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Mixed race children ‘considered subhuman’ in Mother and Baby homes

By David Hennessy 

Ireland’s Mother and Baby homes were institutionally racist and an unpublished report compares them to Apartheid in South Africa.

Mixed race children were segregated from other children, stripped of their identities, subjected to racist abuse in mother and baby homes and their skin colour was listed as a ‘defect’.

Mixed-race children were also routinely withheld for adoption. A report by the Collaborative Forum on Mother and Baby Homes also stated that children with disabilities and those from the travelling community were also described as defective and withheld from adoption.

Mother and Baby home survivor Rosemary Adaser, CEO of the Association of Mixed Race Irish and a member of the Collaborative Forum, told the Irish World: “We were considered lesser. We were considered subhuman. We were considered not right and therefore easily disposed of.

“We were absolutely segregated in what was called the reject ward of mother and baby homes.

“Nobody wanted us because the stigma of having a mixed race child in Irish society, it was actually above that of being a murderer. It really was.

“We know that children were eugenically tested with the head and facial features of infants measured to see how ‘negroid’ the faces of our babies were or how dark or light the skin was or the likely intelligence of the child based upon the assumption of the nuns.

“Our identity was erased. Our African heritage was absolutely erased. A number of our adopted children are very angry that they were never told their mothers were mixed race Irish.

“Let’s not forget those beautiful Irish babies exported to the USA, 2,000 of them, came with a guarantee of whiteness.

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“Our colour was listed as a ‘defect’ in all of our admission notes, including our medical files. What is also equally clear is we were only adopted on request so 90% of us were funnelled into industrial schools.

“We were prime for medical abuse.”

Mother and Baby home survivor Rosemary Adaser

Rosemary has only discovered in recent years that her story was not so unique as she may have thought: “I actually thought I was the only one, it never made sense to me that I could be the only one.

“Mixed race Irish came to me and said, ‘I thought I was the only one too’. We began to discuss our particular experiences within Mother and Baby homes. The experiences that I was describing were quite similar to experiences of other mixed race Irish families which were again very separate to white Irish. That’s how it began.

“Although I have been a figurehead for the systemic racism of my tiny community, my story is not just my story. How do I allow the millions of decent Irish people a glimpse of what racism feels like? The only way you can do that is by telling your story. It has been so painful. I have to be so careful I don’t re-traumatise myself.”

The Collaborative Forum of campaigners was appointed by Ireland’s Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone. Ms Zappone received the report last year but did not to publish it on the advice of the Attorney General.

“The fact that our report is not being published is a deep hurt on the survivor community but the controversy of the leaked report may have the unintended benefit of putting our agenda into the new government’s mind. You have 100 years of abuse against Irish women and their children. The Irish government were proposing last year to absolutely seal our records until 2094. You can celebrate the 1916 rising but ignore 100 years of human rights abuses against women and their children.

“I’m shocked that someone has leaked the confidential Collaborative Forum report.

“Minister Zappone is perhaps the only minister who could have brought the Collaborative Forum together.

“We came together, we learned about each other from each other, the Collaborative Forum spoke as one voice and that was entirely down to Minister Zappone and her team.”

Rosemary credits what she saw of loving Irish families for saving her soul:

“(But) I will always hate the nuns. If I see a nun, I cross the street.

“If I’m on the Tube and there’s a nun opposite me, I go the other end. I will hate them to my dying day but throughout my life I have been gifted with the love of just a few beautiful Irish families who gave me a glimpse of what a loving family could be like.

“They didn’t see colour. After my baby was taken from me at 21 days old, I was put into the care of this beautiful family and over the period of two or three years they rebuilt me.

“I wasn’t abnormal, I wasn’t a mongrel. I was called a mongrel every day of the week (in the home) and that was the nicest word.

“I will always hate the nuns. Why wouldn’t I? They didn’t protect me. They didn’t love me. They didn’t even safeguard my welfare for God’s sake.”

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