Mother and baby homes


Sir, – Patsy McGarry’s excellent article “No grand conspiracy to protect those responsible for mother and baby homes” (Opinion, October 30th) has helped greatly in our understanding about the procedures and decision-making now clarified for us.

What I and many others wish to highlight is the feelings of the children of mothers taken at very young ages and placed within the various convents and industrial schools. Were we not as traumatised, were we not “orphaned” living solitary lives without protection, alone from aged 16 once religious congregations lost the financial government allowance for us? When mothers married again, mainly in England and had new families, without disclosure of their “lost” child, are we, their children to remain faceless? Indeed, Mr McGarry suggests that any action by children such as myself “must not now cause further trauma at this stage in their lives”.

He and others need not worry. We have a right to know. We must pursue searching until we are satisfied ourselves. The end result may not always be a happy one! But more often than not it is or can be.

My mother died in 2001. I received my first correspondences about my family in April 2003 when aged 56 as a result of the Origin Service set up by Barnardos and asked for by the Alliance Support Group in 2002. This has resulted in established family in Liverpool, Limerick and Cork. I have been greatly supported ever since and have had the privilege in meeting every family member.

I very strongly support all others in their quest for information and am confident, that through proper support this issue need not be as delicate or as confrontational as politicians or journalists would have us believe. – Yours, etc,


Co Armagh.

Sir, – I have total sympathy and understanding with those adoptees who are desperate to trace their origins. However, if they are given the information they require, will that mean that some women who have kept the birth of their baby an absolute secret since the event can no longer have the protection they were guaranteed when giving up the baby for adoption? They may now be living in fear of disclosure and the effect this might have on their lives.

There seems to be no simple solution to this problem. – Yours, etc,


Co Dublin.

A chara, – “These people know what they did was wrong, they knew it at the time and they know it now”, says a writer (Letters, October 28th), in relation to mother and baby homes.

It may seem self-evident to us today, and thankfully we have changed. But when I was in school in the 1950s and 1960s, corporal punishment was seen as required and advisable to bring about the kind of end-product needed by society. When the workhouses were set up under the Poor Law, they were not designed to provide comfortable accommodation. When industrial schools were instituted, it was not to provide a loving environment, but to protect respectable society from the depredations of young people and to turn them into productive members of the economy, as indicated by the name. Orphanages had a reputation as places not to be desired; discipline was required to make them loyal and hard-working subjects of the crown. The ideology of large Victorian institutions is not what we expect today. In the 1960s, large institutions for children began to be phased out in favour of much smaller family-type groups.

Mother and Baby Homes, here and in other jurisdictions, were part of “best-practice” understanding of the time. Many practices we now recognise as clearly wrong were part of that. 100 years from now, which of our present-day best-practices will be seen as misguided and cruel? Direct provision is just one. Every society and institution can have people who knowingly do wrong, but where people follow the accepted wisdom of the day and would have been penalised for not doing so, we must not condemn the staff from the perspective of our thankfully changed times.

At the same time, we must listen to and support those who suffered ill-treatment. And we must also listen to those who also experienced mother and baby homes, who know the hardships they experienced, and who yet also appreciate their experience, especially contrasted with what would likely have been the alternative at the time. – Is mise,


Dublin 16.

Sir, – Congratulations to Patsy McGarry on his balanced and fair article about the mother and baby homes. At last we have a voice of reason in contrast to the misinformation and hysterical reaction of some journalists and politicians in recent days. The one question I would ask is why was there never a focus on identifying the fathers of all these children? – Yours, etc,


Monkstown, Co Dublin.

A chara, – Diarmaid Ferriter (Opinion, October 30th) quotes a Polish philosopher Leszek Kolakowski saying that the reason we learn history is to know who we are. For me, having lived, so to speak, for a lifetime with a personage who was denied that, this is the nub of the present controversy. Each person must get the right to access their full personal identity record. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 4.