Mother and baby inquiry to go beyond Tuam - Flanagan

Religious congregations who ran facilities welcome plan for Government investigation

A Government inquiry into the mother and baby homes will not be confined to St Mary’s in Tuam, Minister for Children Charlie Flanagan has said. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

A Government inquiry into the mother and baby homes will not be confined to St Mary’s in Tuam, Minister for Children Charlie Flanagan has said. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Thu, Jun 5, 2014, 19:48

A Government inquiry into the mother and baby homes will not be confined to St Mary’s in Tuam, Minister for Children Charlie Flanagan has said.

“Tuam was not unique in Ireland as a mother and baby home. Mother and baby homes were not unique in Ireland as cold and brutal places of refuge from an unforgiving society,” he said in a statement this afternoon.

It was expected that officials will advise the Government on the best form of inquiry “before the end of the month”, he said.

“The history of mother and baby homes in Ireland in the early and middle decades of the 20th century reflects a brutally unforgiving response by society, religious and State institutions and, in many cases, families, to young women and children when they were in most need and most vulnerable,” he said. “It is fully recognised by me and my Government colleagues that we need to establish the truth,” he said.

Officials from the Department of Justice and Equality, the Department of Health, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, the Department of Education and Skills and the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government met today to discuss issues related to the mother and baby homes and on the form of inquiry they will propose to the Government.

The Taoiseach said this evening he has asked Mr Flanagan to draw together a number of senior officials from across departments to deal with the issue.

Speaking on the matter at a jobs announcement at the head office of computer manufacturer Hewlett Packard in Palo Alto, California, on his three-day trade mission to Silicon Valley, he said:

“I have asked Minister Flanagan to draw together a number of senior officials from across the departments until we see what the scale of it is, what’s involved here and whether this is isolated, or whether there are others around the country that need to be looked at.

“It is to decide what is the best thing to do in the interests of dealing with yet another element of our country’s past.

“I understand that this has been known about since 1972 and clearly the Dáil records themselves show references to inspections under the system that operated at health level way back in the 1930s - so it is an issue that we need to deal with.

“Minister Flanagan will keep Government up to date very much with what is the best structure to put in place, to look at this and if there are others in locations elsewhere around the country.”

This afternoon the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin called for “a full bodied inquiry” into mother and baby homes in Ireland and adoptions made from them. All who had responsibility for the homes should provide “full co-operation” with such an inquiry, he said.

In a statement this afternoon, he urged “those responsible for running any of the mother and baby homes in Ireland, or any other person having information about mass graves, to give that information to the authorities.” He described details of what has emerged from Tuam over recent days as “sickening”.

In separate statements this afternoon, religious congregations who ran the mother and baby homes in Ireland welcomed the Government’s actions. The Sisters of Bons Secours, who ran the Tuam home, said they welcomed “the recent Government announcement to initiate an investigation in an effort to establish the full truth of what happened.”