• Sun. Oct 23rd, 2022

Survivors criticise ‘inaccuracies’ and omissions in commission report

Jan 13, 2021

The religious order which ran the Tuam mother and babies home has apologised for the way it treated people there, saying it did not live up to our Christianity.
In a statement following the publication of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes, the Sisters of Bon Secours – which ran the Tuam home from 1925 to 1961 – said: We failed to respect the inherent dignity of the women and children who came to the home.
It comes amid renewed criticism from survivors about the report, with claims from some about inaccuracies and omissions.
Noelle Brown, who was born in the Bessborough Mother and Baby Home has said there were 10 glaring inaccuracies in her testimony which was included in the report published on Tuesday.
Ms Brown told RTÉ Radios Today with Claire Byrne show that her testimony had arrived in the post on Wednesday after she had pushed for a copy of it to be sent to her.
The questions included in the report looked like they were written by nuns in the 60s she added.
The tone of the questions centred around religious affiliations and social class while some were inappropriate she said.
Her responses had been shoe horned into the report, she said and made to look like she had answered many more questions.
A major inaccuracy was that the report said that she was raised by her birth parents, which was not the case.
Participating in the report had been a wasted effort, she said, and she had done so in an effort to find out if she was subjected to vaccine trials. She knew of people who had the scars to show that they had been involved in such trials.
Details are very important to adopted people. These are our stories.
This was not a survivor-centred approach as had been claimed by Government, she said. The survivors still felt stigmatised, and the Government was out of step with society, she added. It was not taking the temperature of the feelings of society who supported the survivors.
Campaigner and human rights lawyer Dr Maeve ORourke said criticised te commission for treating survivors as though they were only witnesses.
There were many small steps that could have been taken that would have made a massive difference, she told RTÉs radios Morning Ireland.
Their evidence was taken and they were told to go away, not even allowed to have a copy of their evidence to check that it was recorded in its entirety, that it was correct and what they didnt have was access to any of the evidence from the institutions across the board, from the State, the private institutions.
They didnt have access to testimony, to individuals who were in positions of responsibility or are in positions of responsibility no access to the administrative files, to the State or the Church thats something that prevents them from getting to court properly now.
Dr ORourke said that even though the inquiry had a veneer of being a legal procedure it had not given reasons for why it refused all those mothers their requests to have a public hearing, didnt give us reasons why we couldnt have a public hearing at the very beginning when we were making submissions about the need to consider rights violations under the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights.
There could have been a very flexible and inviting interpretation of the Constitution applied, she said. Inviting those to tell us how to understand those rights we clearly didnt implement them in the past, so how should we understand them now?
Dr ORourke pointed out that nothing to date had given individuals access to their own files. This has all been an exercise in talking to the public in general terms. There still are no statutory rights and in practice peoples rights are being denied to their own information, to their own family files.
We have a situation of enforced disappearance which is one of the most serious violations of international law where someone is institutionalised with the involvement of the State following which their fate and whereabouts is not disclosed by the State to their family. Thats needs to be remedied by the Government.
In its statement, the Sisters of Bon Secours said the inquiry report presents a history of our country in which many women and children were rejected, silenced and excluded; in which they were subjected to hardship; and in which their inherent human dignity was disrespected, in life and in death.
Our Sisters of Bon Secours were part of this sorrowful history.
Of the women and children in Tuam, it said: We failed to offer them the compassion that they so badly needed. We were part of the system in which they suffered hardship, loneliness and terrible hurt. We acknowledge in particular that infants and children who died at the home were buried in a disrespectful and unacceptable way. For all that, we are deeply sorry.
We offer our profound apologies to all the women and children of St Marys Mother and Baby Home, to their families and to the people of this country.
It added: Healing is not possible until what happened is acknowledged. We hope and we pray that healing will come to all those affected; those who are living and those who have died. We hope that we, our church and our country can learn from this history.
The Taoiseach will make a formal apology on behalf of the State to the former residents and survivors in the Dáil today.
Historian and campaigner Catherine Corless has said that Mother and Baby home survivors were very hurt by Taoiseach Micheál Martins comments on Tuesday.
Ms Corless told Newstalk Breakfast that a broader apology was needed, highlighting the role of the Church and State rather than putting so much weight on the role of society in general.
He specifically pointed out society in general, and the parents and grandparents of these survivors. They were very, very hurt over that. They all have their own stories. They gave their own stories, like how] it was impossible for their mothers to stay in the village because of the Church and the attitudes they created at the time.
Ms Corless said she would have preferred if the Taoiseach had said all were at fault and that there was a need for an apology from all around.
From her research she was aware of many of the details so they had not come as a surprise, she said. But she was disappointed that the report was a little bit vague about the issue of illegal adoption.
Theres a lot of people disappointed it wasnt gone into in a little more detail in the report.
Ive said it over and over again, they need an acknowledgement from the people that hurt them and put them in this situation. Thats first and foremost, and that hasnt come out as yet.