Friday, March 10, 2017

IRL : Survivors demand meeting with Taoiseach over deaths in Mother and Baby homes

Survivors of institutions for unmarried mothers and their babies have called for an urgent meeting with the Taoiseach over demands to extend an inquiry into deaths in the homes.

A commission set up to investigate alleged abuse at one Catholic Church facility in Tuam, Co Galway has excavated part of a burial site and found a "significant" quantity of human remains in "underground chambers".

The Coalition of Mother And Baby Home Survivors said it wants all living people who passed through that home or any of the other facilities to be included in a statutory investigation.

"It is deeply unfair and hurtful to our community that so many of our fellow survivors have been omitted from the inquiry," a spokesman said.

"The real issue here is Ireland's treatment of single mothers and their babies, not what happened to some of them behind the high walls of the mother and baby homes.

"There cannot be a hierarchy of survivors, we are all equal and we need immediate full inclusion for all survivors."

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the initial findings from the Mother and Baby Home Commission of Investigation into Tuam were appalling.

He said Children's Minister Katherine Zappone was liaising with head of the inquiry and it would be extended if necessary.

The commission was set up two years ago to probe state sanctioned, religious-run institutions used to house pregnant mothers.

It was charged with investigating high mortality rates in the homes across several decades of the 20th century, the burial practices at these sites and also secret and illegal adoptions and vaccine trials on children.

It is thought about 35,000 unmarried mothers spent time in one of 10 homes run by religious orders in Ireland.

An inquiry was ordered after national and international focus on the story of the Sisters of the Bon Secours in Tuam, where the remains of 796 infants are believed to be buried.

The commission excavated in at least 17 of 20 underground chambers and found remains of individuals with age-at-death ranges from approximately 35 foetal weeks to two to three years.

The Tuam home operated from 1925 to 1961.

Three other institutions have little angels plots believed to hold the remains of another 3,200 babies and infants.

They are Sean Ross Abbey, Tipperary, where the story of Philomena Lee began, Bessborough, Co Cork, and Castlepollard, Co Westmeath.

Others from Pelletstown, or Saint Patrick's on the Navan Road in Dublin were buried in plots in Glasnevin and hundreds from the Bethany Home in Rathgar, Dublin were traced to a plot in Mount Jerome cemetery.

Infant mortality rates ranged from 30-50% in some of the homes in the 1930s and 1940s.

Bessborough, which was still operating as recently as 1996, had an infant mortality rate of 68% in 1944.

The Coalition Of Mother And Baby Home Survivors said its research estimates at least 6,000 babies, children and mothers died in the state's homes during the 20th century.

"it is time for immediate action on the part of the Government to meet with the survivor representatives to resolve the serious outstanding issues faced by our ageing and overwhelmingly elderly community," the spokesman said.

"We have sadly witnessed many of our active members pass away without ever seeing a personal resolution to their many years of often heartbreaking campaigning work.

"In this instance, justice delayed is justice permanently denied."

A local coroner has been notified of the findings in Tuam.

It has not been confirmed whether intact DNA can be recovered from the remains and used to identify and trace relatives of the babies who died.

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