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Sunday 23 April 2017

Tuam Mother and Baby home was 'chamber of horrors' – Taoiseach tells the Dáil

Taoiseach Enda Kenny Photo: Getty
Taoiseach Enda Kenny Photo: Getty
John Downing

John Downing

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has described the Tuam Mother and Baby Home – where hundreds of babies’ remains were discovered - as "a chamber of horrors."

In a very strongly-worded response to questions about the controversy, Mr Kenny said the Tuam revelations did not only concern a mass grave – but “a social and cultural sepulchre.”

Mr Kenny said the revelations were a cause of shock and shame across the country. He said the nuns who ran mother and baby homes did not "kidnap children" – society gave up the children to these nuns, in part to spare them the viciousness of gossip.

"Women of that era had an amazing capacity to self-impregnate," he said with irony in reference to widespread hypocrisy in Irish society in recent generations.

The Taoiseach was replying to questions from Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin who praised the work of historian, Catherine Corless, in bringing these cases to light.  He condemned the treatment of single mothers, who broke societal rules on sexual behaviour, and the treatment of their children.

"They were considered to be ‘lesser people’ in the overall society," the Fianna Fáil leader said.

Mr Martin said Government must issue a formal apology; the inquiry must be extended to all mother and baby homes; and a dignified memorial must be erected.

The Fianna Fáil leader said the lessons must also be learnt and remedies found for the 2,500 homeless children with more investment in social worker, therapist and psychological services.

Mr Kenny said there must be a period of reflection before action is taken – but action must be taken. He said he must await further work from the Commission on Mother and Baby Homes; the North Galway Coroner; and the Gardaí.

Mr Kenny added "we buried our compassion, humanity and mercy" as he described the burial site as a "chamber of horrors".

The Taoiseach said in the so-called good old days Irish society did not want to deal with the issues.

"We dug deep to bury our compassion and our mercy. No nuns broke into our homes to take our children- we gave them up. We gave them up because of our morbid and perverse pursuit for respectability," the Taoiseach said.

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