Report on mother and baby homes
Sir, – As I read the report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes, a line written by Christy Moore kept coming into my head: “Everybody knew. Nobody said”. Cowardice, hypocrisy, misogyny, cruelty, but worst of all the wilful, shameful, damning, collective silence of society, church, the medical profession and State in allowing this evil to fester over decades, causing incalculable pain and suffering to thousands of women and children, as well as the deaths of many infants. – Yours, etc,
Prof CHRIS FITZPATRICK,
Coombe Women and Infants
Sir, – Yet another dark, cruel and disgraceful part of our shameful history. Reports mean nothing without redress. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Will the Catholic Church be as vocal in condemning what happened to the children and women forced to live in the institutions it ran as it was about a comedy sketch on RTÉ? – Yours, etc,
Ballinaclash, Co Wicklow.
Sir, – Your response to the report into mother and baby homes states that society chose to believe it was morally and religiously exceptional (Editorial, January 13th). This is untrue. Societies don’t freely “chose” to believe anything but are profoundly influenced by the dominant cultural and political forces at play. The Catholic Church was the dominant cultural force in Ireland for most of the last century. It was the church that demanded religious and moral exceptionalism and punished those who fell short of these standards. To resist its influence was to risk disgrace for an entire family. Abandonment of their pregnant daughters to the deliberate and conscious neglect of church-run and State-funded “homes” was the price demanded, and many parents believed they had no choice but to pay it. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – The religious orders cannot be compelled to contribute to a redress scheme for the former residents of mother and baby homes. Why, then, are we taxpayers compelled to fund their activities, and those of their craven apologists, by means of charitable tax exemption? – Yours, etc,
Dromahair, Co Leitrim.
Sir, – I take serious exception to Taoiseach Micheál Martin stating, while addressing the shame brought about collectively by the Catholic Church and Irish State, when he contends that “all of society was complicit in it”.
Think of the mothers who were treated so cruelly, the babies treated with such criminal neglect, the mothers who went back begging at the gates for their stolen babies and were refused, the siblings left without their brother or sister due to illegal adoptions, the bravery of those who saw the light and spoke up, and some nursing staff, some doctors, some family members some brothers and sisters, some fathers of these children, who said their truth, and members of society who supported the women. These people, though unheard and few, were not complicit.
The Catholic Church and successive governments were entirely complicit. All of society did not build the mother and baby homes, nor did they oversee the running of same. – Yours, etc,
Newbridge, Co Kildare.
Sir, – It is both a distortion of truth and another grave disservice to the women of Ireland to attribute the guilt and blame for mother and baby homes to “society”.
From 1922 onwards, Irish women were systematically removed from public life, and legally, economically, physically and socially prevented from participating fully in Irish society. Thousands of women tried, by the paltry means available to them, to protest the treatment of women by church and State. Ireland was designed and constructed by one exclusive men’s club, aided and abetted by another exclusive men’s club, and it’s taken 100 years of relentless and exhausting activism by Irish women to uncover the damage done.
This is not about blame. We cannot fix the machine unless we know where the faults are, and I believe they are being incorrectly located in a murky collective past where everyone, but no one, is held responsible.
We need women in public life and we need feminist solutions to make this a kinder Republic. – Yours, etc,
Dr NIAMH HAMILL,
Sir, – You inform us that the report of the mother and baby homes inquiry states the responsibility “rests mainly with the fathers of their children and their own immediate families”. One cannot disagree with this.
However, I would suggest that such savage intolerance and uncaring judgmentalism was a product of a society dominated by the Catholic Church, which consistently preached a message of shame against “unmarried mothers”. A shame which ultimately destroyed innocent lives by the tens of thousands. The fathers and families of these unfortunate women did not arrive at these feelings of shame in isolation. These cold, callous, and inhuman attitudes were nurtured and disseminated by the religious from the pulpit, through the schools they had absolute control of, and consequently by the State itself. A society so hellbent on being Catholic, that it lost its Christian values, lost its basic humanity towards those most in need of of support. I hope for a future in which we can continue to build an Ireland where such unconscionable wrongs will never be forgotten and where we realise, nurture, and share in the joy that every new human life brings to us. – Yours, etc,