An elderly man with cancer has taken High Court action urgently seeking information about the fate of the infant sister he has “never known” after she went into a mother and baby home in Tuam, Co Galway.
Peter Mulryan claims Tusla, the Child and Family Agency has a duty to forensically examine what it describes as an “enormous” quantity of documents in its possession related to the home, but has not done that.
Mr Justice Richard Humphreys has directed Tusla to write to the Bon Secours order, which operated the home, asking if it kept burial records for hundreds of children recorded as having died there. If burial records were maintained but destroyed, the order is asked to confirm when they were destroyed and at whose direction.
Mr Mulryan went with his mother to the home in July 1944 four days after his birth. He wants, in his “lifetime”, to get whatever knowledge exists concerning the life or death and resting place of his infant sister, Marian Bridget Mulryan.
A Marian Bridget Ryan is recorded by the State as having died on February 12th 1955 at the Tuam home, some nine months after her birth, and is among 796 children recorded as having died there between 1925-61. A burial record exists for just one child.
Mr Mulryan says Catherine Corless, whose research uncovered a pit at the home where it is suspected many children were buried, contacted him in 2014 to say she believed she had identified his sister among the 796 children.
Mr Mulryan (73), of Derrymullen, Ballinsaloe, says the records of mother and baby homes are unreliable and there is “real and substantial doubt” whether his sister died as stated on her death certificate “or at all”.
Tusla says it has supplied Mr Mulryan with any information it knows of concerning his family. It also says it has made available to the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes, established by the Dail in 2015, all documents within the Commission’s remit held by Tusla.
It has an “enormous” amount of material, including “substantial” material from the Bon Secours, it says. It does not “forensically examine” the records, only accesses those when a request is made for information but is willing to let Mr Mulryan’s lawyers go through that material, it says.
In his action against Tusla and State, Mr Mulryan alleges failure to treat his query for information urgently or to properly address it and also maintains it is for Tusla, not his lawyers, to examine all the material.
He alleges a delay of some two years getting records concerning his own time in the home and obfuscation in getting records of his mother, who left the Tuam home when he was aged about one and appeared to have gone to a Magdalene institution.
His file related mainly to being “boarded out” at age four to a family whom he alleges treated him as a “child labourer”. The file mostly concerned a dispute over liability for repairs to a bicycle bought for him as a teenager, he said.
In court documents, his solicitor Kevin Higgins said a senior HSE social worker who examined some of Tusla’s ’s Tuam home records in her own time had by 2012 established there was a “large archive” of photos and other documents “relating to children sent for adoption to the USA”.
An index of names of 1,000 children “who may have been the subject of clandestine adoptions” was compiled and the social worker referred to letters to parents seeking money for their children’s upkeep, including for children either discharged or who had died, he said.
An examination of birth and death certificates “remarkably” show the same informant as being at the birth and death of all 796 children between 1925 and 1961, he said. That person was with the Bon Secours from infancy until her death and provided a name on documents on “which the Order had no wish to place its own fingerprints”, he alleged.
Given “evidence of widespread child-trafficking” within the Tuam home, “there can be no certainty as to the fate of Marian Bridget Mulryan”, Mr Higgins claimed.
The case is due before court again on February 27th.