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Galway County Council 'profoundly sorry' for failing those at Tuam mother and baby home

The Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation released a report on its five-year investigation into the homes earlier this month.

A general view of the site of a mass grave for nearly 800 children who died in the Tuam Mother and Baby Home
A general view of the site of a mass grave for nearly 800 children who died in the Tuam Mother and Baby Home
Image: Niall Carson via PA Images

Updated Jan 25th 2021, 1:47 PM

GALWAY COUNTY COUNCIL chairperson has said the council is “deeply sorry that it did not do enough to ensure appropriate care, compassion and protection” to the mothers and children in the Tuam mother and baby home. 

The Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation released a report on 12 January on its five-year investigation, detailing the experiences of women and children who lived in the homes between 1922 and 1998.

The report confirmed that about 9,000 children died in the 18 homes under investigation – about 15% of all the children who were in the institutions.

The Bon Secours ran a mother and baby home in Tuam, Co Galway, in which the remains of hundreds of young children and babies were found in a chamber of a disused septic tank in 2017.

In a statement today, Chairperson of the County of Galway, Councillor James Charity, said:

I offer a sincere and humble apology for the failings of this local authority. We are deeply sorry that this Council did not do enough to ensure appropriate care, compassion and protection to the mothers and babies who passed through the threshold of the Tuam mother and baby home, and to those children who were born and died there. 
We further deeply regret that Galway County Council did not ensure there were enough safeguards and measures in place to guarantee and ensure that children boarded out from the home were better cared for, protected and cherished. 
To the shame and sorrow of us all, this Council did not ensure that those who died in the Tuam mother and baby home were afforded the dignity of an appropriate place of rest, which was the very least that they deserved. 

Charity added that the council is “profoundly sorry” that it “did not have the foresight or courage to at all times ensure the welfare of those entrusted to its care was paramount, and to be kinder, more compassionate and more charitable”. 

He said the Council should have “put the needs and welfare of the most vulnerable in our society to the fore”. 

“The invisible and voiceless, in particular vulnerable women, innocent and beautiful precious newborn children, little girls and boys, who should have survived, grown and thrived, learnt and laugh, worked and played, participated in society and perhaps even led it,” he said. 

“But to our eternal shame, this Council failed both mothers and their children at a time when they most needed its support and protection the most.” 

Concluding the statement, Charity said: “To all those with a personal connection to the Tuam mother and baby home, in particular, the frightened mothers and innocent children, to their families and to the people of County Galway, Ireland and beyond, this local authority is humbly sorry.” 

Galway County Council Chief Executive Kevin Kelly, also commenting in the statement, said “the lack of respect and dignity afforded to the women and children in death is also particularly upsetting and a source of great hurt and sorrow”. 

“The Council accepts its role in failing to ensure that these individuals were afforded the dignity of an appropriate and respectful resting place,” Kelly said. 

He added that the Council is “fully committed to supporting the full range of actions agreed by Government including progressing on the work already undertaken directly by Galway County Council in relation to providing survivors with appropriate access to archives and records”.

“The Council acknowledges the commitment by Government to advance burials legislation to support the excavation, exhumation and, where possible, the identification of remains together with their dignified reburial. The Council has and will continue to actively assist the ongoing work to implement the Government’s agreed course of action and response for the Tuam site,” Kelly said. 

He concluded: 

Today, I reaffirm the commitment and renewed determination of this local authority to continue our efforts to assist and support the survivors and all those with a personal connection to the Tuam mother and baby home. 
No one can change the past, however, it is important that we accept and learn from it, acknowledge the sad and painful truth, the personal impact and heavy burden carried by survivors and humble acknowledge our failings. 

Councillor Charity, in the statement, said the Council acknowledges “the tireless and unselfish work of Catherine Corless in relation to the Tuam mother and baby home”. 

“There is no description which can more aptly or appropriately apply to Ms Corless other than to acknowledge her as a ‘heroine’, whom is deserving of all of our admiration, and of our profound and deepest respect, for bringing the dark history of the Tuam mother and baby home out into the open,” Charity said. 

The work of Corless as an amateur historian led to the discovery of human remains at the Tuam site in Co Galway.

Responding to the statement this afternoon, Corless told RTÉ’s News at One said it was good to hear the apology, but added “the wording is sweet and the promises are sweet”. 

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“Now, what I would like from the County Council and the Bon Secours Sisters … they need to get together now and they need to push … for legislation to be passed so that those babies can be taken out of that sewage tank,” Corless said. 

The Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation report said that in the years prior to 1960, the mother and baby homes “did not save the lives of ‘illegitimate’ children”.

“In fact, they appear to have significantly reduced their prospects of survival. The very high mortality rates were known to local and national authorities at the time and were recorded in official publications,” the report said. 

The report also confirmed that infant human remains were located during an excavation at Sean Ross home in Co Tipperary. These remains appear to have been buried in coffins, unlike the situation at Tuam.  

With reporting by Orla Dwyer

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