The following is the response of the Tuam Home Survivors Network to the 5th Interim Report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes and Related Matters.

It is not intended as an exhaustive response but is intended to draw attention to some of the matters set out in the Report.

Peter Mulryan
Chairman,
Tuam Home Survivors Network


It is impossible to say what was in the mind of the last Bon Secours nun who closed the doors of the Grove private hospital Tuam in 2001, but it was certainly the end of an era. The Bon Secours' role in the Tuam Mother and Baby Home may have ended when it was closed suddenly in 1961, but it was forty years later, that they left behind the evidence of perhaps the most monumental and ugliest crime in the history of the State. The Bon Secours had left the scene of the crime.

They left behind them the bodies of some eight hundred children and a number of unfortunate women in what was, or had been a cess-pit, however described. They removed their own dead from the grounds of the Grove with great reverence and re-interred them with dignity at another of their properties. But they did not leave empty-handed. They sold the Grove, complete with Convent, chapel and the outmoded hospital building, already decaying, for the absurdly inflated sum of €4.1 million. It was a handsome going away present.

The Fifth Interim Report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes provides little new to those intimately concerned with the Tuam Home.

It does however confirm:

  • That the bodies of children dying in the Tuam Home were placed in what was or had been a cess-pit, however described.
  • That this was at very least done under the direction of the Bon Secours nuns.
  • That under the law this was not merely illegal, it was an act of criminality.
  • That the statutory authority which owned the building throughout the history of the Home were aware of this practice and complicit in it.

In respect of Chapter 8 of the Report which deals specifically with the Tuam institution and particularly at 8.12 and 8.13, the Commission's Report, appears to us to come up short.

It is a matter of fact and record that what are described as
Records compiled in the Tuam Children's Home...
were little more than a Roll of those women and children confined there, with some sparse personal details recorded. These 'records' became more formalised on foot of the requirements of the Registration of Maternity Homes Act 1934 - but the half-yearly Returns- from the 'Home Registers', essentially had only one purpose, to calculate the 'headage' payable to the Bon Secours Order. Some may prefer the term 'capitation fee', but in the context of the treatment of those women and children, the former seems more appropriate.

These 'records' indeed were handed handed over to the State at the closure of the 'Home' in 1961.

It is a matter of record and fact that very substantial documentation passed from the Bon Secours Order to the State in 2012. It followed protracted legal negotiations which inevitably included the Office of the Attorney General. That documentation constitutes the records of the Bon Secours in their child-trafficking and adoption racketeering as well as effectively extorting or obtaining money from women who had left the 'Home', for the upkeep of children already registered by the State as deceased.

To be fair to the Commissioners, they only learned of the existence of these 'records’ through the Examiner newspaper edition of June 2nd 2015.

From our own direct dealings with Tusla, it is our clear understanding that some of these records had not been provided/or disclosed to the Commission as late as July 2017. Only the Commission can clarify what assistance it received thereafter.

We cannot on the evidence therefore accept the assertion by the Commission at paragraph 19 of its Introduction to the Report where it states:

There are instances of deaths noted in the Tuam Children’s Home records which are not on the register of deaths. The number of such discrepancies is very small and may yet be resolved. In the Commission’s view, there is very little basis for the theory that the children concerned did not die but were “sold” to America. Children from Tuam were adopted to America (as were children from nearly all the institutions under investigation). These adoptions are generally recorded in the Tuam records. It is not obvious why subterfuges would be required to arrange such adoptions.

When we consider the unwillingness of the Commission elsewhere in its Report, to draw the most reasonable inferences from compelling evidence, its view, in this instance is surprising. Where it says that 'these adoptions are generally recorded in the Tuam records', leaves us in some confusion and we believe that the Commission is obliged to identify the nature of those records. In any case, there is no certainty that all the children registered as dead, did in fact die at the time their deaths were registered. We do not concur with the Commission's view on this matter.

We believe that paragraph 8.21 dealing with Tuam speaks for itself but the Commission can come to no conclusion or in this instance or even express a view.

Paragraph 8.43 deals with two aerial photographs dating from 1974 and 1977 in which the area now identified as a mass grave is successively described as being covered with vegetation and 'overgrowth'. What is clearly visible, is in fact a plantation of young trees created by Galway County Council after the closure of the 'Home', consciously and deliberately on the area which it knew contained a mass grave(s), both inside and outside the area now known as the Children's Graveyard. The portion outside the 'Graveyard' area being cleared of the trees in the 1977 photograph and indeed marked on the Council Planning file as a 'burial ground'. This is beyond dispute.

Paragraphs 8.60 and 8.63 contain detail which is particularly troubling and upsetting because they provide quite compelling evidence of matters which have been a cause of great concern for some time. That is the likelihood that children of the Home were required or forced to place the bodies of dead children in the chambers of a sewerage tank. It becomes clearer with each passing day that the full horror of Tuam is not yet exposed.

We note in passing that members of the Tuam Home Survivors Network have faced criticism because we insist that there can be no closure in the Tuam story without establishing the cause of death of the Tuam victims.

The Commission says it will deal with the 'causes of death' in a 2020 Report. The causes of death of the the Tuam Children can only be established by an Inquest. Nothing else is acceptable or possible in law. We will not add our names to those who have betrayed the dead children of Tuam.

Please contact the Network at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you have any queries in relation to this Statement.

Test Excavations at Sean Ross Abbey

The Commission has recently conducted geophysical testing on the burial grounds located on the site of Sean Ross Abbey in Roscrea Co. Tipperary. Following the initial geophysical testing, the Commission began test excavations on Monday 18 February and this process is expected to last 3 weeks.The Commission is due to deliver an interim report next month in relation to Burials at the sites of former Mother and Baby Homes. The Minister intends to publish this report as quickly as possible after she has an op-portunity to study its contents in conjunction with her Government colleagues

Commission of Investigation Extension Granted by Government

On Tuesday 22nd January Government agreed to a request from the Commission for an extension of one year to allow it to complete its final report. The request was made in the Commission’s 4th Interim Report which was submitted to Minister Zappone in December of last year.Speaking after the Government meeting, Minister Zappone said,“I know this is not the news which survivors and their families wanted to hear. I know they will be disappointed by this development but the Commission is confident that with this additional time it can comprehensively report on its terms of reference.

To ensure there is no ambiguity on the position of the Tuam Home Survivors Network in relation to recent announcements by Katherine Zappone and the Government, kindly note the following:

The aims and policy of the Tuam Home Survivors Network are

  1. The exhumation of all human remains at the Tuam site.
  1. The creation of a DNA database of all survivors, family members of survivors, family members of those registered as dying in the Tuam home and family members of any persons known to be missing from the Tuam home so as to identify as many as possible of the human remains.
  1. That all aspects of the forensic exhumation of the Tuam mass grave be undertaken by the only legal authority both permitted and obliged to do so, the Coroners Service under the auspices of the Department of Justice.

It is beyond debate that the Minister continues to act ultra vires in this matter.  That is our clear position.

The fact that Coroner for North Galway has failed in his duty to convene an Inquest or that successive Attorneys General have failed in their duty to appoint another Coroner, or the fact that the Department of Justice has failed to fulfil its role, does not mean that their powers devolve on the Minister for Children by default.

It is difficult to see what if any role the Minister for Children has in this matter. Any suggestion that she has the power to control the process of bringing closure to the Tuam story is constitutionally and legally absurd and we do not in any way support it.

29/01/2019 - Tuam Home Survivors' Network, representing survivors of the Tuam Mother and Baby Home and families of the lost children of Tuam has this morning urged the Government to begin collecting their DNA samples immediately.

This work should proceed in a way that will be of greatest benefit to the greatest number of survivors, victims and families. For this to be achieved, as much information as possible should be obtained from each sample of human remains. The quantifying of the DNA extracted is the paramount task to be accomplished. 

Government approves an extension of time to bring certainty to the timeframe for completion of the Commission’s work

New timeline does not delay the programme of action on the Tuam site

 Detailed interim report on burials to be submitted in March 2019

Statement by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone TD

 

22/01/2019 - The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone TD, has today (22 January 2019) published the Fourth Interim Report from the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes. 

In the Report, the Commission provides an update on its work with a particular focus on the practical and logistical challenges which must be factored into managing a statutory investigation of this scale and complexity. 

At its meeting today the Government agreed to a request from the Commission for an extension of one year to allow it to complete its final report. This additional time will ensure the investigation can complete the analysis of diverse sources of information as it seeks to comprehensively address the wide range of concerns referred to it.

Minister Receives First Report of the Collaborative Forum

14/01/2019 - In mid-December members of the Collaborative Forum met in Miesian Plaza to present Minister Katherine Zappone with the Forum’s first report.

The Forum was established to facilitate and empower persons who endured these institutions to contribute to decisions on matters of concern to them and their families. In this way the voices of survivors can be a significant input into the Government’s response to these hugely complex and sensitive matters.