Legacy of Ireland’s mother and babies homes

 

Sir, – There are some very dark days in recent Irish history, as clearly shown in the Tuam discoveries.

Part of the story are the women who gave children up for adoption in the 1940s 1950s 1960s and beyond, who have lived their lives holding that secret.

Many of them feel shame and guilt and some are terrified that their past will be exposed.

Many of them never told their husbands or children the secret. These women live in parishes throughout Ireland and have never been able to grieve or share their story. Perhaps it’s time that communities and families create an environment where at least some of the women could safely share their past. – Yours, etc,

ANNE MARIE MORAN,

Raheny, Dublin 5.

Sir, – As one of those referred to as a “Tuam ghoul” with “virtue to display” in Brendan O’Neill’s Opinion piece “Rush to moralise over Tuam has run ahead of facts”, I would ask that you allow me to present some facts.

Thanks to the painstaking research of Catherine Corless, we have the death certificates of 796 babies who died in the Tuam home between 1925 and 1960, but we do not have records of their burials.

In 2013, Sister Marie Ryan of the Bon Secours order told Anna Corrigan, who was searching for her brothers John and William Dolan: “As I understand it there would… be a very good possibility that (John’s)remains were buried at the small cemetery at the home itself. This is located at the back of the home and was operated as a general grave.”

The original plans show the location of this “general grave” to match that of a large, decommissioned underground Victorian sewage treatment system, a series of interlinked, vaulted chambers. Or, if you will, a septic tank or a series thereof.

Last Friday, the Commission of Investigation confirmed the presence in those chambers of “significant” amounts of human remains.

The majority of those children were almost certainly baptised. The word “dumped” is emotive, but these children were not buried according to the rites of the Catholic Church. Given that there was and is a consecrated, official graveyard adjacent to the Tuam home site, why were these children not given the burial that was their right as Catholics?

At a time when the Bon Secours nuns were paid £1.62 (approximately €110) per child per week, why was the infant mortality rate in the Tuam home almost five times that of the rest of the population?

If all 796 babies are not in the mass grave, then where are they? Were some trafficked abroad, as many relatives believe?

While the work of forensic archaeologists has been and will continue to be invaluable in the investigation of the Tuam site, I would suggest that forensic accountants – perhaps in the employ of the Criminal Assets Bureau – should be tasked to trawl through the accounts of religious orders such as the Bon Secours sisters.

Were babies trafficked out of Ireland? Did money change hands? Were taxes paid on such transactions? Given that the nuns were well paid to care for the children, why did so many die?

We know Irish women were falsely imprisoned and enslaved in Magdalene laundries. Those are serious crimes and some of those women are still alive. Why are the Garda Síochána­ not investigating the religious orders as a matter of national priority? – Yours, etc,

DONAL O’KEEFFE,

Fermoy, Co Cork.

Sir, – Dr Michael Neary, Archbishop of Tuam while previously distancing his Archdiocese from involvement in the Tuam mother and babies home has now included it in any further investigation (Home News, March 13th). This is to be welcomed.

The Bon Secours sisters would have needed the express permission of his predecessor Archbishop Thomas Gilmartin in 1925 to enter the Tuam Archdiocese to set up the mother and babies institution.The sisters would always have been under the jurisdiction of the archdiocese. Contracts would have been entered into by the archbishop and the Bon Secours sisters with Galway local authorities as regards the refurbishment of this old public assistance building and payment to the order for their “taking in” of unmarried pregnant girls.

Hopefully records of these involvements did not enter up buried in the mass children’s grave. – Yours, etc,

BRENDAN BUTLER,

Malahide, Co Dublin.

Sir, – In view of the recent discovery of children’s remains hidden at the Tuam mother and baby home, wouldn’t it be appropriate to insist that, regardless of cost, the Bon Secours order be made to pay for the recovery of all the remains, DNA identification where possible, and the provision of properly marked individual graves in a local cemetery? After all, they were in charge, and it’s the least they could do! – Yours, etc,

TOM BLENNERHASSETT,

Rathfarnham,

Dublin 16.

Sir, – Many are jumping on the bandwagon of condemnation of nuns for the alleged scandal in Tuam and other places from the comfort of Irish society in2017.

Ireland in 1925 and for many years was more akin to third world countries of today. Thousands of families lived in slums in Dublin and in every town in Ireland poverty was rife, infant mortality even at home was high, medical services were under-funded, social services were non-existent, entitlement for single mothers did not exist.

Who helped? The nuns. People in the media now blame the nuns for “forced adoptions”. A poor mother had no other option but to give her child for adoption. Her family were ashamed and unwilling in the culture of the time to accept her. It was adoption or face a lonely, hungry road. – Yours, etc,

(Fr) CON McGILLICUDDY,

Dublin 5.