Tuam historian welcomes appointment of Judge Murphy to head inquiry

Local committee intends to build memorial garden and wall for babies and children who died in Bon Secours home in north Galway town

Local historian Catherine Corless at the site of a mass grave for children who died in the Tuam mother and baby home. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

Local historian Catherine Corless at the site of a mass grave for children who died in the Tuam mother and baby home. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

Thu, Jul 17, 2014, 01:03

The Co Galway historian who researched the deaths of almost 800 infants and children in the Bon Secours home in Tuam from the 1920s to 1961 has welcomed the appointment of Judge Yvonne Murphy to head the Government’s commission of investigation into mother and baby homes.

Catherine Corless said the selection of Judge Murphy was a positive step, and her group would await with interest the publication by Minister for Children James Reilly of the commission’s terms of reference

Ms Corless, who emphasised that she was not a campaigner, but was keen to establish the truth, said that she had made a submission in a personal capacity to the Department of Children and Youth Affairs after the statutory commission was first announced by former minister for children Charlie Flanagan last month.

Full inquiry

“I asked that all unmarked graves be recognised in all mother and baby homes across the State, and that files be released on people who were adopted as part of a full inquiry of all such institutions,” Ms Corless told The Irish Times.

Ms Corless and fellow members of a local committee intend to proceed with plans for a memorial garden for the 796 infants and children recorded as having died in the Tuam home between 1925 and 1961.

The committee has raised almost €35,000 of an estimated €50,000 required to construct the garden, designed by Melissa Hopkins, along with a memorial wall, which will carry the names of the children who died.

The location will be on the grounds of the former home.

Ms Corless said that while the initial media interest had been difficult, the result had been to put pressure on the Government to act on the issue.

“I had expected a lot of negativity, but I have experienced a lot of gratitude from many people who knew and remembered these children or who were searching for records, and that includes requests from the US,” she said.

“It has been a kind of therapy for people who were hurt and it is allowing for healing.”

Apart from the Bon Secours home in Tuam, many organisations and institutions ran homes for unmarried mothers, some with State support and some with private funding.

Family agency

Last month, the Túsla Child and Family Agency confirmed that records for the mother and baby homes at Tuam, Bessborough in Cork and St Patrick’s, Navan Road, Dublin, were transferred to it.

Its chief executive, Gordon Jeyes, said the agency’s key priority was to “ensure that these confidential records were available, in the first instance, to the individuals whose personal information is contained within”.

“Our staff will willingly assist with and contribute to any State investigations that may arise,” he said.

The information contained in the files with Túsla includes: admissions and discharges; maternity registers; records of children boarded out or adopted; and quarterly statistical returns to local authorities.

The Child and Family Agency has an adoption tracing service for institutions for which it holds records, which are listed on its website.