Saturday 18 November 2017

'The dead don't lie' - Minister Zappone hopes men will come forward to reveal what they knew about Mother and Baby Home practices

Children and Youth Affairs Minister Katherine Zappone
Children and Youth Affairs Minister Katherine Zappone
Historian Catherine Corless at the site of a mass grave for children who died in the Tuam mother and baby home. Photo: Niall Carson Newsdesk Newsdesk

Children's Minister Katherine Zappone has said it will be a number of weeks before her department has finished looking at what other institutions and that she hopes men come forward to testify in any investigations.

She said the shocking revelations have forced Ireland to confront a dark period of our past.

"As the poet laureate Anne Enright says 'the dead do not lie' and we are, all of the people in Ireland, throughout the country and internationally as well, trying to come to terms with what does this actually mean for our country," she said.

"It's an uncovering and a challenge for us to face, maybe in a new way, a really dark period in our history," she said.

Ms Zappone's department is currently undertaking a scoping exercise to extend the terms of reference of the commission to look at other settings where pregnant women and their children were sent.

It will be a "number of weeks" however until any changed terms of reference are announced she confirmed, speaking on RTÉ'S Radio One.

"I've had many grown men come to me and cry in my presence trying to come to an understanding about what this meant for unmarried women and their children but also who is responsible, what was it about our society, how could people behave this way?," she said.

In the Dáil this week Taoiseach Enda Kenny, commenting on Irish society at the time that "women of that era had an amazing capacity to self-impregnate" and that nuns did not kidnap the children.

Broadcaster Sean O'Rourke questioned whether Ms Zappone imagined a scenario where we would hear from any significant number of men about what they knew at the time pregnant women were being sent to institutions.

"That's a great question Sean and I hope the men hear you as a man asking it and come forward. I would love to see that happen," the minister replied.

Ms Zappone also plans to look at setting up a process which would allow survivors  with opportunities to tell their stories publicly.

The TD also looked back on the Gda Maurice McCabe whistleblower scandal which saw a series of conflicting accounts between Ms Zappone and the Taoiseach about a meeting between the Minister and the McCabe family.

She said she never feared being pushed out of Government and was at all times concerned with the McCabes.

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