'Government will promise us the world but I'm sceptical'

Catherine Corless has concerns

Nicola Anderson

The final report of the Mother and Baby Homes Commission is set to be published tomorrow and historian Catherine Corless has said that while the Government will "promise the world and all", she remains unconvinced about its commitment to survivors.

"I'm a bit sceptical still. I have reason to be with the way the various governments have treated the matter right from the start," she said.

"I couldn't ever sit back and say, 'this is it'."

Long-awaited and put back a number of times, the commission's 4,000-page report is due to be presented to Children's Minister Roderic O'Gorman.

Following a Cabinet meeting tomorrow, the minister, together with the Taoiseach, will discuss the contents with survivors via a web seminar before it is then widely released.

The report will detail key issues such as the treatment of women and children in the homes, the prevalence of abuse, forced adoptions and forced participation in vaccine trials, burial practices, as well as the provision of bodies for medical research.

The commission was set up more than five years ago in the wake of claims by Ms Corless that up to 800 babies were interred in an unmarked mass grave at a former Bon Secours home in Tuam, Co Galway.

But the campaigner claimed that even when it was proved in 2017 that the bodies of the babies in Tuam existed, "everyone sat back again" and did nothing.

"I have to watch and be alert because that's the pressure that's needed to keep this story out there," Ms Corless said, adding that it took "a fair bit of pressure" and "trying to connect with ministers" to keep the focus on the matter.

Asked if she ever felt personally attacked by those who tried to cast doubt on her claims about the Tuam site, she said it would "niggle (her) a bit".

"But I had the evidence there in my hand and this is the prime evidence," she added.

"I never said anything I couldn't back up. I knew what I was talking about. So at the end of the day, it didn't matter."

Ms Corless said the publication of the commission's final report is merely "the opening of a door" and not the end.

"There will be a lot of fuss on the day, but what is coming after that - will there be apologies?" she asked.

Survivors are concerned about health packages and proper professional counselling services, she said.

"They need a continuous health package. They're fed up to the teeth," she said.


Meanwhile she said it is "very upsetting" that nothing has been done as yet at the Tuam site to exhume and reinter the bodies of the babies in a dignified manner.

"They're still down there. There isn't even a plan there - the site was put back exactly as it was," she said.

She warned Tuam may be the tip of the iceberg because they "copied each other with protocol".

She hopes the commission might have obtained more information on this.

"I hope it's in the report. What's the point of it otherwise? I hope there's a lot more evidence of what we're suspecting," she said.