Possible interference with birth and death certification at mother and baby homes in Tuam, Co Galway, and in Cork was highlighted as requiring further investigation in official HSE correspondence over four years ago.
A draft briefing paper for senior HSE management in October 2012, marked strictly confidential, noted that deaths recorded at the Bessboro mother and baby home in Cork dropped “dramatically” in 1950 with the introduction of adoption legislation.
“This...may point to babies being identified for adoption, principally to the USA, but have been recorded as infant deaths in Ireland and notified to the parents accordingly,” it said.
It added that further detailed study was required before this theory could be proven or disproven.
“The mother and baby home in Tuam was similarly involved with the provision of babies to the American adoptive market,” the memo said, and “there are letters from senior Church authorities asking for babies to be identified” for the US.
In both homes, the document added, there were issues of concern in relation to “medical care, accounting irregularities, and possible interference with birth and death certification which requires further investigation”.
“Children, if not mothers, who passed through these systems are likely to be still alive, and at the very least any knowledge of their histories should be fully investigated and made available to them if they so choose. While some time has passed, the possibility that illegal actions took place requires further investigation.”
Independent Galway West TD Catherine Connolly, who obtained the document, questioned whether the government and senior HSE management initiated an investigation when the research in the briefing paper came to light.
She said it was not clear if the document had come to the attention of the ongoing Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes.
Death certificatesLocal historian Catherine Corless told The Irish Times it was “quite possible” that death certificates for Tuam were falsified, and that some of the almost 800 infants recorded as having died there may have been sent for adoption.
The briefing paper also refers to an element of “coercion” where women were forced to stay with their babies until well past the point that they were fit for discharge.
“During this time parents were charged with the upkeep of their children, but it appears now that adoptive parents were also charged for the upkeep of the same baby.”
In Bessboro a practice of recording more than one date for discharge of the mother – the first being geographical discharge, the second being removal from books – took place when the home was still receiving monies from central government for upkeep of the mother and infant despite the mother having left.
The memo, which was prepared by HSE staff during the McAleese inquiry into the Magdalene laundries, said women were “freely transferred” between county homes, unions, industrial schools, orphanages and psychiatric hospitals. It says the reasons behind this “institutional diaspora” are unknown.