Research Reveals Children
Died at Irish “Home”

     A recent report from Voice of America reports that a researcher, Catherine Corless, has discovered that up to 796 children are believed to have died at a home for unwed mothers (and others deemed sinful or a burden) in Ireland, and were buried in or near a septic tank in a mass unmarked grave. This particular “home” was run by the Sisters of Bon Secours in Tuam, County Galway, Ireland, from 1926 to 1961, and funded in part by the Irish government. The story is also reported by CNN. Ms. Corless says she discovered the records of the children, who were from two days old up to nine years old when they died, so there were records of their names, but they were net even given the dignity of being buried in a graveyard with a name or marker. These children, according to reports of the records, died from malnutrition, tuberculosis and other illnesses. The mothers, of course, were working there for no pay which constitutes slavery.
     The discovery was reported in a front-page story in the Irish Mail on Sunday, June 1, 2014. According to this story, local children happened upon the grave in the 1970s and reported it, but no one ever checked on it. Outrage over this recent revelation has prompted calls for thorough investigation, not only of this so-called home, but all the other such places run by nuns in Ireland in the past. Archbishop Michael Neary, who heads the Tuam archdiocese, said he welcomed the government’s move to examine what happened at the home, and said it was hard to fathom the suffering of the mothers involved. He said the Catholic Church has no records related to the home, because it was not involved in running it, and the Sisters of Bon Secours handed over their archives to local authorities in 1961, apparently when they closed the place. Neary said that, despite the length of time since then, “this is a matter of great public concern which ought to be acted upon urgently.” He further stated, “it will be a priority for me, in cooperation with the families of the deceased, to seek to obtain a dignified re-internment of the remains of the children in consecrated ground in Tuam.” He said the Catholic Church would work with the Eon Secours Sisters and the local community to put up a memorial plaque to the infants who died. One is inclined to think “too little, too late,” but there is not much more to be done, other than a full investigation and opening of records. One also wonders where is the plaque to honor the mothers.
     A petition was set up on June 3 on the activist website Avaaz.org calling for a judicial investigation into the circumstances of the children’s deaths. More than 8,000 people had signed it as of Thursday morning, June 5. The petition is addressed to the Irish Minister for Justice and Equality, stating, “We are concerned that evidence suggests that the mortality rate for these children was significantly higher than the national rate of infant mortality at the time. And we are shocked at reliable, contemporaneous accounts that the children were malnourished and seemingly uncared for, when the Irish State was paying the Bon Secours to look after them.”
     Ironically, “Bon Secours” translates to “Good Help.” This is a different order than the Magdalene Sisters who ran most of the infamous Irish Laundries, but the policies seem to be similar. Not only were unwed mothers and pregnant girls placed in these places, but also those deemed to be apt to misbehave, or who were disabled and a “burden to their families.” In spite pf these findings and past issues involving these homes, and even the discovery of the mass grave in 1970, Sgt. Brian Whelar, in the press office of Garda, Ireland’s national police, told CNN there was nothing to suggest any “impropriety” and that police are not investigating the matter! He also disputed reports that the remains were found in a septic tank, saying they were found in a graveyard in the grounds of the home. One must assume that if there are remains, it is by definition a graveyard, perhaps. However, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Charlie Flanagan, said that “active consideration” is being given to how to address the details that have emerged concerning these children and others who died in such homes.
     Last year, the Irish prime minister officially apologized to the women, including those whose children were called “orphans” and placed for adoption, in exchange for donations, against their mothers true wishes. The 2013 film Philomena, of course, is the story of one such case. In fact, a government report last year into the so-called Magdalene Laundries, run by various Catholic orders, acknowledged that Ireland government (no separation of church and state) sent thousands of women and girls to “harsh and physically demanding” workhouses, where they worked and lived without pay, sometimes for years. The laundries operated from 1922 to 1996. That’s just eighteen years ago!
     As a final statement, this news report says that Philomena Lee launched the Philomena Project in hopes of compelling the governments of Ireland and the United States to open access to adoption records. It’s exciting to think, even in the midst of one’s outrage and grief, that these news reports and Philomena’s book and film, might make records more accessible to birth parents and adoptees alike, in both countries. The U.S. adoptees affected by this would be those born in Ireland, but, ultimately, it would help turn the tide to make records accessible to all adoptees and birth parents, as public awareness influences legislatures.

Excerpted from the July 2014 edition of the Operation Identitiy Newsletter
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