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.
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.