‘This is about the kind of country Ireland was where women were the focus of shame’

Mother and baby homes issue cast a shadow over Dáil proceedings

‘All to do with an Ireland past, of course. We’re much more tolerant now. Enda pulled out all the stops in the Dáil. In fairness, he’s damn good at this. He oozes compassion and understanding.’

‘All to do with an Ireland past, of course. We’re much more tolerant now. Enda pulled out all the stops in the Dáil. In fairness, he’s damn good at this. He oozes compassion and understanding.’

Wed, Jun 11, 2014, 08:42

The publication of the Cooke report should have taken our minds off the Tuam babies story, but it didn’t. After the furore caused by the allegations surrounding alleged bugging of the Garda Ombudsman office by persons unknown, the arrival of the report into the affair was met with tired indifference around Leinster House. Although the government is happy, as Mr Justice Cooke concluded the evidence did not support the proposition. Some in South Dublin (or perhaps further afield, if he’s had enough of Kildare Street for the present) like Alan Shatter was probably allowing himself a rueful smile.

Sometimes, a ball of smoke is just that – a ball of smoke. Is it case closed? It would seem to be, unless GSOC or the Sunday Times or Verrimus (the interntional security company which carried out the examination of GSOC premises which gave rise to suspicion in the first place) can say otherwise.

But the day was really about the terrible history of Ireland’s mother and baby homes. All to do with an Ireland past, of course. We’re much more tolerant now. Enda pulled out all the stops in the Dáil. In fairness, he’s damn good at this. He oozes compassion and understanding. He can gather up a nation’s pain and soothe it with just the right amount of sadness, contrition and anger. A good deal of this is down to language. The Taoiseach casts out lines which catch the heart and sum up what most of us have been feeling. With lyrical bluntness, he holds the shameful deeds of a shared past up to the light and we publicly acknowledge our disgrace. For the first couple of times, the evocative phrases and skilful honesty really struck home. That emotional eloquence was on show again in the Dáil yesterday. But this time, we were kinda expecting it. Which somewhat took the shine off the latest performance.

Perhaps this is unfair to Enda. Nobody would question his sincerity in moving to unearth the truth behind the festering story of what happened to women and infants in Mother and Baby Homes during very dark chapters of Irish history. It’s just that one could detect a certain tiredness in some quarters of the chamber.

The Taoiseach was showered with praise for his passionate speech in the wake on the publication of The Cloyne Report, when he spoke of the report showing “the dysfunction, the disconnection, the elitism that dominates the Vatican today” and blasted the church for its treatment of victims of clerical sexual abuse. And who can forget his wonderful speech when, with the Magdalene laundry women watching from the public gallery, he tearfully apologised on behalf of the nation for the suffering forced upon them by a callous and uncaring state. Just over a year ago, those elderly women left Leinster House walking on air, hand in hand, singing. But today, many have yet to benefit from the great promises made to them.