat these as isolated incidents but rather confront what was a dark period in an honest, mature and reflective way. We must acknowledge that what was happening in these institutions was not unknown. We must acknowledge that what was happening in these institutions was not without the support of many pillars in society.

We must acknowledge that this very House debated legislation that allowed for those residing in institutions such as County Homes to work for little or nothing in return for the so-called charity that was shown to them.

Lest we contend that people did not know what was happening, let us remember that some members of this House spoke out against it.

In the Finance Committee debates on the Health Bill 1952, which took place in July 1953, Deputy Kyne condemned putting unmarried mothers in county homes to effectively involuntary labour as “having revenge on her”.

While Deputy Captain Cowan described as “absolute brutality” the fact, as he described it, that “They are not let out even”.

Earlier than that — before our Constitution had been finalised — members of the Oireachtas also raised questions about the ill-treatment of so-called illegitimate children.

Thus, as I said, this history may be dark, but it was not entirely unknown. We must acknowledge that sometimes it was fathers and mothers, brothers and uncles, who condemned their daughters, sisters, nieces and cousins and their children to these institutions.

And that sometimes it was not.

We must accept that between 1940 and 1965 a recorded 474 so-called “unclaimed infant remains” were transferred from Mother and Baby Homes to medical schools in Irish universities.

We must listen to, record, and honour the truth of people’s experiences. We must commit to the best of our ability to recognising, recording and making reparations for the truth.

Making these commitments and honouring them will not be easy. But we must – for those who suffered and also for future generations.

Establishing the truth is important for many reasons – but not least to ensure that the darkness of the past will not return in the future.

Irish women and Irish children must never have to endure such suffering again. As a feminist, as an Independent Minister and as an Irish woman I feel a moral and ethical compulsion to reach beyond the legal questions of what happened in Tuam and elsewhere.

That compulsion is driven to try to arrive at this truth. For it is only from acceptance of the truth that we can move past it; not by drawing a line under it, but by highlighting it.

By recognising it as part of our history and part of our national story.

By commemorating and memorialising it.

By honouring its victims.

By recognising the part that individuals, communities and institutions played in it.

By making sure that, while we still have time, we look to those who are still alive and accept their accounts of what was done to them, and of the wrongness of that. In the coming days, as Minister, I will start a conversation with advocates, with historians and scholars specialising in transitional justice.

The United Nations defines transitional justice as the set of approaches a society uses ‘to try to come to terms with a range of large scale past abuses’. Transitional justice puts survivors and victims at the heart of the process. It commits to pursuing justice through truth.

It aims to achieve not only individual justice, but a wider societal transition from more repressive times, to move from one era to another.

Taking a transitional justice approach means that we will find out and record the truth, ensure accountability, make reparation, undertake institutional reform, and achieve reconciliation.

In doing this I want to acknowledge the many people who have contacted me personally in recent days to tell me directly of their experiences. It is important to also ensure that we learn from international best practice in transitional justice, such as the Museums of Memory in Argentina and Chile, for example.

There may also be lessons to be learned from processes used to establish the truth in other contexts and other countries.

Writing about the Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, as well as other matters, in the London Review of Books last year, our Laureate for Irish Fiction, Anne Enright, said: “The living can be disbelieved, dismissed, but the dead do not lie. We turn in death from witness to evidence, and this evidence is indelible, because it is mute”.

Let us not disbelieve; let us not dismiss.

Let us commit to do justice not solely through law, but through speaking and listening, and through believing what our eyes, our ears what our compatriots tell us.

Transcript via Katherine Zappone

Yesterday: What’s In It That’s So Frightening?

Screen grab

This morning.

Social Democrat co-leader Catherine Murphy (top) called for, among other things, the removal of the Angelus from RTÉ. The comments were made during Dail statements on the Announcement by the Commission of Investigation confirming Human Remains on the Site of the former Tuam Mother and Baby home.

Ms Murphy said:

“When I first raised this issue in this House back in 2014 following my reading of Catherine Corless’s research I called at the time for the site at Tuam to immediately be declared a crime scene with Gardaí, crime scene techs, forensic anthropologists and anything else needed to establish the exact details of this atrocity.

And make no mistake, it was and is an atrocity. A mass grave of 796 tiny bodies, discarded like trash.

I listened to the Taoiseach’s speech yesterday about the culpability of the State and society. But the State- for the vast majority of time since it’s foundation the State itself was Fine Gael and or Fianna Fáil.

They were the ones who presided over debates in the chamber which referred to children born outside marriage in the most disparaging and disgusting terms and who wilfully handed over their responsibility for these women and children to a Church and they knew to be merciless at best.

So when we talk about the culpability of the State and Society, know that it was not Joe & Josephine Soap who condemned these women to a life of shame and the murder or export of their children, it was the Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael led State and their complete abdication of responsibility while being fully aware of the life they were consigning those women and children to.

The attitudes which prevailed were perpetuated by every arm of the state – the guards, the medical profession and the political system thus allowing the church to run free with their campaign of terror and castigating women for some perceived sin.

How utterly and tragically ironic that those same nuns who labelled those women as immoral, saw nothing immoral about neglecting a child to the point of death then disposing of their body in a septic tank.

And this is not the dark ages we’re talking about. The legacy of these acts are current or just one generation removed. The relatives of these women and children are still alive.

In 1995 when children playing on the site discovered skulls, it was not the police who were called for, it was a priest. He was called to bless the site then everybody went about their business as usual. The State once again turned a blind eye.

The horrors of the mother and baby homes cannot be properly put into words. The rumours of clinical drug trials have not been properly addressed and there was enough evidence of such trials in Tuam for the then Minister Kathleen Lynch to call for the Terms of Reference to include vaccine trials as part of the inquiry.

That didn’t happen and instead the terms referred to the ‘care arrangements including institutional practice with regard to health, safety, welfare and interests of mothers and children.’ It is not clear if possible vaccine trials were included.

A man from the area spoke to me recently of playing on the site and discovering hundreds of used vials buried in the grounds. And as we are all too painfully aware, such barbaric trials were not uncommon in other mother and baby homes.

So while there is now a collective wringing of hands – 2 years after it was first suggested publicly that there may be a mass grave in Tuam – the fact remains that the horrors of Tuam and other mother and baby homes existed because the State permitted the Church to control some of our most fundamental institutions and the sad fact is that not much has changed today.

We have got to take the Church from our schools, from our hospitals and medical care and from our politics. It is unacceptable that children are regularly discriminated against in our education system based on religion,

it is unacceptable that religious orders can hold any influence over medical institutions and the healthcare provided particularly to women; and it is unacceptable that the Dáil opens up every day with a prayer that is not representative of all elected members or citizens; and it is unacceptable that our national broadcaster, funded by the State, subjects citizens of all faiths and none to the angelus bells twice daily.”

These are relics of a bygone era and if Tuam has shown us anything it is this – the State must take responsibility for its citizens and the Church has no legitimacy in the healthcare or education of those citizens.”

Yesterday: What’s In It That’s So Frightening?