Pope has not yet replied to mother-and-baby home memo, Zappone says

Minister says memo to Government ‘in coming weeks’ on what do next about Tuam site

Pope Francis shaking hands with Katherine Zappone, at Aras an Uachtarain as part of his visit to Ireland in August. Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

Pope Francis shaking hands with Katherine Zappone, at Aras an Uachtarain as part of his visit to Ireland in August. Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

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The Government has not yet received a reply from Pope Francis to a request that the Catholic Church contribute to the cost of reparation at the former mother and baby home in Tuam.

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone spoke to the pope about the matter during his visit to Ireland last month and gave him a memo which provided detail about the discovery of children’s remains at the site in Tuam.

Sinn Féin’s Denise Mitchell asked the Minister in the Dáil if she had received any response from the pope or his officials on the subject of mother and baby homes. At the time the Minister was accused of engaging in a “publicity stunt”.

Ms Zappone said she was “still awaiting a reply” and reiterated her view that the church should contribute significantly to whatever decision the Government made in relation to the future of the Tuam site.

She repeated her belief that the church’s contribution “should be done willingly, unconditionally and quickly”.

The Tuam Home Survivors Network also accused Ms Zappone of being responsible for a “dishonest exercise” over the future of the former home site which, it says, has delayed exhumation of bodies and “prolonged the agony of survivors”.

Ms Zappone told Fianna Fáil spokeswoman on children Anne Rabbitte that she hoped to bring a memo to Government “within the coming weeks” to make decision about what to do next at the Tuam site.

Former residents favour complete exhumation and identification of the remains, one of five options being considered, which also include retention of the site as a memorial to those who died there.

Counselling

Ms Rabbitte questioned the Minister on the provision of counselling services for former residents. Ms Zappone said it was a key concern and she agreed that “in general, yes of course we should do it but what’s the best way”.

Counselling was one of the primary issues the collaborative forum of former residents was looking at and she expected to have a report within six months.

Independent TD Maureen O’Sullivan said there was a need to process issues “in a much more speedy fashion” and she expressed concern of a “kick to touch exercise” that would not get to the nub of what was required because there was disappointment with the interim report “with the lack of information”.

Ms Zappone pointed out that it took time to “establish and select a fully representative group of people for a collaborative forum” of former residents.

She said she understood the need for speed. “I personally am committed to move as quickly as we can.”

She said the commission established following the discovery early last year of the remains at Tuam, would issue its final reports in early February next year.

The extra time it received to complete its work it was using to listen to former residents of the home. She understood they were eagerly awaiting a response and she had initiated a number of processes including the collaborative forum so that “former residents can directly engage on issues of concern”.

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