Pope’s letter on Tuam mother and baby home ‘more of an acknowledgment’

Varadkar’s comments come as Taoiseach is asked in Dáil about reply to Zappone letter

The site of a burial ground at the  Tuam mother and baby home in Co Galway. File photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire.

The site of a burial ground at the Tuam mother and baby home in Co Galway. File photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire.

 

A letter from Pope Francis to Minister for Children Katherine Zappone about the Tuam mother and baby home was “an acknowledgment” rather than a substantive response, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said.

The pope replied on November 13th to a letter Ms Zappone sent him in August after she met the pontiff during his visit to Dublin.

Ms Zappone wrote to him about the history of mother and baby homes in Ireland, the high mortality rates in them and the burial of children on the grounds of the former Bon Secours home in Tuam, Co Galway.

The Minister asked the pope that “the church will accept its responsibilities and make reparation for its party in a very shameful chapter of Irish history”.

Tragic chapter

In a three-paragraph response on Vatican-headed paper, dated November 13th, the pope said he was praying that “efforts made” by the Government and the Catholic Church in Ireland will help “face responsibly this tragic chapter in Ireland’s history”.

He made no reference to a financial contribution to the excavation of unidentified human remains from site of the former Tuam home.

Mr Varadkar was asked in the Dáil by Labour leader Brendan Howlin about contacts with the pope and his response to the Minister’s letter.

Mr Varadkar said “it was more of an acknowledgment, I think, than a substantive response”.

“Minister Zappone has engaged with the religious order that ran and owned Tuam and they have agreed to make a financial contribution to the excavation and also have agreed to help her on getting the commission get to the facts on what happened in that particular mother and baby home.”

The Bon Secours order offered €2.5 million towards the cost of the excavation, which it has been estimated could cost between €6 million and €13 million.