Mother-and-baby homes were only part of the system for dealing with unmarried mothers in the 1950s. Many children were also sold into a thriving network that stretched from Ireland to the US
By Mike Millote - The Irish Times
The National Archives of Ireland contain just a few snippets, but they are enough to make clear that State officials in 1950s Ireland knew the country was a centre for illegal international baby trafficking. The number of children involved can’t even be guessed at, but we can be sure they were all “illegitimate”.
Ireland was regarded as a “hunting ground”, in the words of a senior civil servant, where foreigners in search of babies could easily obtain illegitimate children from mother-and-baby homes and private nursing homes, then remove them from the State without any formalities.
There were both legal and illegal adoptions. During the 1950s up to 15 per cent of all illegitimate Irish children born in mother-and-baby homes each year were taken to the United States with the full knowledge of the State. In total more than 2,000 illegitimate children were removed from the country in this way. Most were adopted by wealthy American Catholics.
Limerick historian uncovers a damning trail of news reports on the Tuam Children’s Home, including this 1924 photo of children at the earlier Glenamaddy Home.Connacht Tribune
The 796 infants and children buried in an unmarked mass grave in the septic tank behind St. Mary’s Mother and Baby home in Tuam, Co. Galway made headlines around the world after their shocking story broke in May 2014.
But this is not the first time the Home and the ‘Home babies,’ as locals call them, have been in the news.
Following early reports on the research of Tuam historian Catherine Corless, who brought the story to light, Liam Hogan, a Limerick-based historian and librarian, began uncovering a trail of damning news clips dating from before the Home’s founding in 1925 to after its closure in 1961.
The articles show that the Home was very much a matter of both public and governmental knowledge. And the way in which they discuss the Home’s occupants (or “inmates” as they are more often referred to) makes clear the totally normalized disdain with which all the “illegitimate children” and “fallen women” were held.
The Tuam Children’s Home, it turns out, is a scandal that emerged from an even earlier scandal – The Glenamaddy Children’s Home, less than 20 miles away.
Fred Barbash - The Washington Post
Among the bitter images of his childhood at “the Home for Mothers and Babies” in Tuam, Ireland, two stand out as particularly wrenching to John Pascal Rodgers.
Of the first, he has no independent recollection as he was only a year and a half old. His mother told him 48 years later about it. One day at Tuam, she explained, she found out that she was about to be separated from her son by the nuns who ran the home, perhaps forever. So she came in and “cut off a lock of my hair as a memento.”
The nuns then sent her to an institution then called “the Magdalene Asylum” in Galway, he said. She was 17-years-old. “The key was turned in the door and she remained there 15 years until she got the courage to escape.”
Conall Ó Fáthara - Irish Examiner
The Government must push the Catholic Church and religious orders to open their records to abuse survivors and academics.
Catriona Crowe, former head of special projects at the National Archives of Ireland, said that it “should not be a matter of grace and favour” that survivors are granted full access to records, but a matter of right.
She said Ireland had seen unprecedented disclosures relating to treatment of vulnerable women and children across a unique archipelago of institutions — mother and baby homes, Magdalene laundries, industrial schools, and reformatories. She said the only way to achieve a complete picture of what happened is to have full access to their archives.
She said these institutions were run largely with the blessing of the State and, as a result, the State should now intervene.
By Alison O'Reilly
A leading expert in human remains who has excavated mass graves across the world has said the Mother and Baby Home Commission of Investigation must remember that the children who died in the homes have rights – including the right to an identity.
Professor Susan Black became the lead forensic anthropologist to the British Forensic Team in Kosovo and Sierra Leone.
She also worked on the Thai Tsunami Victim Identification Operation in 2005.
Speaking to the Irish Daily Mail, Professor Black said the commission – which last month confirmed it found ‘significant quantities of human remains’ at the site of the former Tuam mother and baby home in Co. Galway – must ‘get this investigation right’.
‘Whatever they do with this grave, it will set a precedent for what happens to the others. That’s why they have to get this one right. It needs pragmatism and empathy.’ In relation to the right to an identity, Professor Black said: ‘There is one law, an international law, which is the right of identity and only children have the right to an identity.
‘Whether that extends to after their death is another matter but, in terms of international law, once you are 18 you don’t have a legal right to an identity but you do if you are 17. So, a child has a legal right to an identity.