11/01/2021 - Over the last 48 hours discussion of Tuam has revolved around the 'leak' of the Final Report of the Commission of Investigation. There has been no 'leak’. The release of the Report to selected media, is a calculated media strategy by Government. Its purpose has been distraction and the amount of media chatter is the measure of its success.
The explanation for this is simple, but ignored in the fog and noise. At Tuesday's Cabinet, Government meets to approve the "Certain Historic Burials (Authorised Interventions) Bill". The original authors were Katherine Zappone and Mr Séamus Woulfe.
Irrespective of the dishonesty of the argument that will be advanced to justify this provision, it has at its heart only one purpose, to prevent the holding of any Inquest into the deaths of at least 9,000 children and indeed mothers, in Mother and Baby Homes. To give this proper context, even a cursory review of the Tuam death toll is revealing.
At least 796 children are recorded by the Registrar-General as dying within the Tuam 'Home'. The average age of more than 79% of those dying within the 'Home' was less than 12 months.
Before a Death Certificate can be issued by the State, a Medical Certificate must by law, be provided by a Doctor who attended the Deceased within six weeks of death.
While 796 Death Certificates do exist, the Registrar-General is unable to produce a Medical Certificate for a single child. From the short note on the available Death Certificates however, we can extract the following information:
Eighteen (18) children are recorded as dying from starvation (marasmus).
Some 193 children or 25% of the total deaths were 'certified’ as suffering from 'debility' as a cause of death, without any explanation as to what this convenient shorthand means (in the years after the retirement of Dr Costello then in his mid 80s not a single death from 'debility' is recorded).
When we add Dr Costello's 'certification' of death as being caused by the child being a 'congenital idiot' to that number; we arrive at a total of 221 children recorded as dying from such 'causes'. Closer examination of the death toll shows that many of the other recorded causes of death are simply fiction.
What we do know is that the Tuam pit whether described a cess-pit, waste-water tank or other, is where the bodies of the Tuam children were thrown. We know that the 'management' of the Tuam 'Home’ was in the hands of the Bon Secours Order of Nuns and that they were paid to run it by the State.
We know that many of the remains of the children first located in September 2016, despite the rough treatment they have received, still exhibit signs of violent trauma to parts of the body from their skulls to their tiny feet. There is clear and extensive evidence of rickets among those remains.
Rickets one of the most tangible societal signs of extreme poverty. It is caused by a diet so restricted and inadequate, it amounts to starvation and abuse. A further major cause is lack of exposure to sunlight, something from which the Children imprisoned in the former dilapidated Workhouse suffered.
Abnormally curved spines
It is not therefore surprising that Dr Costello cheerfully records all of these in abundance in certifying deaths. As a matter of record, he is reported in a local newspaper telling members of the 'Local Board of Health' that it was normal worldwide for 50% of children to die by the age of five.
The lesson of Tuam is clear. If you suffer the trauma of finding the body of a child in your garden, An Garda Siochana, the State Pathologist and the local Coroner will arrive at your door. An Inquest will as a matter of law be convened and you may well be arrested and questioned.
However, if the maltreated bodies of 796 children, who were in the words of former Taoiseach Enda Kenny treated as a 'sub-species' are found in a cesspit attached to a 'Home' run by Nuns for 36 years, the ‘Minister for Children will bring a Bill to Cabinet to ensure no Inquest is ever held.
04/11/2020 - The Minister at DCYA Roderic O'Gorman received the Final Report of the Commission on Friday 30th October. This followed a week in which the Minister, his Department and his colleagues in Government demonstrated an alarming ignorance of the law with respect to the rights of survivors in accessing their own data. It took the voices of survivor support groups to instruct them in the law.
11/09/2019 - We note the publication today of the Report commissioned by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs dealing with the creation of a DNA database from family members of children believed to be buried in waste/sewerage tanks at the former Tuam Mother and Baby Home.
This is the second Report completed by Dr Geoffrey Shannon at the request of Minister Zappone and like the first, which dealt with the legality of the manner in which the dead bodies of the Tuam children were treated, it is scholarly, comprehensive and cogent.
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.
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.
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
- The exhumation of all human remains at the Tuam site.
- 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.
- 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.