Home News Mother and baby homes survivor: The story is already being ‘skewed’

Mother and baby homes survivor: The story is already being ‘skewed’

Mother and Baby home survivor Rosemary Adaser

By David Hennessy

A survivor of one of Ireland’s mother and baby homes has expressed her disappointment in both the Sunday Independent for their insensitive publication of details of the report before its planned publication last week and also in the Irish government for how they have treated survivors.

Rosemary Adaser, the founder and former CEO of Mixed Race Irish and a member of the Collaborative Forum, told The Irish World that the leaking of the report showed disrespect to the survivors by denying them time to digest the report before the wider public got to go through it, something they were being given precious little of by the government anyway and it furthers the patriarchal system that put women in such institutions in the first place.

Rosemary also says that the report fails to even address the true scale of the horror as it only deals with selected homes when most counties had at least one such home and that she worries for the mental wellbeing of her community as the leak comes during a health crisis that is keeping people away from their loved ones and usual support.

Rosemary told The Irish World: “The initial reaction was one of just shock at the callous way in which this report has been leaked and then cynically used by a national newspaper. And then the newspaper failing to grasp the concern of the survivors’ community and that’s because they didn’t talk to survivors.

“You’ve got the figures of 9,000 infant deaths, 9,000 infants from just 14 mother and baby homes and county homes. Most of the counties had a mother and baby home or a county home. Nine thousand from just 18 is astonishing. We’ve got 56,000 women in just 14 mother and baby homes and four county homes. Put that on a national scale.”

Rosemary also rejects the report’s claims that wider society was also culpable.

The mother and baby homes were cruel places.

“I’m disappointed in the national newspaper for angling their ‘scoop’ to indicate it was the fault of society. Society is governed by laws and social and religious norms. Those norms were actually rigorously enforced by the state and the Catholic Church so again the narrative is already being skewed.

“It seemed to be focusing on the fact that those in the mother and baby homes were made to do hard work on our hands and knees. No survivor of these institutions ever starts off their story about manual labour. We always lead off with the living bereavement by the removal of our infants for trafficking either inside Ireland or to America to the highest bidder.

“I’m extremely annoyed by the Sunday Independent leading off with the shocking statistic and then a bit of scrubbing. We would have scrubbed all day if we had been allowed to keep our kids.

“There’s the absolute crushing of Irish women’s human rights.

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“The survivor community is not happy.”

Rosemary says the leak has been even more damaging for coming in times of Covid when people are cut off from their usual support networks.

“The insensitivity is extraordinary. In the middle of Covid when so many of us are fighting for our lives.

“I’ve been gearing myself up for this report. I am perhaps a bit more hardy than a lot of survivors. For this report to be dropped the way it was yesterday was shocking and I worry about the fragility of the emotional health of my community if I’m really honest.

“I was extremely annoyed by the premature leak and not having time to digest the report ourselves. It’s deeply disrespectful.

“My immediate reaction was, ‘Oh my God, we’re in the middle of bloody Covid. The Irish government have only given us a couple of hours to absorb this report before throwing it online for the whole public to consume.

“Not only do we survivors have little or no chance to even absorb it, only those with the internet can even read it because nothing has been sent out.

“I was quite shocked and also quite upset.

“Then I’m getting survivors on the phone saying, ‘What’s going on, Rosemary? I thought it wasn’t going to be published until next week. I thought we were going to have time to read it, to meet up, discuss it, see how we felt about it’. I’ve had to acknowledge the rightness of their anger at the way this report has been shoved down our throats. All day yesterday my phone was ringing off the hook with unhappy survivors.

“I can’t go and visit my daughter. I can’t go and visit my son. I’ve got nobody and I’m one of the hardier ones. That’s what really annoys me.

“They should have given us at least two days. We have been asking for this since 2019, ‘Please can we have time with the report before you launch it onto a waiting world?’ You can imagine the international scrutiny there will be of this report. We have been begging them, ‘Allow us some time to absorb it, allow us to meet, allow us to commune with our various support groups. Give us time before the inevitable media frenzy occurs’.

“We’re getting about three hours’ notice. That’s absurd. Some survivors are in their sixties, many are in their eighties. They’re not internet savvy. There is an issue of literacy in our community. They want us to somehow absorb 3,000 pages in an afternoon.

“Again, it’s like we’re being infantilized here, like we’re too stupid to understand a report. Again it’s men telling women what to do and what to think.

“We’ve had almost a century of that in Ireland: Men telling women what to do and what to think and then deciding whether or not we’re capable of understanding plain English. It’s insulting and it continues the patriarchy. It’s deeply patronising and it continues.”

Survivors can receive support from iCap by calling 0207 272 7906 or going to icap.org.uk, the London Irish Centre by calling 0207 916 2222 or going to londonirishcentre.org, Irish Community Services by calling 0208 854 4466 or going to irishcommunityservices.org or from Leeds Irish Health and Homes by calling 0113 262 5614 or going to lihh.org.

The Irish in Britain website has a dedicated section with information, phone numbers and links to support for survivors across Britain at irishinbritain.org/what-we-do/irish-survivors-information.

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