Saturday 7 December 2019

Babies of unmarried mums were four times more likely to die

Dr James Reilly
Dr James Reilly
Baby ragout

Eilish O’Regan

BABIES who were born illegitimate were nearly four times more likely to die than those whose mothers were married up until 1950, a new report on the background to the mother and baby homes controversy has revealed.

The report was drawn up to provide a background to the promised Commission of Investigation into treatment of mothers and babies at the homes.

But Children's Minister James Reilly, who announced Judge Yvonne Murphy will chair the commission, said yesterday he will not be ready with terms of reference for the statutory inquiry until the autumn – and insisted it is too early to say how far it will extend.

Asked if all the Protestant-run homes and Magdalene Laundries will be included, he said: "It would be too premature for me to say they will at this stage. I am not by any means saying that they will not be."

The report drew criticism from Derek Leinster, chair of the Bethany survivors group, who feared not all Protestant-run homes will be included. He pointed to the report's caution about not reinvestigating institutions covered by the Ryan Commission.

"This makes no sense when it comes to Protestant survivors. We pointed out the Ryan Commission did not investigate these institutions. The Ryan Commission stated there were few if any Protestant orphans because there was a waiting list of would-be adopters," he said.

"That was not the experience of the vast majority never adopted in the Westbank orphanage, Co Wicklow, or the foster children in the care of the Nurse Rescue Society, who were used as free farm labourers from the age of five.

"Although the Bethany Home is mentioned, at last, what about the Church of Ireland Magdalene home that was also a so-called mother and baby home?

He warned: "The abuse this group suffered has never been investigated and, if this report has its way, never will. If this goes through, it will be a disgrace and a farce."

The report said there is a reasonable degree of confidence that nine institutions will be included.

They are Ard Mhuire, Dunboyne, Meath; Bessboro in Cork; Manor House, Castlepollard, Co Westmeath; Sean Ross Abbey, Roscrea, Co Tipperary and Bethany Home, Dublin.

Also included are Pelletstown/ St Patrick's; Tuam home in Galway; Kilrush home in Clare and St Gerard's in Dublin.

The report also gave a full breakdown of the number of children from each home who were given passports to go to America for adoption

The report said:

  • The commission is not likely to be a suitable or effective vehicle for addressing the "very real interest of individuals" in securing access to their own individual records. Legislation and operational reform would be more effective.
  • 1,918 passports were obtained for Irish babies who were adopted in the US.
  • Protocols should be adopted which protect the confidentiality of sensitive information.
  • A comprehensive historical survey should be carried out of baby homes, county homes, private nursing homes, homes for infants or children and Magdalene Laundries. It would include the management and operation of the institutions.
  • As highlighted in the Irish Independent, nearly 500 corpses of infants were transferred to university medical schools for teaching and research from the 1940s to the early 1960s. The full extent of records on this practice need to be established.
  • It will be necessary to ensure there is a strong legal basis for an inquiry into vaccine trials on children in some of the homes in the 1960s and 1970s.

Numbers of babies issued passports for United States

St Patrick's Guild – 515

Sean Ross Abbey – 438

Castlepollard – 278

St Patrick's Home – 254

St Clare's, Stamullen – 130

Sacred Heart Convent, Cork – 98

Catholic Women's Aid Adoption Society, Cork – 37

St Joseph's Convent, Croom – 29

All Protestant Adoption Societies – 24

St Bridget's Orphanage – 14

Miscellaneous – 101

Total: 1,918

Irish Independent

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