Local authorities ‘intrinsically involved’ in mother and baby homes fees – Minister
Greens Senator expects ‘full apology’ from Galway council over Tuam home use
Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman acknowledged that some elements of the commission of investigation’s report into the mother and baby homes are a ‘disappointment’ to survivors. Photograph: Julien Behal Photography/PA Wire
Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman has said he hopes local authorities will apologise for their roles and lack of action in addressing the abuse in mother and baby homes and county homes.
Green Party Senator Pauline O’Reilly said she expected Galway County Council to make a “full apology” at its next council meeting on January 25th and to state how it will attempt to make amends for holding meetings in the grounds of the Tuam mother and babies home.
Ms O’Reilly told the Seanad that “no one can tell me that those politicians did not know of the appalling conditions”.
Speaking during a debate on the report of the Commission of Investigation into mother and baby homes, she said the report shows that the high death rates were known. I expect the same of other councils, particularly Westmeath County Council.”
Mr O’Gorman said the outline of information and tracing legislation would be ready by the end of March or early April.
He also acknowledged that some elements of the commission of investigation’s report into the mother and baby homes are a “disappointment” to survivors, with sections where a “strictly legalistic approach is taken to describing the profoundly personal impacts”.
That was why the chapter on the confidential committee stands out “as an unambiguous statement of the suffering of mothers and children” and as a “clear articulation of the repeated failures of Church and State”.
Mr O’Gorman said many of the local authorities were “intrinsically involved in the payment of the fees for these homes”. An apology from Galway County Council “is very appropriate” and he hoped other councils would adopt that approach.
He said that when the restorative recognition scheme is set up it is of “absolute importance” that they do not repeat the mistakes of previous schemes.
He has written to the congregations and charities about the need for apology, contribution to the redress scheme and access to records. “It is important that we bring those records into State control as part of the national archive we’re seeking to create.”
A sample of four county homes were investigated by the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes. It found the local authority-owned homes, including Tuam , had “appalling physical conditions”.
Independent Senator Victory Boyhan appealed to the Minister not to impose a gagging order on recipients of whatever redress scheme is put in place.
In the debate Mr Boyhan spoke of his personal experience of growing up in institutional care. He said that “if there were horror stories in the mother and baby homes, there were even greater horror stories in the long-term residential care homes”.
The 59-year-old Senator said the commission “did not investigate the number of institutions I lived in, which were owned by the same group”.
He said “I am Church of Ireland by birth, heritage and choice so it is very important to say that it was not always the Catholic Church, the priest or the nun”.
The Dún Laoghaire politician highlighted some “glaring lines” in the report and the county home in Thomastown, Co Kilkenny, where 58 infants were sleeping in 32 cots.
He quoted the commission’s comments that it had not heard direct evidence of abuse in county homes but was aware that “sleeping arrangements were often inherently unsafe particularly for boys who often slept in adult wards and sometimes in the same bed as an adult”.
Mr Boyhan said: “Do not tell me that is not abuse. Do not tell me that does not leave children exposed to all sorts of problems.”
He also said he was subject to drug trials carried out by the Wellcome Foundation and said the two pharmaceutical companies involved should make significant contributions to the restitution fund.
Independent Ronan Mullen suggested there should be some kind of national voluntary collection to contribute a social and family dimension to the redress. “Most of us are connected to families where this kind of thing happened and we do need personally to take some kind of responsibility for the past instead of just demonising our ancestors”.
Labour Seanad leader Ivana Bacik who has published the party’s own adoption and tracing legislation called for a review of the language in the commission’s report which “directly contradicts” some of the findings in the executive summary which is “very problematic”.
‘Cold and callous’
Seanad leader Regina Doherty who had called for the language of the report to be reviewed and described it as “cold and callous” said the full testimony of the more than 500 people who gave evidence to the commission should be set out separately and published alongside the report and as a permanent record.
Sinn Féin Senator Lynn Boylan said the legislation to excavate burial grounds should include all 182 identifiable institutions should be investigated for mass burial sites.
She said there should be no room for religious congregations to “abscond” from their duty to contribute to the fund “even if it means shaking them by their ankles until their pockets are empty”.
Independent Senator Lynn Ruane said the Taoiseach’s apology last week “further contributed to a culture of blame by unfairly placing the blame on society, on families and even the women themselves”.
She could not understand how a report into the institutions that found so much evidence of abuse “and yet so little fault”.
Fianna Fáil Senator Erin McGreehan who condemned the leaking of the report said she had asked the Oireachtas Committee on Children to invite the commission chairwoman to attend the committee to discuss the report.