Virtual event for Tuam mother and baby home survivors

There will be a virtual event for survivors of the Tuam Mother and Baby Home this Thursday. It will include an introduction to the Tuam Oral History Project Podcasts, narrated by Peaky Blinders star Cillian Murphy, and virtual exhibition and discussions on the exploring how the arts can support survivors and the rights of children and survivors historically.

The event will be chaired by journalist and novelist Rachael English. Rachael’s most recent novel The Paper Bracelet dealt with the horrors of such homes.

Other participants will be survivors Teresa O’Sullivan and Peter Mulryan and the historian Catherine Corless who exposed the scandal of what happened at the Tuam home in 2014. It was discovered the bodies had been buried inhumanely although not in the septic tank as originally reported.

In 2014 Catherine Corless discovered that 798 babies and young children had died in the home for unmarried pregnant women but could find no records of their burial. Many of the babies had died of malnutrition and neglect. The babies and young children had been buried in an unmarked grave.

The news provoked international condemnation and calls for an investigation. In 2015 the Irish government announced it was setting up an official Commission of Investigation. The commission was established to inquire into the treatment of, and dealings with, women and children in 14 mother and baby homes as well as four county homes between 1922 and 1998. It was first expected to report by 2018. This June, partially in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the report was again delayed until October 2020.

News of the latest delay was met with campaigners warning that some survivors of the institutions may not live to see the publication of the final report from the Commission of Investigation into Mother-and-Baby Homes.

The mother and baby homes were cruel places.

Anna Corrigan of the Tuam Babies Family Group, which represents families with relatives and survivors from the home, said: “Time is not on their side and there is a worry that many of them won’t live to read the final report. It’s sad to say, but people are dying off and more will die before the final report. The community is ageing and there is nothing happening.

“There are people living in dire situations no different to [those] they found themselves in as children. They can’t afford heat for their houses, they are living on their own, they are isolated, they have no support system,” she said.”

RTE journalist and novelist Rachael English.

“We are not going away. We will stand to our last person despite the fact that the old adage has always been delay, deny, until we all go and die. To the last man and woman standing we will be here. The very least the State owes us is truth, justice, accountability, prosecutions where necessary and restitution for survivors.”

Excavations of the Tuam site in 2017 showed “significant quantities of human remains” in a 20-chamber underground structure near a decommissioned sewage tank. DNA analysis confirmed the ages of the dead children ranged from 35 weeks gestation to three years and were buried mainly in the 1950s.

The Tuam home, which was run by the Sisters of Bon Secours order of Catholic nuns, closed in 1961.

Catherine Corless has been campaigning for the bodies to be exhumed and reburied and recently received Vatican support after writing to the Papal Nuncio to Ireland. Archbishop Okolo said that it was his conviction that everyone could work together to “rectify the mistakes of the past”.

Historian Catherine Corless.

Catherine said the Vatican support meant a lot as it could pressure the government to act.

She told The Irish Times: “It is uplifting really to know that the Vatican is behind us.

“This is going on six or seven years now and it is a long time to be dragging it out.

“I would hope this might put a bit of pressure on the government to wake up and let them know we haven’t faded away, we are still here and we need the final report and the exhumation of the remains.”

Ms Corless also said the reply “means a lot to us and to each and every survivor”.

Authors Elaine Feeney and Caelainn Hogan who wrote Republic of Shame, a book that explores and documents the ongoing legacy of the religious-run institutions in Ireland, will also participate.

 

The event takes place at 4pm on Thursday 30 July on Facebook Live NUI Galway.

For further queries contact Sheila Gorham at sheila.gorham@nuigalway.ie.

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