There are some undeniable facts about the unmarried mother’s homes in Ireland from the time they were established in the 1920s until they were closed sometime in the 1960s.
Children died needlessly by the thousands in them. Many, possibly 800 in Galway, were buried without coffins, thrown in the earth, some in a septic tank.
Some deniers have claimed there were high rates of deaths anyway due to the times. But 100 out of 162 babies in Bessborough in Cork?
Here is what happened there. A conscientious health official, Dr .James Deeny, visited, and here are his exact words written in 1951:
“Shortly afterwards, when in Cork, I went to Bessborough. It was a beautiful institution, built on to a lovely old house just before the war, and seemed to be well-run and spotlessly clean. I marched up and down and around about and could not make out what was wrong; at last I took a notion and stripped all the babies and, unusually for a Chief Medical Adviser, examined them.
“Every baby had some purulent infection of the skin and all had green diarrhea, carefully covered up. There was obviously a staphylococcus infection about.
“Without any legal authority I closed the place down and sacked the matron, a nun, and also got rid of the medical officer.
“The deaths had been going on for years. They had done nothing.”
One year later under a new regime, less than one percent of babies perished from a high of over 60 percent.
Appalling -- tantamount to manslaughter perhaps?
Deeny outlines how the nuns went to the Cork bishop who went to Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Eamon de Valera to stop this interfering doctor.
But fascism could only go too far, and the statistics did not lie
So we know they knew babies were dying by the hundreds. Why did they choose to do nothing?
It was all a part of the punishment ritual for the poor unloved unmarried mothers who suffered horrifically. Even if their children survived they were ripped away from them and sent abroad for adoption.
They were made to cut grass with scissors, forced to endure child birth without any painkilling drugs, denied stitches when wounds were opened – all testified to by local nurses and doctors who seemed helpless to stop the horrific suffering.
Mother Ireland where were you?
In Tuam there is now a fake controversy about how many little children ended up in the septic tank. Does it matter?
Was it a Catholic septic tank I wonder? Was that what made it acceptable for the nuns to use it as a burial pit?
Recently the Irish Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn suggested that history become an optional teaching subject in Irish schools.
It is as if he wants to erase every bloody war, barbaric treatment of children and church abuse that turned Ireland into the most backward country in Europe for long spells.
The Irish people need to know their history for once and for all, more than ever.
It is only through knowing the truth about the past that the present and future can be placed in context and improved upon.
The Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has led the way with a call for a top level judicial inquiry, warts and all, about the unmarried mother’s home.
He is right. The government has now heeded his voice and that of others. Only the whole truth will suffice.
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