Tuam baby interim report to be published by month end, says Zappone

Minister announces ‘scoping exercise’ on expanding Tuam commission’s remit

An interim report on the Tuam baby scandal is to be published by the end of the month, Minister for Children Katherine Zappone has said.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny came under strong Opposition pressure in the Dáil on Wednesday to have the report, compiled by the commission investigating the human remains on the Galway site, published.

“After decades and years of hard work, determination and unwavering commitment the truth has been laid bare for us all to see,’’ said Ms Zappone.

LIVE: Dáil statements on the Commission of Investigation confirming Human Remains on the Site of the former Tuam Mother and Baby home.

Posted by The Irish Times on Thursday, March 9, 2017

She told the Dáil she would undertake “a scoping exercise’’ to examine expanding the commission’s terms of reference to cover all institutions, agencies and individuals involved with Ireland’s unmarried mothers and their children.


Ms Zappone said she was mindful that, by design, the commission was largely concerned with questions of legality and compliance with the laws of the day and so on. While important, they were not the only issues which should be considered, she added.

Tuam was “part of a tapestry of oppression, abuse and systematic human rights violations that took place all over this country for decades’’, she said.

She said “as a modern open society we must not treat these as isolated incidents but rather confront what was a dark period in an honest, mature and reflective way’’.

Ms Zappone paid tribute to Galway historian Catherine Corless for her "tireless'' work which led to the Tuam revelation.

She said history might be dark, but it was not entirely unknown.

“We must acknowledge that sometimes it was fathers and mothers, brothers and uncles, who condemned their daughters, sisters, nieces and cousins and their children to these institutions,’’ she added.

“And that sometimes it was not.’’

It had to be accepted, she said, that between 1940 and 1965 a recorded 474 so-called “unclaimed infant remains’’ were transferred from mother and baby homes to medical schools in Irish universities.

‘Uncivilised insult’

Fine Gael TD Fergus O'Dowd said placing the bodies of children in a sewage pit was "the supreme uncivilised insult'' that could be visited on anyone.

“Was there no voice in the church ?” Mr O’Dowd asked.

“Was there no nun, priest or bishop to speak up, to inquire into this affair or to look into this religious congregation ?’’

He said he could not believe in his heart that no nun, priest, work person or parent had asked “what the hell’’ was going on.

“Were they all mute?’’ he added. “Were they all silent ? I do not believe they would have been.’’

Mr O'Dowd said the suffering of children was continuing in a different form in the Ireland of 2017.

“Hundreds of homeless people in this city have nowhere decent to lay their heads,’’ he added. “Children are walking the streets.’’

AAA-PBP TD Mick Barry said registers showed that in the years between 1934 and 1953 deaths had occurred in the Bessborough home, in Cork, of 470 infants and 10 women.

A former chief medical officer of the State, James Deeny, had revealed in one year alone 100 of the 180 children born in the home had died.

Mr Barry said one-in-five of those who died in the 1934-1953 period had passed away because of marasmus or severe malnutrition.

He said a Bessborough survivor had told him a business decision was taken not to give babies who were buried a gravestone or white cross.

It was to insure the American visitors “buying’’ babies would not see “a small forest of white crosses’’ on the grounds of the home.

Michael O'Regan

Michael O'Regan

Michael O’Regan is a former parliamentary correspondent of The Irish Times