Diarmuid Martin wants full investigation of mother and baby homes

Catherine Corless welcomes comments on Tuam home by Archbishop Michael Neary

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin: “Everything must be done to enable the truth to emerge.”  Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin: “Everything must be done to enable the truth to emerge.” Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill


Archbishop of Dublin Dr Diarmuid Martin has said “everything must be done to enable the truth to emerge” about the treatment of children and mothers in church-run institutions in Ireland.

The sad facts “once again” emerging over such treatment challenges the church to a “deep self-examination and repentance” and “is not something that can be wallpapered over or interpreted by clever spindoctors”, Dr Martin said.

In his homily delivered at St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral in Dublin on Sunday evening just over a week after confirmation of “significant” infant remains at the former Bon Secours home in Tuam, Dr Martin urged full investigation of practices at the time.

“When an institution becomes trapped within its own self-interest, inevitably there will be those who begin to think that they can act as they wish and can even think and claim that, in doing things as they wish, they are doing the work of the Lord,” he said.

“Everything must be done to enable the truth to emerge. We must confess the role of the church in the building up of a culture which failed to recognise the presence of Jesus in the smallest and the weakest.”

Institutional care

In his second homily on the issue at the weekend, Archbishop of Tuam Dr Michael Neary called for an inquiry into “all aspects of life” during the time when unmarried mothers and their children were placed in institutional care.

This inquiry should broaden the focus from one particular religious congregation and instead address “the roles and inter-relationships between church, State, local authorities and society generally”, he said in a homily preached for the feast of St Aengus in Tuam cathedral on Saturday evening.

“I wish to again apologise for the hurt caused by the failings of the church as part of that time and society when, instead of being cherished, particular children and their mothers were not welcomed, they were not wanted and they were not loved,” he said.

He also said the use of “highly charged emotive language” in the past week, while “understandable”, could be “counter-productive”.

The archbishop, who last week said he was “horrified and saddened” at the confirmation that “significant” remains were found in Tuam, said it was “now timely” that “this dimension of our social history be addressed and thoroughly examined”.

Death certificates

Local historian Catherine Corless, who obtained death certificates for almost 800 children who were in the Tuam home between 1925 and 1961, welcomed Dr Neary’s statement as “opening the door”.

“Up to now the archdiocese had been saying it had nothing to do with it, but this is an admission that church and State were involved,” Ms Corless said.

Ms Corless believes exhumation and reinterment of remains should take place in Tuam and says there should be further archaeological investigation to determine further burial sites.

She believes there may be burials on the site of a children’s playground, built by Galway County Council for estates constructed on the site of the old home from the 1970s.

Ms Corless also confirmed that since her research became public in 2014, donations from abroad for plaques dedicated to children who died in the Tuam home had amounted to almost €40,000.

This had been deposited in a bank account, pending the results of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Babies Homes in relation to Tuam, she said. The plaques had already been made and paid for and the balance may be used for a remembrance garden, she said.

Last week, Minister for Children Katherine Zappone told the Dáil she would carry out a scoping exercise on widening the commission’s brief to cover all institutions, agencies and individuals that were involved with Ireland’s unmarried mothers and their children.

The commission’s terms of reference currently cover 14 mother and baby homes and four county homes.