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Tuam babies scandal: There but for the grace of God go I

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Local historian Catherine Corless at the site of a mass grave for children who died in the Tuam mother and baby home, Galway. Ms Corless’s research led to the mass grave being discovered. Photo: Niall Carson/PA

Local historian Catherine Corless at the site of a mass grave for children who died in the Tuam mother and baby home, Galway. Ms Corless’s research led to the mass grave being discovered. Photo: Niall Carson/PA

Local historian Catherine Corless at the site of a mass grave for children who died in the Tuam mother and baby home, Galway. Ms Corless’s research led to the mass grave being discovered. Photo: Niall Carson/PA

What a shocking and unchristian discovery of what was unearthed in Tuam.

There is never smoke without fire. People in the town and community of Tuam heard stories of babies being buried in the grounds of the mother and baby home.

As I read the reports, the phrase "there but for the grace of God go I" repeated in my head.

It brings me back to my own situation 30 years ago in 1987, when I was in a mother and baby home for six months in Dunboyne, Co Meath, where I was treated with kindness and cared for by the Good Shepherd Sisters.

I went there because I could not face being a single mother in a society that looked down on me and judged me.

These judgments were instilled in me by my family, the community I lived in and the Catholic faith I was born into.

However, I had a future, because we as a society had evolved by this point.

But 20 years before the 1980s, "my kind" had no future, and their beautiful babies died and were buried in an unmarked grave.

So I repeat the phrase: "There but for the grace of God go I."

Adrienne Murphy

Bandon, Co Cork

Justice for Bethany Home survivors

The extent of the criminal neglect and abuse of children in care in this country, further exposed by the shocking discovery of a mass grave filled with the bodies of babies and children in an unmarked site beside a former home for unwed mothers in Tuam, is an appalling indictment of Church and State's neglect of their responsibilities.

The uncovering of this mass grave in Galway dwarfs the discovery of the unmarked graves of 222 babies and young children in Mount Jerome Cemetery who died in the Protestant Bethany Home in Dublin during the period between 1922 and 1949 and who lay unnamed, unacknowledged and unwanted until 2010.

Seven years on, the survivors of the Bethany Home are still being denied redress.

In her address to the MacGill Summer School on the Children's Referendum in 2012, the former children's minister Frances Fitzgerald said that she accepted that Ireland had a "nationally shameful record on protecting children".

In acknowledging the attempts that have been made to heal the scars and wounds associated with institutional child abuse by way of the publication of the Ferns, Ryan, Murphy and Cloyne Reports, the State apology to victims and the setting up of the redress scheme, I nonetheless believe the exemption of those former residents of the Bethany Home from the Redress Act 2002 is no longer defensible.

If the formal apologies proffered by Taoiseach Enda Kenny on behalf of the Government to the victims of the Magdalene Laundries in 2013 was one of genuine substance and compassion and not empty rhetoric for public consumption, then all victims must be included.

It is morally repugnant to have civil service bureaucrats search for an escape hatch whereby the State could avoid its moral and legal responsibilities to any abused child.

Until the abdication of responsibility by Church and State towards the Bethany children is formally lifted, the curtain on Ireland's dark past and shameful legacy of institutional child abuse will remain closed.

Tom Cooper

Templeogue, Dublin 6

No majority in NI for united Ireland

There have been several misleading interpretations of the Northern Ireland election results in the media.

The most common one is "Nationalists achieved near parity with Unionists".

In fact, 42.5pc voted for united Ireland parties and 57.5pc voted against them.

It is not the Assembly but the voters in a referendum who decide the future constitutional position of Northern Ireland.

And last week's election confirms that, by a good majority, they wish to remain in the UK.

Lord Kilclooney (former UUP MP John Taylor)

Mullinure, Co Armagh

A UK U-turn on Brexit?

John Bruton's suggestion that the EU offers Britain continued membership on its existing conditions, but without its budgetary rebate, would be seen in Britain as an attempt to extract an unfair advantage and rejected for that very reason, whatever the circumstances, even by those who had voted "Remain" in June 2016 (Irish Independent, February 22).

What the European Council should do is to state that membership on the terms negotiated by former British PM David Cameron in 2016 remains open should Britain change its mind during the two-year negotiating period.

These are conditions the EU has already shown it can live with, as have 48pc of UK voters.

Gaining additional support might well be possible as the reality of a hard Brexit begins to dawn, particularly if more younger people can be induced to vote.

Ultimately, it's their future that's at stake.

A further factor prompting a possible British rethink might be the EU's newfound willingness to envisage alternative scenarios for its future development, including a possible exclusive focus on the single market, as outlined in the Commission document of March 1.

The main obstacle to such a rethink would come from Britain's Europhobic press.

The European Council should also state its willingness to look with sympathy at a possible future application for membership by an independent Scotland, should a mooted second independence referendum there prove successful.

There are precedents for this scenario with the states of the former Yugoslavia and the former Czechoslovakia.

Ed Kelly

St Helens, UK

Stick to the day job, Des

Sports commentator Des Cahill is a likeable guy and adds a touch of humour to the proceedings on RTÉ's 'Dancing with the Stars', but a few really good dancers have been voted off the show before him.

The negative result for boxer Michael Conlan at the 2016 Rio Olympics was a mere oversight by comparison.

I think Des would agree.

Niall Ginty

Killester, Dublin 5

Irish Independent