Ireland: Catherine Corless awarded National Human Rights Award for exposing Tuam infant atrocities Print E-mail

 Thursday October 26 2017

Amateur historian Catherine Corless honoured with Human Rights Award for Tuam Mothers and Baby work

 Catherine Corless

By Saidhbh O'Callaghan

The Bar of Ireland has presented Catherine Corless its Human Rights Award relating to the discovery of the remains of 796 children on the site of a former mother and baby home in Tuam, Co Galway.

Amature historian, Catherine Corless has spent years searching through the records of the former Saint Mary's mother and baby home. Her research showed that 796 children, mostly infants, had died from 1925 and 1961 in the home run by Bon Secours.

Two local boys, Frannie Hopkins and Barry Sweeney, were playing in the field, 14 years after the home closed, where they discovered a hole covered by a concrete slab "full of skeletons... of children". After telling a local priest the site was covered over again, without any investigation into who was buried there or what had happened to them.

Corless had heard about the story, and began to investigate who had been buried there. After contacting countless people (Bon Secours Headquaters in Cork, Western Health Board, Galway County Council), and getting nothing, she finally began to get information when she contacted the registry office Galway.

Between 2011 and 2013, Corless paid €4 per death certificate of the children who had died while in the home.

She eventually came to a number of 796 children, whos deaths had been caused by a range of diseases, including tuberculosis, measles and pneumonia, as well as neglect and malnutrition. This meant that the child mortality rate at the home was extremely large compared to the rest of Ireland at that time.

After using a site map, she concluded that the most likely site where the children would have been buried was the sewage tank, which has been out of use since the 1930s.

Corless and some fellow local historians began to appeal to put a permanant memorial there for the children who had died. Despite a local paper (2013) and the Connact Tribune (Feburary 2014) running the story, it was not brought to national attention until May 2014 when, focusing on the mass grave mostly, journalist Alison O'Reilly interviewd Corless.

Without Corless's tireless and, until now, thankless work, this tradegy may have never came to light. Later today she will receive the Bar of Ireland Human Rights award, which she undoubtedly deserves for fighting for the 'forgotten children', who couldn't fight for themselves.

Accepting the award, Corless said; “I am truly honoured to receive The Bar of Ireland Human Rights Award. My work campaigning on behalf of the survivors of mother and baby homes continues and I hope that this special award will give even more survivors the strength to come forward to tell their story. With each and every testimony the truth is uncovered further and our campaign for justice to prevail is strengthened. I share this Award with the all survivors, this is for them.”

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The Irish Times ~ Thursday October 26, 2017,

Galway historian Catherine Corless receives Human Rights Award

Children’s bodies found at Tuam mother and baby home should be exhumed, says Corless

By Olivia Kelly
 

Catherine Corless after receiving the Bar of Ireland’s Human Rights Award in recognition of her work in relation to the Tuam mother and baby homes. ( Brian Lawless/PA)

Galway-based historian, Catherine Corless has called for the exhumation of the bodies of all children buried at the mother and baby home in Tuam, Co Galway.

Ms Corless was speaking in Dublin on Thursday where she was presented with the annual Human Rights Award from barristers’ organisation the Bar of Ireland, for her work in relation to the home.

Her research led to the discovery of the remains of hundreds of babies on the site of the former institution for unmarried mothers run by the Sisters of the Bon Secours, and she continues to advocate on behalf of survivors.

A “terrible injustice” had been done to “innocent children” at the home she said, “both the people who went through the home and survived it and also . . . the children who died there” .

The Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes earlier this year announced that “significant” quantities of human remains had been found buried under the Tuam home site. The commission was set up in February 2015 after Ms Corless, published research that revealed death certificates for 796 children home with no indication of their burial places.

“I couldn’t get my mind around how the sisters could leave that home in 1961, close the gates when it closed down, with 796 children buried beneath in the tunnels in coffins, a lot of them in the sewage tank area as we now know,” she said. “What kind of mentality would leave that place without acknowledging that so many burials were there, so many precious lives were lost?”

She said she hoped the commission would make recommendations which would restore some dignity to the dead.

“The ideal would be to exhume those little bodies and just show them some dignity and reverence and to perhaps reinter them in the main Tuam graveyard which is only across the road.”

The commission must also provide justice for the survivors, she said.

“Hopefully the commission of inquiry will give them justice. All they want is an apology and an acknowledgment of what happened to them and their mothers.”

Paul McGarry SC, chairman of the council of the Bar of Ireland said Ms Corless had shown “incredible courage and determination” in her advocacy work on behalf of survivors of the home.

“She has worked tirelessly on their behalf and has shone a light on a dark period of our history, passionately represented the victims and their rights at all times, often in the face of adversity,” he said.


“She epitomises the very essence of a humanitarian and is a very deserving recipient of this award.”

The Bar of Ireland’s Human Rights Award is presented to a person or organisation who has shown exceptional humanitarian service. Last year it was awarded to the Irish Naval Service for its work on the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean Sea.
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 March 08, 2017

Tuam “chamber of horrors” – babies starved, sold, experimented on

By Niall O'Dowd

The horrors of Mother and Baby Homes. Children sit in a tea room with a nun posing for a photo  (Adoption Rights Alliance)

At least 6,000 Irish children died in the now notorious mother and baby homes throughout Ireland, but the nightmare doesn't end there. Eighteen children, mostly girls, mostly mentally handicapped, were starved to death.

Details are emerging of the horrific stories behind some of the 796 deaths at the Tuam mother and baby home.

Irish leader Enda Kenny made an impassioned speech in the parliament yesterday calling Tuam a “Chamber of Horrors.”

He stated. “No nuns broke into our homes to kidnap our children.

“We gave them up to what we convinced ourselves was the nuns’ care.


“We took their babies (unmarried mothers) and gifted them, sold them, trafficked them, starved them, neglected them or denied them to the point of their disappearance from our hearts, our sight, our country and, in the case of Tuam and possibly other places, from life itself.”

Twelve of the 18 who starved were girls and there is a suspicion that some were mentally retarded. Bridget Agatha Kenny was two months old when she died as a result of marasmus, child malnutrition, on August 23, 1947. She is described as having been ‘mentally defective.'

She was one of 18 children whose cause of death was listed as child malnutrition or the official term “marasmus.”

Marasmus is a form of severe malnutrition characterized by energy deficiency. A child with marasmus looks utterly emaciated with ribs protruding. Body weight is reduced to less than 60% of the normal body weight for the age.

The new details raise the shocking specter of children dying of starvation in Ireland 100 years after the Famine.

Photo: Children in a playroom at a Mother and Baby Home (Via: Adoption Rights Alliance).

In 2014 it was revealed in a report compiled by Michael Dwyer of Cork University’s School of History 2,051 children from state-run homes were used as medical guinea pigs for the pharma giant Burroughs Wellcome during the 1930s. He came to this conclusion after trawling through tens of thousands of medical journal articles and archived files.

Dwyer told the Daily Mail in 2014, “What I have found is just the tip of a very large and submerged iceberg.

“The fact that no record of these trials can be found in the files relating to the Department of Local Government and Public Health, the Municipal Health Reports relating to Cork and Dublin, or the Wellcome Archives in London, suggests that vaccine trials would not have been acceptable to government, municipal authorities, or the general public.

“However, the fact that reports of these trials were published in the most prestigious medical journals suggests that this type of human experimentation was largely accepted by medical practitioners and facilitated by authorities in charge of children’s residential institutions.”

Children taking the air, accompanied by nuns at a Mother and Baby home (Via: Adoption Rights Alliance)

There were nine homes in all and it is now also a confirmed fact that between 1940 and 1965 Saint Patrick's, on the Navan Road in Dublin, and its sister hospital, Saint Kevin’s, “donated” the bodies of at least 461 deceased babies for routine dissection practice in all the major medical teaching institutions in the state, including Trinity College Dublin, The College of Surgeons and University College Dublin’s medical school.

No questions were asked where the baby bodies came from.

Following the excavation of “significant quantities of infants' remains” at the Tuam site of the Bon Secours’ Mother and Baby Home the case has been handed over to the gardai (police). The case of the mass grave, homed in two underground sewerage structures, was referred to the north Galway coroner by the Mother and Baby Home Commission of Investigation.

As more widespread investigations into burial plots and Mother and Baby Home records across Ireland are called for the Coalition of Mother And Baby home Survivors released a statement, a rundown of facts already known about the Catholic Church’s Mother and Baby Homes. Among them is the fact that the children in the church’s care were used for medical experimentation and drug trials.

In 2011, RTE’s investigative current affairs show, "Prime Time" revealed that hundreds of the bodies of babies born in Ireland’s Mother and Baby were sent from the homes to Irish medical colleges. They also reported that other children were vaccinated in the homes with experimental drugs and closely monitored for side effects.

According to Dwyer’s report from 2014, no consent was ever sought by the Mother and Baby Homes for these medical procedures. These vaccine trials were carried out on Irish babies before the drugs were eventually made available for commercial use in the United Kingdom.

  Nun sits with young boy and other children at a Mother and Baby Home. (Via: Adoption Rights Alliance)

Among those homes listed were Bessborough, in County Cork, and Sean Ross Abbey in Roscrea, County Tipperary. Both of these homes are included among the mass grave investigations being sought by survivors and campaigners.

The report states that other institutions where children may also have been vaccinated include Cork orphanages St Joseph’s Industrial School for Boys, run by the Presentation Brothers, and St Finbarr’s Industrial School for Girls, run by the Sisters of the Good Shepherd. Dublin trials may have involved children from St Vincent’s Industrial School, Goldenbridge, St Joseph’s School for Deaf Boys, Cabra, and St Saviour's Dominican Orphanage.

A spokesman for GSK – formerly Wellcome – told the Irish Daily Mail: “The activities that have been described to us date back over 70 years and, if true, are clearly very distressing.”

Children at the Bon Secour Mother and Baby Home, in Tuam, County Galway.

At the time of the report Ireland’s Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny called for a countrywide investigation into these practices and the burial plots at Tuam, and other Mother and Baby Homes.

According to the 2011 "Prime Time" documentary, the Polio vaccine was developed during the 1950s. While this led to a decrease in such diseases as diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough, however this new drug brought on an increase in the amount of child research performed. Much of the research was consequently performed in children’s institutions through the 1960s. There are no records that show consent from the mothers in the homes. “It was clear from the report that there was no parental consent,” reports the documentary. “There was a violation of the physical integrity of the children.”

Before Dwyer’s 2012 report, a damning report by the Irish government’s Health Service Executive (HSE) found that the Irish Catholic mother and child homes had an infant mortality rate of 68% in 1943. The report shows that, according to the Register of Deaths, Bessborough Mother and Baby home during certain months in the 1940s the death rate among children living in the home amounted to a child dying roughly every second day.

More than 80 of the 472 infant deaths have malnutrition listed as the cause of death.

The reports also showed that as time went on, the standard of the death records kept decreased dramatically. It is the case that for hundreds of children listed it was unclear when exactly the death took place and it appeared that many were recorded at the same time.
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The Guardian ~ Wednesday 8 March 2017

The Catholic church is ‘shocked’ at the hundreds of children buried at Tuam. Really?

By Emer O'Toole

The discovery of remains at a former home for unmarried mothers shows that Ireland is still in denial over a horrific legacy

Engineers use ground-penetrating radar to search the mass grave at the former mother and baby home in Tuam, County Galway. (Aidan Crawley/EPA)

It has been confirmed that significant numbers of children’s remains lie in a mass grave adjacent to a former home for unmarried mothers run by the Bon Secours Sisters in Tuam, County Galway. This is exactly where local historian Catherine Corless, who was instrumental in bringing the mass grave to light, said they would be. A state-established commission of inquiry into mother and baby homes recently located the site in a structure that “appears to be related to the treatment/containment of sewage and/or waste water”, but which we are not supposed to call a septic tank.

The archbishop of Tuam, Michael Neary, says he is “deeply shocked and horrified”. Deeply. Because what could the church have known about the abuse of children in its instutions? When Irish taoiseach Enda Kenny was asked if he was similarly shocked, he answered: “Absolutely. To think you pass by the location on so many occasions over the years.” To think. Because what would Kenny, in Irish politics since the 70s, know about state-funded, church-perpetrated abuse of women and children? Even the commission of inquiry – already under critique by the UN – said in its official statement that it was “shocked by this discovery”.

If I am shocked, it is by the pretence of so much shock. When Corless discovered death certificates for 796 children at the home between 1925 and 1961 but burial records for only two, it was clear that hundreds of bodies existed somewhere. They did not, after all, ascend into heaven like the virgin mother. Corless then uncovered oral histories from reliable local witnesses, offering evidence of where those children’s remains could be found. So what did the church and state think had happened? That the nuns had buried the babies in a lovely wee graveyard somewhere, but just couldn’t remember where?

Or maybe the church and state are expressing shock that nuns in mid-20th century Ireland could have so little regard for the lives and deaths of children in their care. The Ryan report in 2009 documented the systematic sexual, physical and emotional abuse of children in church-run, state-funded institutions. It revealed that when confronted with evidence of child abuse, the church would transfer abusers to other institutions, where they could abuse other children. The Christian Brothers legally blocked the report from naming and shaming its members. Meanwhile, Cardinal Seán Brady – now known to have participated in the cover-up of abuse by paedophile priest Brendan Smyth – muttered about how ashamed he was.

It may be time to stop acting as though the moral bankruptcy and hypocrisy of the Catholic church are news to us

The same year, the Murphy report on the sexual abuse of children in the archdiocese of Dublin revealed that the Catholic church’s priorities in dealing with paedophilia were not child welfare, but rather secrecy, the avoidance of scandal, the protection of its reputation and the preservation of church assets. In 2013, the McAleese report documented the imprisonment of more than 10,000 women in church-run, state-funded laundries, where they worked in punitive industrial conditions without pay for the crime of being unmarried mothers.

So you will forgive me if I am sceptical of the professed shock of Ireland’s clergy, politicians and official inquiring bodies. We know too much about the Catholic church’s abuse of women and children to be shocked by Tuam. A mass grave full of the children of unmarried mothers is an embarrassing landmark when the state is still paying the church to run its schools and hospitals. Hundreds of dead babies are not an asset to those invested in the myth of an abortion-free Ireland; they inconveniently suggest that Catholic Ireland always had abortions, just very late-term ones, administered slowly by nuns after the children were already born.

As Ireland gears up for a probable referendum on abortion rights as well as a strategically planned visit from the pope, it may be time to stop acting as though the moral bankruptcy and hypocrisy of the Catholic church are news to us. You can say you don’t care, but – after the Ryan report, the Murphy report, the McAleese report, the Cloyne report, the Ferns report, the Raphoe report and now Tuam – you don’t get to pretend that you don’t know.

Two members of my family were born in the Tuam home, lived short lives there, and are likely lying in that septic tank – sorry, in that structure that “appears to be related to the treatment/containment of sewage and/or waste water”. Their mother died young, weakened from her time in the custody of the church. Because of this I understand that otherwise good, kind people in Ireland handed power over women and children’s lives to an institution they knew was abusive. And I wrestle with the reality that – in our schools and hospitals – we’re still handing power over women and children’s lives to the Catholic church. Perhaps, after Tuam, after everything, that’s what’s really shocking.