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A dark legacy that must be confronted


A red rose comes into bloom on the site of the Mother and Babies home grave in Tuam, Co Galway. Photo Andy Newman

A red rose comes into bloom on the site of the Mother and Babies home grave in Tuam, Co Galway. Photo Andy Newman

A red rose comes into bloom on the site of the Mother and Babies home grave in Tuam, Co Galway. Photo Andy Newman

Many of us are struck by grief and dismay at news from excavations carried out at the site of a former mother and baby home at Tuam. The remains of hundreds of babies and infants up to three years old have been found.

We must now face the likelihood that more former locations of homes for marginalised people also contain sites of burials conducted in similar circumstances. These instances might extend to former county homes and other institutions like orphanages and industrial schools.

But already we have yet another summary of our dark history of how Irish society treated those deemed to have transgressed sexual mores and who were also poor and ill-educated. Children's Minister Katherine Zappone has brought together key departments and agencies to pursue matters. The commission is focusing on post-mortem procedures, and reporting and burial arrangements at the mother and baby homes.

The unacceptably high mortality rates in these homes suggest a history of poor care. We need to know the comparative mortality rates outside these institutions.

And we must assess how the poor overall health of some impoverished residents might account for some variations in the high death rates. This is a very important issue.

Like it or not, all of us still carry a collective responsibility about the consequences of an inhuman regime conducted for decades in secrecy behind high walls. We need to appraise again how much was known in general society and simply not widely talked about.

Answers are required from the State, the Catholic Church, and specifically the Sisters of the Bon Secours, and others in the wider community who may have colluded in these barbaric burials.

Double rip-off of patients who pay health insurance

Irish people take out health insurance mainly because they cannot trust the public system to deliver the kind of care they, or their loved ones, may need, as and when they need it. But increasingly we find that even this cannot be entirely trusted.

Today, we report that management of public hospitals are frequently charging up to €800 a night for people with health insurance who are treated in a public ward. In some cases people being charged as 'private patients' may in fact be languishing on a hospital trolley.

The Government has admitted that charging people with health cover for treatment in a public ward is now raising €200m a year. This is a multiple of what it was initially believed such charges would generate.

The net result is that the higher charges must be recouped somehow. You don't have to be a genius to know that this can only mean higher premiums. It is another inflow to the vicious circle of spiralling health insurance tariffs.

This is also another grim feature of the health system that has remained hidden in the shadows. A new survey has found that the vast majority of patients do not know they are being hit twice.

The survey for Insurance Ireland found 65pc of people are unaware that those with health cover are being pushed into paying twice - through their taxes and through their health insurance. This is another inequity which must be urgently addressed.

Irish Independent