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SPeaking from the heart

'I never fought with her over toys': Here is Anne Ferris's moving Dáil speech about her sister

She was speaking during a Dáil debate on mother and baby homes.

WHEN TDs GATHERED in the Dáil chamber this afternoon to debate the recent scandal over mother and baby homes, we got a sensitive and respectful exchange of views.

But what we hadn’t reckoned for, was the powerful and heartfelt testimony of Wicklow TD Anne Ferris.

At times fighting back tears, but remaining composed throughout, the Labour deputy offered, for the Oireachtas record, her own unique personal experience of Ireland’s mother and baby home system.

“Minister, two weeks ago I met my younger sister for tea across the road in the Merrion Hotel,” she began.

It was unusual, because it was the first time we had ever shared a pot of tea.
Before that day, two weeks ago, I had never laid eyes on my sister.Each of us was adopted into a different mother and baby home, into different families, eventually ending up living in different countries.Sitting together, we looked like sisters, but we didn’t talk like sisters.

Where other sisters in our age group have shared experiences and family history, we have just had a very long, long gap in our lives.I never played childhood games with this sister. I never fought with her over toys. We never skipped together or climbed trees.She wasn’t handed down my old clothes.We didn’t go to school together, or to discos, or fight over boys.She doesn’t know my children and I’ve never met hers.

Later in her remarks, Ferris called for the Commission of Investigation into the mother and baby homes to be “all-embracing”, noting that her status as a TD made her “lucky”, and that “other people with similar backgrounds” would have been “barricaded” in the visitor’s gallery of the Dáil.

Stories like my story and my sister’s story demonstrate why this needs to a broad and all-embracing inquiry.The mother and baby homes, the adoption process, the Magdalene laundries, the private nursing homes, the country homes, the Church hierarchies, the religious organisations and the State are all part of a very large jigsaw puzzle that must be looked at in its entirety.

Watch for yourself:

Labour / YouTube

Read: Here’s the latest information about the Tuam mother-and-baby home>

Almost 500 unclaimed infant bodies were sent to anatomy departments from 1940-65>


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