Tuam scandal Ireland’s ‘dirty little secret’, says Senator

Gerard Craughwell recalls growing up in Galway under bishop’s ‘tyranny’

Historian Catherine Corless at the site of a mass grave for children who died in the Tuam mother and baby home, Co Galway. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Historian Catherine Corless at the site of a mass grave for children who died in the Tuam mother and baby home, Co Galway. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

The Tuam baby scandal has been described as Ireland’s “dirty little secret’’ by Independent Senator Gerard Craughwell. He told the Seanad on Tuesday he had been brought up in Galway in the 1960s under the tyranny of “the famous Bishop Michael Browne’’.

He said young girls who found themselves pregnant were sent away on “holidays” and were not pregnant when they came back.

“There are tens of thousands of fathers wandering around this country who took no responsibility whatsoever for what they delivered,’’ he added. “I wonder how many are hanging their heads in shame today.’’

Mr Craughwell said there were thousands of mothers who gave up their children or were forced to do so.

He said he had read a newspaper article about a woman who believed her brother was not buried in Tuam but might have been adopted in America.

“Can we even stop to think about the pain those women are going through today as they wonder whether they had a child buried in Tuam or sent somewhere else for adoption?’’ he asked.

Mr Craughwell said he was aware, regarding his own family, of a farm being taken off a girl because she became pregnant after her husband died. “The children were sent to orphanages,’’ he added. “This is the kind of country we lived in and it is time we pull back the covers and have a look at what went on in this dirty little country.’’

Exposing scandal

Sinn Féin Senator Rose Conway-Walsh commended the historian Catherine Corless for her “wonderful work’’ in exposing the scandal. She said she condemned those who had tried to stop her and put barriers in her way.

“Let us not forget that many of the mothers did not walk into these places of their own free will,’’ Ms Conway-Walsh added. “They were put there by the State which licensed the institutions.’’

Labour Senator Ivana Bacik said the children should be given the dignity of a respectful burial and their memory marked in an appropriate way.

Fianna Fáil Senator Catherine Ardagh said the Tuam discovery was deeply saddening and unveiled the dark underworld of Irish society.

“It is important that the truth comes out and we collectively reflect on our past, not just for ourselves, but for the victims and families concerned,’’ she added.

Distressing week

Independent Senator Victor Boyhan said it had been a very bad and distressing week for many people who grew up in Tuam. The State, he said, could not continue to refer to “the poor old nuns’’.

Mr Boyhan asked where An Garda Síochána, the politicians, health boards, teachers, schools, the community nurses and doctors had been at the time of the scandal. “Where were all the institutions of the State?’’ he said.

Independent Senator Frances Black said a woman who had a baby at the age of 18 years in the Bessborough home in Cork had said justice for her would mean a full and frank acknowledgement from all of the religious orders and facilities involved.

“We owe it to the women concerned to give them the closure they request,’’ she added.