#Open journalism No news is bad news

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support The Journal
Dublin: -1°C Sunday 24 January 2021
Advertisement

'I expect far more empathy from our leaders': Mother and Baby home survivors' letters to Taoiseach

The letters were sent following the news about a Bill allowing the transfer of 60,000 records to Tusla.

Image: Shutterstock/Alexandros Michailidis

TAOISEACH Micheal Martin was flooded with letters from survivors of mother and baby homes and supporters about the ‘sealing’ of records relating to survivors and adoptees.

The Department of the Taoiseach received just under 3,000 petition emails and 126 personal emails about controversial plans related to the records.

Minister Roderic O’Gorman at the Department of Children also received close to 300 separate letters and messages, according to records released under FOI.

A report from the Mother and Baby Home Commission is due to be published today. An apology from the State to the survivors is also expected from the Taoiseach.

A sample of records from each department shows the depth of feeling from survivors of Mother and Baby homes, and also the general public. It was subsequently clarified by government that survivors would be able to access their personal information but that the privacy rights of others would have to be respected.

Letters

The Taoiseach received multiple letters from Fianna Fáil supporters saying they would never have their support again. One lifelong Fianna Fáil voter said the Taoiseach would be losing their support if the decision was not reversed.

“Don’t hope it will go away,” they said. “Women don’t forget!”

One letter made a direct appeal to Mr Martin as a father. “Can you imagine information being kept from you about [your family] and to think that you might not be alive the next time it becomes available. I don’t think there is a cruelty like it.”

A voter also said all three parties in government – Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, and the Greens – would never have their support again: “You can guarantee I will never vote for your parties in my lifetime.”

Another also vowed they would never support Fianna Fáil again, saying: “I expect far more empathy, vision and justice from our leaders.”

One person who described their family as “strong supporters of you [Micheal Martin] and your great work for years” said they would no longer vote for him.

Another wrote: “I am appalled that your party has seen fit to continue treating abused women so callously.”

Former residents also wrote about their efforts to find out more about their early lives, with one saying: “I can’t wait 30 years more to find out about my birth mother.”

Another said the government had turned their back on “Irish people who were made to be slaves of the state”.

“How dare each one of you,” they said, “you all rushed this through under cover of Covid, so we couldn’t analyse the bill.” The grown child of one survivor wrote of sitting “with tears in [their] eyes following today’s vote”.

“I would never wish the treatment my mother faced on a single soul,” said the email, “but I do sincerely hope you one day feel half the pain you have coldly put on her.”

Another person who had been in an industrial school said victims would never be halted in their search for justice. “We will march on,” they wrote, “so we keep going until we find the truth.”

One email said the Taoiseach and government were choosing to “kick the can down the road” and wrote of their “deepest, deepest disappointment”. “Do not become a minor footnote in history,” they said, “a question in future Leaving Certs about which Taoiseach allowed this travesty to occur.”

Another questioned whether the government was worried it would make it look bad for records to be made public.

“You and your whole party and the other parties that voted ought to be ashamed of yourselves for voting yes to seal the records,” they said.

One person explained how they had never written to a politician in their life, writing: “Please do not wrong them again in my name.”

#Open journalism No news is bad news Support The Journal

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support us now

A sample of records from the Department of Children includes one email from “families of the lost children of Tuam” saying it was “grossly unfair” that records could be sealed for so long.

“This is our family story,” said the message. “Our history. And our legacy to do what is right. Please give us a chance to recognise our loved ones.”

Another said that Ireland had had enough “secrecy and denial of information”, pleading with Minister O’Gorman to reconsider the sealing of the archive. One email described the vote as “terrible and immoral” while another implored the minister to “listen to [his] conscience” and ensure access.

Another lengthy email from an archivist said it felt as if the country was “stuck in a time warp”, and it beggared belief the government would consider “such a shameful and drastic act”.

We’ll be covering what’s in the final report today – on the site and on Twitter (follow @orlaryan  and @conalthomas for updates). If you or a relative spent time in a mother and baby home or county home and would like to share your experience, please email orla@thejournal.ie or conal@thejournal.ie.

About the author:

Ken Foxe

Read next:

COMMENTS (17)

This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a commentcancel