Saturday 18 November 2017

Children's Minister apologises for Tuam babies burial scandal

Historian Catherine Corless at the site of a mass grave for children who died in the Tuam
mother and baby home. Photo: Niall Carson
Historian Catherine Corless at the site of a mass grave for children who died in the Tuam mother and baby home. Photo: Niall Carson
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Children's Minister Katherine Zappone has apologised to the victims of the Mother and Baby Homes scandal.

The minister has agreed to publish the interim report of the Commission of Inquiry into the scandal by the end of this month.

Ms Zappone referred in the Dáil to the 474 so-called "unclaimed infant remains" which were transferred from Mother and Baby Homes to medical schools in universities between 1940 and 1965.

The minister also announced that she is about to begin discussions with advocates, historians and other experts who have studied a model of inquiry used by countries like Chile and Argentina to try to come to terms with a range of large-scale past abuses.

Ms Zappone said an interim report from the commission investigating Mother and Baby Homes will be published by the end of the month.

During a special Dáil debate on the Tuam babies scandal, the minister acknowledged the calls made since last Friday for an expansion of the terms of reference to cover all institutions, agencies and individuals that were involved with Ireland's unmarried mothers and their children.

Ms Zappone said she wanted to offer solidarity and a personal apology for the wrongs that were done to those affected.

Oireachtas rules state that 20 TDs must be present for a debate to begin.

However, despite the massive public focus on the Tuam scandal over the past week, there was not an adequate attendance at 10am yesterday morning.

Parties scrambled to get sufficient numbers into the Dáil Chamber.

When the debate did get under way, Ms Zappone made a personal apology to the victims of the homes.

She also confirmed she will publish a long-awaited interim report from the Commission of Investigation.

This was welcomed by Opposition TDs, but Ms Zappone is still facing calls to widen the scope of the commission's work.

Labour Party TD Jan O'Sullivan said the Commission was set up "to examine a sample" of cases but the events of recent days showed its terms of reference now need to be widened.

Ms O'Sullivan said the country is facing "a scandal of huge proportions".

Ms Zappone agreed to carry out a scoping exercise to decide whether it is viable to extend the inquiry to cover "all institutions".

Read More: Dáil debate on Tuam babies' scandal delayed as fewer than 20 TDs show up

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams questioned why there is no garda investigation into the find in Tuam.

Ms Zappone listed a litany of truths that Irish society and its institutional pillars must now accept, including that, between 1940 and 1965, 474 so-called "unclaimed infant remains" were transferred from such homes to medical schools.

The RTÉ Prime Time documentary 'Anatomy of a Scandal', which was initially broadcast in 2011, revealed for the first time the remains of hundreds of infants were passed from Mother And Baby Homes and related institutions into the anatomy departments of medical colleges right up to the mid-1960s.

Ms Zappone said she is about to begin discussions about the issue with historians and scholars - specialising in the use of a set of approaches which the UN calls "transitional justice" which enables societies to try to come to terms with a range of large-scale past social abuses.

She cited its use in countries like Chile and Argentina while they were emerging from their repressive pasts.

Irish Independent

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