Ireland’s Shame: 978 children died at Tuam Mother and Baby Home

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galway daily news mother and baby homes

The Commission’s investigation into Mother and Baby Homes in Ireland has revealed the truth of what happened within the walls of Mother and Baby Homes, and beyond them in what was a sick, oppressive and silent Irish society.

The report reveals that 9,000 children died in the 18 Mother and Baby Homes investigated by the Commission, including 978 children in the Tuam Home – 80% under one year old – where bodies were found in a chamber of a disused septic tank.

The investigation found that the high level of infant mortality at the Tuam Children’s Home did not feature at Galway County Council meetings, though the home was under the control of the local authority.

There were many references to the Tuam Home at the council’s meetings, which took place at the Home, but none refer to the health or mortality of the children.

Between 1921 and 1961, 67% of those who died at the Tuam home were between just one and six months old. Seventy-five percent died in the 1930s and 40s, with the worst years occurring between 1943 and 1947.

Across Ireland, no publicity was given to the fact that in some years during the 1930s and 1940s over 40% of “illegitimate” children were dying before their first birthday.

The report states: “In the years before 1960 mother and baby homes did not save the lives of ‘illegitimate’ children; in fact, they appear to have significantly reduced their prospects of survival.

“The very high mortality rates were known to local and national authorities at the time and were recorded in official publications.”

Some 56,000 mothers and 57,000 children passed through the Mother and Baby Homes from 1920 to 1998, and a further 25,000 women and a larger number of children were likely to be resident in county homes not examined by the Commission.

The report found that the main concern of many families was their own reputation within an oppressive, misogynistic Irish society – and not for the unmarried mothers.

Speaking about the report, Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman said that Ireland had a “stifling, oppressive and brutally misogynistic culture” and that that today’s publication of the Commission’s report is a landmark moment for the State.

“The report makes clear that for decades, Ireland had a stifling, oppressive and brutally misogynistic culture, where a pervasive stigmatisation of unmarried mothers and their children robbed those individuals of their agency and sometimes their future,” he said.

Minsiter O’Gorman said that the publication of the Commission’s report is an expression of truth.

“For decades, Irish society was defined by its silence, and, in that, its complicity in what was done to some of our most vulnerable citizens.

“With its publication, we are affirming that their stories and their truth, will be heard, acknowledged and understood.”