Minister for Training, Skills and Innovation John Halligan T.D. has said old age should not diminish accountability in the Tuam Mother and Baby Home scandal and called on gardai to question any surviving Bon Secours nuns who ever worked at the home, to establish whether a criminal investigation is warranted.
Describing the discovery at Tuam as ‘potentially the tip of iceberg’, Minister Halligan further stated that all nine of the country’s mother and baby homes should be investigated and called for State intervention to ensure the Catholic Church takes responsibility for ‘casting children into the dirt’:
“As was the case with the Nazi war crimes trials, if an individual has been an accessory to a crime then they should be held accountable, regardless of how many years have passed or their advancing age. Bearing in mind that the child mortality rate at Bessborough in 1943 was approaching 70% – similar to some concentration camps – I believe a criminal investigation needs to take place on the basis that these children were neglected. We have a duty to investigate, to set an example that such horrors will never again be tolerated in this country.
“The records show that many of these children died from malnutrition and illnesses worsened by starved immune systems. A 1946 county board health inspection report recorded how the children were ‘emaciated, fragile’. Many more died from ‘debility from birth’, no doubt in many cases down to their mothers’ not receiving proper medical care during childbirth. The Bon Secours Order was paid a weekly rate to take care of these women and children and it clearly neglected to do so. And if it is found to be guilty of criminal neglect, its assets should be seized by the Criminal Assets Bureau.”
Minister Halligan said the surviving Bon Secours nuns should also be interviewed by the Mother and Babies Homes Commission on their knowledge of the post mortem practices and procedures, reporting and burial arrangements for residents of the Tuam home.
“I will not accept that they cannot shed some light on this disrespectful discarding of innocent children’s remains. And I’d be very interested in their thoughts as to why the death rate of babies at the home was double that of other mother and baby homes around the country”, he added.
“There were nine mother and baby homes operating in the country and the horror stories emerging from these are no less gruesome than those at Tuam. Each of these homes needs to be investigated and the Catholic Church – which has to date been allowed to evade its responsibilities under the abuse redress scheme – should be held fully responsible.
“The State enabled the Catholic Church during those horrendous years and the indifference of the nation to - at the very least - this great moral crime against such a vulnerable section of our society, is something we all have to live with. But we do not have to continue to turn a blind eye.”