ROME – The Irish government released a controversial report seeking to explain why it was normal that tens of thousands of single mothers were forced into state-funded Catholic homes to give up their babies for adoption between the 1920s and 1990s. The report indicates that as many as 9,000 children died in 14 houses run by Catholic nuns, but gives little reason. In the nearly 3,000-page tome, the government blames single mothers, their families and society as a whole, angering a number of victims who have called it “money laundering.” Some reports have suggested that the original report was 4,000 pages long and that 1,000 pages were cut off before it was released to the public.
“The women from the mothers and babies homes shouldn’t have been there. They should have been at home with their families, ”says the Irish Mother and Baby Homes Commission report. “However, the reality is that most had no choice – they were, or expected to be, rejected by their families and they needed a place to stay. Most were unable to provide for the baby. They weren’t “incarcerated” in the strict sense of the word but, at least in the early years, with some justification, they thought they were. They were always free to leave if they took their child away.
The long report is full of sinister details about the inhabitants of the houses. One, known as “resident (A)”, was raped by her boyfriend and became pregnant at age 18. “She told the commission that she saw ‘a dozen’ dead babies sent to burial in what appeared to be shoe boxes.”
Another person called “resident (H)” says she got pregnant at age 20 from rape. “When she visited the parish priest to tell him her story, she said the priest then sexually assaulted her in his car,” the report said. “Castlepollard’s medical adviser examined him once a week: ‘I hated him; He was so hard, he was examining me internally from the back passage and I was in pain for centuries afterward.
Throughout the report, the authors refer to the practices “of the day” and the stigmatization of single mothers without mentioning either the fathers or the fact that the last mothers’ home closed in the late 1990s. The report focuses out of 56,000 single mothers, some as young as 12, and 57,000 children born in mothers and babies homes, but admits there were probably 25,000 other unmarried mothers and more children in homes where the commission did not investigate. .
The report does not fully explain why the remains of 767 fetuses and babies were found in a septic tank at the Mother and Baby House in Tuam, County Galway, instead blaming infant mortality and lack of burial records .
“A number have failed to keep records of funerals of deceased children,” the report said. “The commission finds it very hard to believe that there is no one in this congregation who has no knowledge of children’s burials. Likewise, the Commission considers that there must be people in Tuam who know more about the burials there.
The report also concerns a house in Bessborough where numerous other human remains have been found. “The Commission finds it very difficult to understand the apparent inability of a member of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary to help locate the burial sites of deceased children in Bessborough,” the authors noted.
An interim report released in April 2019 gave grim details leading up to the final report. “The memorial garden site contains human remains that date from the period of operation of the Tuam children’s home, so it is likely that a large number of children who died in the Tuam home are buried there,” said the April report then mentions to other human remains found in a waste treatment area of the house. “The human remains found by the commission are not in a sewage tank, but in a second structure with 20 chambers that was built in the large decommissioned sewage tank.
These remains “involved a number of individuals whose ages at death ranged from around 35 fetal weeks to 2-3 years,” according to the report. The interim report also says its authors were “surprised at the lack of knowledge about burials on the part of Galway County Council and the Sisters of Bon Secours who ran the house.”
Controversial homes for mothers and babies are featured in the film Philomene which tells the story of a woman in search of her son adopted by an American couple.
Originally from Dublin, Terri Harrison found herself in a house after falling pregnant and moving to London, only to be “kidnapped” by nuns who sent her back to Ireland. She described to the commission the horrific details of her time there. “Your child was placed in the locked nursery, they only opened those doors at mealtime,” she said, according to Dublin Live. “Besides, you weren’t allowed to hold your baby or cuddle him because the nun kept reminding you that it would bother your son’s mom and dad if the baby got used to you.”
She says she can never forget the horrible screams of the children and when one of them suddenly disappeared. “I remember the screams and I will take them to my grave. You always knew when a baby was missing from the crib, ”she says. “It’s the strangest sound you will ever hear, like animals in nature. I remember when I found his bed empty, that same sound came out of me, but it didn’t sound like me.
Husband Steed, now 60, was one of the babies born in a house in Cork. She told NBC News that as an adult she found out that she and other babies born in a home were part of what she called a “highly unethical” vaccine trial in which she was injected with experimental injections for diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus and polio – all of which is expected to be exposed in the final report released on Tuesday. “Scientifically, I understand that there is no more perfect research group than a group of captive children. But it requires huge ethical protocols, and it just wasn’t followed, ”Steed, who was adopted by an American family, told NBC. “Whether it’s out of sheer ignorance or ‘We don’t care what happens to these kids,’ that part always makes me angry.”
The report acknowledges the trials. “It is clear that there was no compliance with the relevant regulatory and ethical standard of the time as consent was not obtained from either the mothers of the children or their guardians and the necessary licenses were not in place, ”the report says. “The identity of the guardian, however, is largely unimportant as no attempt appears to have been made to obtain parental or guardian consent. There is no evidence of injury to the children involved as a result of the vaccines. “
The Vatican has said it will not comment on the report until it reads it.
The report is the result of six years of work by Justice Yvonne Murphy who compiled the shared experiences of thousands of women in an attempt to compensate them from the government.
The final report is supposed to pave the way for legislation proposed by Ireland’s Minister for Children, Roderic O’Gorman, which wants to ensure the exhumation, identification and reburial of all bodies found in the 18 homes. The legislation could also lead to compensation for victims, many of whom have searched their entire lives to find out whether their newborns were adopted or died mysteriously and buried in unnamed graves.
Ireland’s Taoiseach, or Prime Minister, Micheal Martin addressed the victims in a video conference before making the report public. He is expected to issue a public apology to the victims during a parliamentary session on Wednesday.
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