If the political establishment get their way? Nothing.
There will be the usual hand wringing, words of concern from the Taoiseach, sympathy for the survivors – but no real action. The Irish Mail has reported that there are only two surviving Bon Secours nuns who may have been involved and one has dementia.
So, we will be told, nothing can be done.
However, the unusually high level of deaths in Tuam was not caused by a few evil individuals. It arose from an institutional structure that involved the Bons Secours order, state agents and the Catholic Church
Unmarried mothers were sent to Mothers and Babies homes and these received a state subsidy for the inmates. The Bons Secours forcibly took babies from their mothers and systematically mistreated them. This is evident from the bald figures.
State records and Dail debates indicate one in three children who were born ‘illegitimate’ died within one year of their birth. This was five times higher than the national average. Two children died per week in Tuam. This huge death level did not result from lack of medical knowledge at the time.
The children died because they were systematically malnourished. The Bons Secours nuns regarded the children as products of ‘sin’. They were to be either used for profit – or neglected.
The profits came from exporting healthy babies to the US. Up to 1,000 children may have been “trafficked” to the US from the Tuam home. Newspaper reports indicate that $2,000 was paid for such adoptions.
In other Mothers and Babies homes such as Bessborough, the children were used for medical experiments on potential vaccines.
The rest were deliberately malnourished and this was the primary cause of the high death rates.
The disposal of the bodies in a sewerage chamber is horrific – but this is only the visible symbol of a much deeper and even more horrific crime. Namely, deliberate and criminal negligence of children to cause death.
There needs to be a serious effort to deal with these crimes and People Before Profit proposes the following steps.
1. Demand that the Bon Secours Health Systems fund the creation of a memorial to their victims.
The Bons Secours order created this company which is now largest owner of private hospitals in the country. In 2016, it posted record profits of €2.3 million. If there was any justice, this grouping would be taken into public ownership and its operations channelled into treating patients in a national health service, regardless of their income. In the immediate term, however, the Dail should demand that this profitable company fund a memorial to the victims of the criminal negligence of the nuns.
2. Call on the Bons Secours order to re-consider the existence of their order.
According to their own story, the Bons Secours sisters were created to help the poor. Their history in Ireland, however, has been of one of criminal neglect leading to the death of hundreds of children. Whatever remains of that order should seriously re-consider this history and discuss their continued existence. If any other grouping were associated with such a scandal, they would examine their very purpose.
3. Produce an audit of illegal adoptions that involved a bounty payment on Irish babies.
At least nine religious run adoption societies organised the export of more than 2,000 ‘illegitimate’ children to the US for adoption during the 1950s and 1960s. The Adoption Act of 1952 stated that anyone who accepted payment for arranging an adoption could end up in jail for 12 years. Yet although the Mother and Babies homes were involved in this lucrative trade, nobody was ever charged. Instead they were facilitated by an Irish state which allowed children to be exported. An audit should be made of these illegal adoptions and a proper report produced.
4. Scrap the ‘Congregational Indemnity Agreement‘ with the Conference of Religious in Ireland, which was then representing 18 religious orders.
This agreement was concluded by the Fianna Fail Minister, Michael Woods, in his final day of office in 2002. Despite having no legal representative present, Woods agreed that the religious organisations would not pay more than €128 million as compensation for child abuse conducted in religious institutions. However, indemnity to the victims has already reached €1.5 billion. In light of the new information about Tuam, this agreement should be rescinded. Should the religious authorities not agree, financial penalties should be imposed on church bodies through other legal means.
5. End control of primary schools by the Catholic Church.
95% of the primary schools in southern Ireland are controlled by Catholic Bishops. The state pays the teachers’ salaries and the vast bulk of capital and running costs. This is unsustainable in a modern, diverse society. It is unacceptable that an organisation that covered up crimes against children is still responsible for their education. It must end.
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