Thursday 23 October 2014

'Families must share blame for horrors of dead babies'

Former mayor calls for a 'reality check' on role of church and society

Published 10/06/2014 | 02:30

Mr Ward said it was easy to simply blame the Catholic Church
Mr Ward said it was easy to simply blame the Catholic Church
Martin Ward, the former Mayor of Tuam, Co Galway. Picture: Ray Ryan

A prominent member of the committee set up to mark the 800 babies who died in a Tuam home has called for a "reality check" when it comes to apportioning blame for the tragedy.

Martin Ward, who is also a former Mayor of Tuam, insisted that the Catholic Church must not carry all responsibility for what happened in the homes, insisting that society and the parents of the young girls must also accept blame in the matter.

"I think people need a reality check. People have got to look at the times and the culture that was in it. Kids outside the home were dying in large numbers as well. People don't seem to realise that," he said.

Mr Ward said it was easy to simply blame the Catholic Church for what went on but pointed out that society at the time was harsh.

"I wouldn't just point the finger at any one group. I would point the finger at society of the time. There seemed to be a cruelness there in that if something happened and a girl got pregnant she was shoved into a home and ostracised by her family. And we have to hold them accountable as well. For generations parents and grandparents were sending these girls away and nobody is blaming them. They are blaming everybody else but they need to look closer to home at what happened and why," he added.

While the death records definitively show that 796 children died at the Tuam home in Co Galway, it remains unclear if all of them are buried in and around a septic tank on the grounds.

Historian Catherine Corless has so far only managed to check the records for a cross-section of the 796 death records she received. While these flagged children did not appear in any of the cemetery books for the area, it has now emerged that many of the old cemetery records have been lost.

An archivist with Galway County Council who checked for 100 of the babies in other graveyards, confirmed that records only exist for certain graveyards, adding that "in many cases we don't have the registers for graveyards."

Despite this, Ms Corless is confident that all 796 babies ended up in the one area and she is eager for a full review to ascertain the facts.

"At the time I could only do a cross-section but the evidence would suggest that all the children are buried in that crypt," she said.

"When these women became pregnant they were more or less ran out of their homes and told not to come back. The parents sent their daughters in there. They weren't very likely to claim an illegitimate child and bring it back to their family plot."

Irish Independent

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