Saturday, March 04, 2017

Woman went to Tuam home after seeing child with ‘skull on a stick’

Tom Warde, Loughrea, who was born at the mother and baby home in Tuam, and lived there until he was five. Photograph: Ray RyanA woman who visited the site of the Tuam mother and baby home four decades ago has recalled seeing what appeared like mineral bottles rolled up in cloth on top of each other when the ground collapsed under her.

“I was a few feet away from something I couldn’t explain. Now I would describe it as a Cidona bottle or a Coke bottle rolled up in a cloth and they were all piled on top of each other like sausages,” said Mary Moriarty. 

Speaking on RTÉ’s Liveline programme on Friday, she said she was later told by a woman who had worked on the grounds that they were the “little baby graves”. 

She had gone to the site in the summer of 1975 after a child on the street “had a skull on a stick, shaking it”. She said there was “rubble and stuff” where the home was being demolished and the existing graveyard there was overgrown and covered in bushes. The ground collapsed beneath her and she “landed down in something”. 

Thomas Warde, who was born in the Tuam home in June 1942 and who remained there until he was five years old, said he did not remember the septic tank on the site.

Kept hidden

He had been fostered in the Loughrea area and had tracked his mother down “a long time later”. She had kept hidden from him anything that went on at the home, he said. 

“When you got to six or seven you went on to Letterfrack or somewhere, you were finished in the mother and baby home.”
“We were a part of those children that was found . . . there may be babies buried there that were never certified at all, that never came on the record,” he said.
Mr Warde also said it was wrong that the council had allowed people to build houses on the site.
“I know four houses [where the] people driving into their back yard they’re driving on human graves. The graves are there.” 

He also expressed disappointment that no senior local representative had spoken about the findings, about which he was “very shocked”. Some people had always denied that the burial of the babies happened, he said. 

Amnesty International has called on the Government to ensure that the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes fully investigates alleged human rights abuses, following the discovery of “significant” quantities of human remains in Tuam.

Truth

“Today’s distressing revelations underline the need to ensure that this commission of investigation is a meaningful opportunity to finally and fully ensure truth and accountability for what happened to women and children in these institutions,” said Colm O’Gorman, executive director of Amnesty International Ireland. 

“Our thoughts are very much with those most affected by today’s reports, the women who were former residents of the home and their loved ones.”

The commission, which was established in February 2015, is tasked with investigating allegations of abuse at 14 institutions and four county homes between 1922 and 1998. It is due to release its final report next year. 

Infant mortality rates ranged from 30 per cent to 50 per cent in some of the homes in the 1930s and 1940s.

There is a dedicated telephone information line being made available for people seeking further information over the coming days. 

Those seeking factual information may contact 01-6473118/01-6473232, Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 5pm, and Saturday and Sunday from 12pm to 5pm.

Anyone affected can also contact the HSE information line directly on 1850-241-850.

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