It would be to easy to blame a few rogue nuns going off the reservation but that would be so far from the truth as to be a downright lie.
Gene Kerrigan explains how these atrocities were carried out under the blessing of the Church/State and "Official Ireland".
"The evidence is there, beyond any doubt: they knew from August 1927
that the babies were dying at a terrible rate. And they were cool with
Not just the nuns - it would be so much easier if Tuam and
all the rest of it was merely a tale of cruel nuns. It was wider than
It wasn't in the 1960s or the 1990s they had their eyes opened. They knew from 1927.
Decades later we'd come to call them Official Ireland - the handy, concise, and accurate term is Eamon Dunphy's.
These were the senior ranks of Church and State, of business and the
professions, who ran this great little nation then, as they run it
Whoever won an election did not govern alone - they
governed in an undeclared coalition with Official Ireland, a collusion
of shared values. As it was then, so it is now.
beginning, the Local Government (Temporary Provisions) Act 1922 singled
out "unmarried mothers" as a special problem for Official Ireland. They
were classed as "offenders". Official documents spoke of "shamed" and
"fallen" women and of the "illegitimate" babies to which they gave
The latter term isn't accidental, it is precise use of
language. And all that followed stemmed from that corrupted view of
These were not considered legitimate humans, they
were shameful mistakes, factory rejects to be melted down and recycled
in the great circle of life.
In 1924, the State set up a "Commission on Relief of the Sick and
Destitute Poor, including the Insane Poor". It reported in August 1927.
Conditions were relatively primitive in those days, medicine was
developing slowly and living conditions were atrocious for many. One in
14 children died in their first year.
And the Report of the
Commission on Relief of the Sick and Destitute Poor found that one in
three "illegitimate children born alive in 1924 died within a year of
And the Commission gave an explanation. Families
"shamed" by an "illegitimate" birth, "make arrangements with someone to
take the child, either paying a lump sum down or undertaking to pay
something from time to time".
And here, literally, is the killer:
"If a lump sum is paid or if the periodical payment lapses, the child
becomes an encumbrance on the foster mother, who has no [financial]
interest in keeping it alive."
Children died of deliberate neglect.
Not paid sufficient medical attention, not fed properly, receiving not
so much as a hug - deprived of all the stuff that nurtures us - the kids
withered and died at a fierce rate.
Official Ireland knew it was
happening, it was there on page 73 of the Report. All those with
responsibilities in these matters would have read it.
following the "Grace" scandal today might look to what the Report said
on page 74: "there is not sufficient power to prevent people who are not
fit to look after a child being given the care of it".
They knew that as early as 1927.
So, the kids sickened and died in foster care; and they sickened and
died in the institutions where the young "fallen" women were made to
leave their children.
The "illegitimate" children, of course,
were believed to have souls, and the nuns instilled in them the
discipline that might help those souls stay pure while enduring their
often brief visit to this vale of tears. Not legitimate enough for this
world, the nuns prepared them for Heaven.
Meanwhile, they could
be exploited as cheap labour or trafficked for profit, and when they
died there was no need for great ceremony - they were truly gone to a
Jump ahead to 1986.
It was seven years after the Papal visit of John Paul II.
visit gave the Catholic hierarchy a massive boost. And in 1983 that
boost enabled an aggressive, triumphalist Catholicism to force
politicians to insert an anti-abortion clause in the Constitution.
In 1986, the Church defeated the first attempt to gain the right to divorce, winning by almost 2-to-1 in a referendum.
That same year, Kevin McNamara, Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, talked
to lawyers about sex abuse. The following year he got in touch with
Church & General Insurance.
The company was originally
founded by the Catholic Hierarchy in 1902, as the "Irish Catholic
Property Insurance Company Ltd". By the 1960s it had become a successful
mainstream insurance firm.
Long before the rest of us knew there
was a problem, Archbishop McNamara bought insurance against the Church
being sued for child sex abuse. Premiums cost between £515 and £750 a
They knew it was going on, they protected the rapists, and
between 1987 and 1990 all but one diocese quietly took out insurance.
It was that premeditated and self-protecting.
They spoke proudly of love and morality and condemned those who
followed their natural passions.
And when clerical abusers were caught
they were moved on to prosper in fresh fields of molestation - for fear
exposure would damage the good name of the Church.
In 2002, the
State apologised to those damaged in clerical institutions.
coldly informed the State that it could wait for the victims to sue,
that the Church would fight hard and figured it could win about 2,000 of
the 2,500 cases it foresaw being taken.
The State was pushed into accepting a redress system that made it pay the bulk of the cost.
At every stage, down through the decades, Official Ireland has stuck together.
Last week in the Dail, the Taoiseach spoke from a script using
carefully crafted, highly emotional phrases. He spoke in a voice that
contrived to sound like he was barely holding his anger in check.
For a moment, it was impressive.
Then, without a script, in answer to a request from Brid Smith TD that
he call on the Bon Secours order to disband, he fell back on the usual
mealy-mouth lines that suggested the religious orders have done the
State some service.
Yes, in health and education, where the State failed in its duty the religious did the job. That is the history.
And, Jesus Christ, they extracted one hell of a payment.
They took the bodies of our children into their untender mercies,
neglected them, exploited them, trafficked them, treated the children's
mothers with contempt. When the kids died they were treated with the
respect due a discarded tissue.
In the schools and institutions
they controlled, the religious facilitated the sexual and physical abuse
of children and when they thought we might find out they didn't go
after the abusers, they contacted an insurance company.
And yes, among the religious there were decent people whose urge to contribute was exploited.
This is not about vengeance on a handful of nuns, or upon the Church.
It's about being aware that institutions - whether they be under the
control of clerics, police or bankers - put their institutional
interests before those of the people.
Which is why the State's oversight and regulatory role is crucial. And why its failure in that role has been so catastrophic.
It failed because of its links within Official Ireland - shared
professions, shared education, shared levels of income, shared clubs and
The Church has lost so much credibility its
status in Official Ireland is insecure.
But it hangs on.
Taoiseach's mealy-mouth words last week, we heard Official Ireland still
sticking together. Still colluding after all these years."
Ireland needs an intervention stat...