Letters

Friday 25 July 2014

Letters: We owe it to the Tuam children to have a full inquiry

Published 07/06/2014|02:30

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Specialist engineer's apply Ground Probing Radar to the burial site at the former Mother and Babies home in Tuam; inset, historian Catherine Corless (inset). Photo: Ray Ryan
Specialist engineer's apply Ground Probing Radar to the burial site at the former Mother and Babies home in Tuam; inset, historian Catherine Corless (inset). Photo: Ray Ryan

* Every now and then a story comes along which stops one in one's tracks. A story which makes a person question their belief in the innate decency of man or woman.

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That story is the tragedy that was revealed finally to the world by Catherine Corless. Photos can be found online of the children taken while they were "in care" at the mother-and-child home in Tuam. Grim, joyless faces with pained eyes stare hard-faced back at the camera, reminiscent of those children we saw pictures of in Romanian orphanages in the 1980s after the fall of Ceausescu. What desolation was visited upon them that ripped the childlike joy from their eyes and replaced it with a deadman's stare? How can the final resting place of an innocent child be a tank which was used to store human excrement? Is that what their lives were worth?

This story has been in the public domain to a greater or lesser extent since 1975. People knew there were bodies buried there. Why is it only this week that any awakening of the public consciousness has occurred?

Our Government has a responsibility to ensure this matter is properly investigated. An Garda Siochana has an opportunity to redeem its battered reputation by seizing this opportunity to carry out a criminal investigation in the name of all the little children who died in Tuam and in most likely other "care homes".

I and other friends cannot abide by this injustice visited upon defenceless little children by church and state.

We will be marching from the Department of Children to Dail Eireann next Wednesday at 7pm to protest, to remember and to call for a full inquiry. A candlelit vigil will be held and mementoes of those little lives (shoes, toys, bibs) will be displayed.

If you have been as touched by this tragedy, please come and join us and don't let apathy once again concrete over these children's memory.

GARY DALY

MARY'S ABBEY, DUBLIN 7

GREATEST CRIME WAS TO BE POOR

* The mass burial of hundreds of children in a septic tank in Tuam, Co Galway, demonstrates yet again that the greatest crime in the eyes of the Irish Catholic Church was to be poor.

This was all about money. If you could not contribute to the church coffers, you had no worth or status in Ireland. These children were untouchables, not worthy of even basic respect. These activities have been known about for years but quite simply the church, local communities and Irish society in general simply did not care. There now needs to be a full forensic excavation of this site and others like it around the country, with a complete osteological examination of all human remains.

The full horror of what happened in the name of the Catholic Church and the hypocritical status-driven obsequious class system that underlined it, is exposed for the world to see.

BERNARD GUINAN

CLAREMORRIS, CO MAYO

DEVLIN AVOIDED BLAME GAME

* Martina Devlin's article on the Tuam babies (Irish Independent, June 5) was excellent. It managed to be both well balanced and an accurate description of Irish society. She did not narrow the focus to a headline-seeking blame game. Well done.

TONY STEPHENS

GALWAY

OUR HISTORY SHOULD BE NO EXCUSE

* Reading Peggy Lee's letter (Irish Independent, June 5) with regard to the dreadful Tuam story where she says: "The public must consider the tragedy in the context of the country's economic and social profile of the time." I say this: No, Peggy. No particular time in our history should be an excuse for what happened here.

All our shameful history needed to be brought out in the open: corporal punishment, the dreadful industrial schools, the Magdalene laundries, and now this latest report on the remains of 796 babies, who died at a religious-run and state-funded home for unmarried mothers from 1925 to 1961.

We must not separate these dreadful happenings and realise and accept, once and for all, that as a society we have no excuses whatsoever.

BRIAN MC DEVITT

GLENTIES, CO DONEGAL

TRANSPARENCY MUST PREVAIL

* These children's mass graves . . . Unspeakable horror. It leaves one speechless and disgusted. This society must stop sweeping under the carpet or burying what it does not want to see.

Hopefully, the shock felt by us will not only lead to a short-lived collective cathartic exercise, but will help this culture of the unsaid to move towards more transparency.

GAEL LE ROUX

KINCORA COURT, CLONTARF, DUBLIN 3

MASS GRAVES IN OUR RECENT PAST

* The controversy over babies' mass graves is causing great grief to many people. The past may be another country, in historical terms, but we inhabit that too. In even more recent times we have had, and still have, mass graves for babies.

They flourished in more recent times as bereaved parents, who were prepared to bring home their first-born baby, received a letter, such as below, and panicked to allow the hospital to perform its cold, private and non-religious task.

Parents regretted their decision forevermore and some never visited the site of the mass grave. Happily things have improved and such letters are no longer the norm. But as you can see, this occurred in 1970.

Dear Mr -,

I regret to inform you that your wife's baby died/was stillborn on 23.7.'70.

If you wish to make your own arrangements for burial, you should notify Matron's Office as soon as possible.

If you wish, the burial can be arranged for you by the Hospital Authorities by getting in touch with the Medical Social Worker or with Matron's Office without delay, otherwise the Hospital Authorities will find it necessary to proceed with arrangements.

The charge is £2.15/- and should be paid to the Accounts Clerk between the hours of 9am and 4.30pm (12.30pm on Saturdays) or a postal order, may be sent to the Accounts Department. We would ask you to instruct us promptly in order to avoid undue distress.

ANTHONY J JORDAN

GILFORD ROAD, SANDYMOUNT, DUBLIN 4

WE MUST FACE OUR TABOOS

* The recent disclosures about the Tuam babies, unearthed by historian Catherine Corless, brings home to us again the importance of coming to terms with our past. The English historian EH Carr observed that history is a dialogue between the past and present. Here we have a case of the sad facts of our relatively recent past clashing violently with the perceptions we cherish of ourselves in the present.

The task of the historian is a difficult one. In every community there are taboo areas, subjects which are just too close to the bone for many people. But unless we understand and acknowledge where we have come from, how can we decide where our futures should be? In digging beneath the surface in Tuam, Ms Corless has done her own community, and all of us, some service.

JOHN GLENNON

CO WICKLOW

Irish Independent

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