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Anorak | The Truth About The 796 Dead Babies In Tuam Galway: Catholic Bashers Ignore The Facts

The Truth About The 796 Dead Babies In Tuam Galway: Catholic Bashers Ignore The Facts

by | 7th, June 2014

A message left at the site of a mass grave for children who died in the Tuam mother and baby home, Galway, as the Irish Government has bowed to national and international pressure over the scandal of the death of 4,000 babies who were buried in unmarked, unconsecrated and mass graves at homes for unmarried mothers.

 

THE Independent  talked of “The ‘Irish Holocaust'” that “saw hundreds of babies left to die and the practice may have been more common than first thought”.

The story of the babies dumped in a septic tank in Tuam, Galway, travelled:

“Bodies of 800 babies, long-dead, found in septic tank at former Irish home for unwed mothers” The Washington Post.

“Nearly 800 dead babies found in septic tank in Ireland” Al Jazeera.

“800 skeletons of babies found inside tank at former Irish home for unwed mothers” New York Daily News.

“Almost 800 ‘forgotten’ Irish children dumped in septic tank mass grave at Catholic home” ABC News, Australia.

The story was first reported in 1975. Barry Sweeney was 10 when he and a pal Frannie Hopkins jumped over wall into a former mother-and-baby home in Tuam, Galway. The place has been a workhouse before becoming a home for single mothers and their children.

Blondpidge writes :

Reports from 1929 show that a special maternity ward for the unmarried mothers was added to the Home in Tuam. The reason for this is that married women and paying customers at the local district hospital in Connacht were unwilling to share their hospital facilities with the ‘misfortunates’. They wanted segregation. This proposal was opposed by a priest, Canon Ryder who wanted to find accommodation for these mothers in other hospitals. This moving of the mothers to a separate institution lacking trained staff and facilities would have undoubtedly contributed to infant and maternal mortality rates.

Back to the boys, who saw a concrete slab in the grounds. They moved it. Says Sweeney:

“There were skeletons thrown in there. They were all this way and that way. They weren’t wrapped in anything, and there were no coffins. But there was no way there were 800 skeletons down that hole. Nothing like that number. I don’t know where the papers got that.”

He says he saw around 20 skeletons. Catherine Corless thinks the bodies were in an old sewage tank.

 

The site of a mass grave for children

 

David McKittrick  writes  in the Indy :

Only now is the realisation dawning that for decades the Galway earth has held the skeletons of 800 babies and toddlers in “a jumble” that is one of the country’s most unthinkable secrets.

Each new detail of what is being called the Irish Holocaust brings fresh horror. The children were the offspring of unmarried mothers who were housed in a nearby home run by nuns. Many died of malnutrition, at a mortality rate suspiciously well above the national average.

They were stacked on top of each other, in shrouds not coffins, their bodies consigned to the septic tank over a period of decades. No one yet knows whether they bear any marks of identification: it sounds unlikely. If not, they may never be individually identified.

“Tell us the truth about the children dumped in Galway’s mass graves,” demanded Emer O’Toole in the Guardian :

We know about the abuse women and children suffered at the hands of the clergy, abuse funded by a theocratic Irish state. What we didn’t know is that they threw dead children into unmarked mass graves. But we’re inured to these revelations by now.

She seems keen to blame the Church for the bodies.

But what is the difference between the wall of lies, denial and secrecy the church constructed to protect its paedophile priests and a concrete slab over the bodies of 796 children neglected to death by nuns? Good people unearth these evil truths, but the church always survives.

 

Local historian Catherine Corless

 

O’Toole links to the story on Irish Central :

Galway historian reveals truth behind 800 orphans in mass grave…

Catherine Corless, the local historian and genealogist, remembers the Home Babies well. “They were always segregated to the side of regular classrooms,” Corless tells IrishCentral. “By doing this  the nuns  telegraphed the message that they were different and that we should keep away from them.

“They didn’t suggest we be nice to them. In fact if you acted up in class some nuns would threaten to seat you next to the Home Babies. That was the message we got in our young years,” Corless recalls.

She investigated:

Because of Corless’ efforts we now know the names and fates of up to 796 forgotten infants and children who died there, thanks to her discovery of their death records when researching The Home’s history.

“First I contacted the Bon Secours sisters at their headquarters in Cork and they replied they no longer had files or information about The Home because they had left Tuam in 1961 and had handed all their records over to the Western Health Board.”

Undaunted, Corless turned to The Western Health Board, who told her there was no general information on the daily running of the place.

“Eventually I had the idea to contact the registry office in Galway. I remembered a law was enacted in 1932 to register every death in the country. My contact said give me a few weeks and I’ll let you know.”

“A week later she got back to me and said do you really want all of these deaths? I said I do. She told me I would be charged for each record. Then she asked me did I realize the enormity of the numbers of deaths there?”

The registrar came back with a list of 796 children. “I could not believe it. I was dumbfounded and deeply upset,” says Corless. “There and then I said this isn’t right. There’s nothing on the ground there to mark the grave, there’s nothing to say it’s a massive children’s graveyard. It’s laid abandoned like that since it was closed in 1961.”

And then Catherine Corless spoke to the Irish Times :

“I never used that word ‘dumped’,” Catherine Corless, a local historian in Co Galway, tells The Irish Times. “I never said to anyone that 800 bodies were dumped in a septic tank. That did not come from me at any point. They are not my words.”

Adding:

“I never used that word ‘dumped’,” she says again, with distress. “I just wanted those children to be remembered and for their names to go up on a plaque. That was why I did this project, and now it has taken [on] a life of its own.”

The site Butterflies and Wheels has a synopsis of what Corless found:

The Mother/Baby Home in Tuam was opened in 1925 and was run by the Bon Secours Sisters to cater for unmarried mothers and their babies.

This was an era in our history when pregnancy before marriage was deeply frowned upon by church, state and family. The unfortunate woman who found herself in this predicament was quickly sent to an institution such as the Mother/Baby Home out of sight of prying neighbours and relatives.

The Bon Secours Sisters were a nursing congregation who had come from Dublin to take charge of the hospital wing of Glenamaddy Workhouse, which catered for the destitute, old and infirm, orphans and unmarried mothers. These Workhouses had been instigated by the Irish Poor Law since the 1840’s, but now after the Treaty, the Irish Free State reformed the whole system and put in place administration on a county basis, so that separate arrangements were made for the aged and infirm to go to County Homes, and for the unmarried mothers and orphans to go to institutions.
All Workhouses were closed, but it was decided that the one on the Dublin road in Tuam would be chosen as a Mother/Baby Home. The Home building itself was in a good structural state but needed quite a bit of repair. The Sisters and some of the mothers and children began the task of clearing and cleaning, and by the end of the year 1925, all were ready to move in. Dr. Thomas B. Costello was the Medical Officer for the Home and the Rev. Peter J. Kelly, a grandnephew of the former Archbishop of Tuam Dr. John McEvilly, was chaplain.

The building belonged to Galway Co.Co. and they were responsible for repairs and Maintenance, and a capitation grant was paid to the nuns for the cost and upkeep of the mothers and babies, and for the salaries of doctors. A maternity wing was added some time later. The travel writer Halliday Sutherland visited the Home in the 1950’s and it is worth quoting his review of the Home:
“The grounds were well kept and had many flower beds. The Home is run by the Sisters of the Bon Secours of Paris and the Reverend Mother showed me around.

Each of the Sisters is a fully trained nurse and midwife. Some are also trained children’s nurses. An unmarried girl may come here to have her baby. She agrees to stay in the Home for one year. During this time she looks after her baby and assists the nuns in domestic work. She is unpaid. At the end of the year she may leave. She may take her baby with her or leave the baby at the Home in the hope that it will be adopted. The nuns keep the child until the age of seven, when it is sent to an industrial school. There were 51 confinements in 1954 and the nuns now looked after 120 children. For each child or mother in the Home, the Galway Co.Co. pays £1 a week. Children of five or over attend the local schools. The whole building was fresh and clean.”

Haliday Sutherland, however, did not interview any of the resident mothers or helpers. Had he done so, he would have got quite a different story to the one he was told. During my researching the Home, I spoke to some mothers who gave birth there and their account of their confinements speaks of long unattended labours without sight of a Sister or midwife, it was only during the birth that a nurse was in attendance with only the help of an untrained resident.

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Posted: 7th, June 2014 | In: News Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink