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Councils advised to follow the Taoiseach's lead when apologising for mother and baby homes


Baby socks and hearts are pictured at a shrine in Tuam, County Galway in January 13, 2021

Baby socks and hearts are pictured at a shrine in Tuam, County Galway in January 13, 2021

Baby socks and hearts are pictured at a shrine in Tuam, County Galway in January 13, 2021

County councils around the country were given advice from the Department of Children about how to handle an apology to survivors of mother and baby homes that had been located in their areas.

They were told that while it might not be necessary to issue an individual apology, there could be a "political or social imperative to do so locally".

The advice came in a message from the County and City Management Association (CCMA), which said consultation had taken place between officials from the Department of Housing and the Department of Children.

The Department of Children said it did not have specific guidance to offer but that local authorities could take their lead from the apology made by the Taoiseach.

A letter to councils from the CCMA said: "They [the department] have also suggested that local authorities might wish to consider a commitment to supporting local measures as part of the proposed suite of follow-up actions, for example, in regard to local memorialisation and access to their archives of records."

The councils were also provided with a sample statement they could issue but advised that the views of local councillors might need to be sought before any apology was issued.

The advice was being given, the letter said, because of the "propensity for requests" for councils to address their role in oversight and running of the homes.

Internal records from one council detail how it prepared to deal with the fallout from the report's publication.

Galway County Council - in whose area the notorious Tuam home was located - was the subject of extensive criticism for apparent delays in issuing its apology.

The council issued a statement the day after the mother and baby homes report was published which said it would "take some time to read and fully absorb the findings".

However, the delay was criticised in some correspondence, with one email saying: "Seeing that the Taoiseach, bishops and religious orders have apologised for the many wrongs committed - is it not odd that Galway County Council, who owned the building, doesn't see fit to apologise?"

Internal records detail how the council opted to stick by its stance that it should take time to consider the report, saying the appropriate forum for a "further statement" was at a council meeting.

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Council management was also criticised after an agenda for that meeting was published - with the mother and baby homes report eighth on the list.

In an email to senior management, Fianna Fáil councillor Shelly Herterich Quinn said: "It is appalling that we should not be the first to apologise given the seriousness of the findings."

In a reply, Cathaoirleach James Charity said the upcoming meeting was the "appropriate venue" for a statement as otherwise it would not be on the public record.

Cllr Herterich Quinn said the council had allowed itself to become a "laughing stock" and that the delay in apologising was "disgraceful".

However, a plan for the running order at the meeting to be changed was subsequently formulated, with standing orders suspended so statements on the report could be heard first.

Council management also discussed whether they should issue a clarification about how discussion of the investigation report came to be so low down on the agenda.

A statement was prepared saying the agendas were set by statute and that statutory items had to be placed first on the list.

It said: "Notwithstanding the statutory structure of the agenda, this issue was always going to be taken as the first item of business."

A statement from the council said that the meeting on January 25 was the earliest possible date available and was the appropriate forum for a further statement.

They said: "The Council has and will continue to afford all matters relating to the former Tuam mother and baby home careful consideration with appropriate priority afforded to the survivors, their families and all with a personal connection to the former Mother and Baby Home."

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