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May 2015 Archives

Tuam Scandal

One year after Tuam scandal, survivors blast lack of progress

Photo by: Photocall

One year after the Tuam babies story made global headlines, survivors say they are “deeply disappointed” by the lack of progress being made by the inquiry.

For decades after it closed, the Tuam, County Galway Mother and Baby Home lived on in the local consciousness, a gloomy and folkloric place that had been left alone and not built over.

Instead a small plaque had been erected in the remaining plot of land that read: “In loving memory of those buried here, rest in peace.”

Just as they had in its decades of operation, most locals were content to look the other way.

But one woman found she couldn't. Catherine Corless, who had grown up in Tuam whilst the Home was still in operation, vividly remembered how stigmatized the Home Babies in her own class had been by both teachers and pupils.

“Those children were brought up to believe they weren’t worthwhile, that they didn’t have the same rights as everybody else,” Corless told RTE's "Where In The World" in April.

The unease this awareness created – compounded by the fact that her own mother had grown up in a similar institution – finally compelled her to explore the baleful history of the Tuam Mother and Baby Home with a level of engagement that contrasted sharply with the nation’s long indifference.

What she discovered shocked the entire world. Chronic infant mortality rates and – most shocking of all – the death certificates of 798 forgotten children whose tragically short lives had been erased by unmarked and unrecorded graves.

That fact the that it took the efforts of an impassioned and diligent local historian – rather than a government investigation or a fully fledged academic inquiry – to bring this scandal to light is one of the things that makes it especially distinctive and compelling.  Unconstrained by political considerations, Corless was free to pursue her investigation wherever it led her.

What eventually emerged at Tuam held a mirror up to every other Mother and Baby Home in the country and to the pervasive and controlling shame that help foster their notorious cruelty.

From 1922 onward, records show that unsanctioned motherhood was effectively outlawed by the Irish State. The contagion also spread to their offspring, who were variously treated as unfortunate,unwelcome and undeserving of the care and compassion afforded to the children of married couples.

It remains to be seen how much of an appetite the Irish people or their political leaders really have for the whole truth to emerge.

The Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes (and Certain Related Matters) was announced in February of this year by the Irish Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr James Reilly, but it is still getting under way. Despite a €21 million ($23m) operating budget, it does not yet have a dedicated website.

The time frame the Commission announced for the completion of its work is three years. It could be 2018 before we read a line of their report.

Critics, fearing that this heralds a whitewash, demand to know just how limited the Certain Related Matters subheading will turn out to be.

Denis Vincent Twomey, an Irish Catholic priest and a Professor Emeritus of Moral Theology, has also expressed his own unease about the Commission of Investigation, but in his case because the appointment of Judge Yvonne Murphy as chairperson raises the expectation of criminal findings and “may have the undesired effect of leading many people to think the investigation will not be all that different from those that went before” into child abuse and neglect by church authorities.

Twomey has also lamented what he calls the sensationalistic and inaccurate early reporting of theTuam Mother and Babies Home story, although the death certificates of the children – and their unmarked graves – are both a matter of public record and observable fact.

What is certain is that the legacy and scale of the crisis is much larger than Tuam itself – and that for many mothers and babies who were sent to these institutions the crisis has not ended.

In May, Terri Harrison from the “Mother to Mother Dublin” group called for greater transparency in the investigations into the homes.

“As life givers in Ireland, we were cast aside, denied our basic human rights. Our loss hidden, our truth never told, our lives lived beneath a veil of deceit.

“No Mother has been asked to partake in the Commission of Inquiry to assist, or to support them in unveiling the very essence of an unspoken chapter of Irish history.

“It is only when we all acknowledge our wrongs, our misgivings, can we truly face each other...”

It is still an open question how much will be acknowledged, or when.

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Redress for the Magdalene survivors

Magdalene survivors can still apply for redress scheme; avail of medical cards

Monday 25 May 2015 09.56
Justice for Magdalene has said the RWRCI cards are long overdue
Justice for Magdalene has said the RWRCI cards are long overdue

Minister of State for Primary and Social Care Kathleen Lynch has said there is still time for women, who have not accepted the State's Magdalene laundries redress scheme, to apply for the plan so they can avail of special medical cards. 

From 1 July the Health Service Executive will make available, without charge, primary and health services for Magdalene survivors including GP services, prescribed drugs, dental services and home nursing.

They will begin receiving Redress for Women Who Were Resident in Certain Institutions (RWRCI) cards in June.

On RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Minister Lynch said over 500 women will receive the special medical cards this summer.

"Any women out there who haven't already applied... you know the door is not shut. There's no cut off date for this.

"If they are out there and are willing to accept what's on offer as laid out by Justice Quirke then not only is the award available to them but indeed the medical card will be as well."
The group, Justice for Magdalene, also told the programme that the cards are long overdue.

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Protect the Institution - not the victims?

Cardinal accused of ignoring child sex abuse


Jonathan Pearlman in Sydney

PUBLISHED21/05/2015 | 02:30

Cardinal Pell, head of the Vatican's Secretariat for the Economy. Photo: Getty ImagesOPEN GALLERY 1
Cardinal Pell, head of the Vatican's Secretariat for the Economy. Photo: Getty Images

George Pell, an Australian Cardinal who is one of the most senior figures in the Vatican, has been accused of ignoring and covering up child sex abuse claims during his service in Australia, including allegedly trying to bribe a victim of a paedophile priest to remain silent.


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In dramatic testimony at Australia's royal commission into child sex abuse, David Ridsdale said he was abused by his uncle, Gerard Ridsdale - a notorious paedophile and defrocked priest - and phoned Cardinal Pell, who tried to silence him.

Mr Ridsdale said he spoke to Cardinal Pell in 1993 but the priest did not appear shocked and instead attempted to bribe him. Cardinal Pell has previously denied the claim.

"George then began to talk about my growing family and my need to take care of their needs. He mentioned how I would soon have to buy a car or house for my family," Mr Ridsdale said.

Mr Ridsdale said he recalled "with clarity" the last three lines of the conversation:

"Me: 'Excuse me, George, what the **** are you talking about?'

"George: 'I want to know what it will take to keep you quiet.'

"Me: '**** you, George, and everything you stand for.'"

Cardinal Pell is now based at the Vatican as prefect of the secretariat for the economy and has been given the task by Pope Francis of overseeing and reforming the city state's economy.

A former Archbishop of Sydney and Melbourne, he has long been dogged by criticisms of his handling of child sex abuse in the Catholic Church in Australia.

Lawyers for the Catholic Church's witnesses at the commission said Cardinal Pell would provide a statement if asked but it was unlikely to differ from his previous response.

In a statutory declaration in 2002, Cardinal Pell said of Mr Ridsdale's claim: "It was alleged that I said to David words to the effect 'What will it take to keep you quiet?'

"I emphatically deny having said these words or any words to that effect. I emphatically and totally deny the allegation that I made any attempt to buy David's silence."

Irish Independent

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Again and again we have had to fight again challenges from so called "Professionals"

Way cleared for abuse survivor to seek compensation from redress board


The way has been cleared for a woman who suffered institutional abuse to make a late claim for redress following the Supreme Court’s finding in favour of her challenge.



She had applied for compensation to the Residential Institutions Redress Board but was refused because her application was too late.

Ms Justice Susan Denham delivered judgment in the case which was heard during the historic first sitting of the Supreme Court in Cork. She said the board erred in the exercise of its discretion and that its decision to refuse was irrational.

The woman’s identity cannot be published because of the allegation of sexual abuse.

Ms Justice Denham said that the act of 2002 under which the board was established was remedial in nature and that their allowance for exceptional cases to be allowed to make claims even when late had to be interpreted according to that remedial nature.

“In this case the appellant submitted that at the time when she might have been expected to make an application she was suffering from mental health issues,” Ms Justice Denham said.


“Applying the criteria for ‘exceptional circumstances’ given by the board itself [to the psychiatrist’s findings] it is clear they meet the test of exceptional circumstances.

“The appellant’s personal family situation, her isolation, her psychological distress suffered as a consequence of her childhood in institutions, her active suppression of memories of her lifetime in institutions for many years, the fact that she could not cope with the memories until she received counselling, that she could not apply to the board until she had received counselling, and her health difficulties were all prevailing factors at the relevant time.”

The appellant’s senior counsel, Niamh Hyland, said the 33-year-old applied to the board for compensation but her application was refused because she was too late.

Frank Callanan, senior counsel for the board, said they had allowed over 80% of late applications and had discretion in the matter.

He said the redress scheme had been heavily promoted and advertised through the media and that the woman was effectively saying she had absolutely no recollection of ever having heard anything about it and that this was why the application was late.

Summing up, Ms Hyland said: “Because of the nature of the function of the board, the idea that they keep people out because they came late to the knowledge of the scheme is not in keeping with the statue.”



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