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June 2015 Archives

Cardinal Sean Brady

Sean Brady apologises for Brendan Smyth crimes

Thursday 25 June 2015 12.46
Sean Brady arrives in Banbridge for the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry
Sean Brady arrives in Banbridge for the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry

The former Catholic Primate of All Ireland, Sean Brady, has said he wanted to express his horror and to offer an unreserved apology to all those affected as a result of the crimes of convicted paedophile Brendan Smyth.

The Cardinal is appearing before the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry in Northern Ireland.

The Cardinal commended the courage of the 14-year-old boy who came forward in 1975.

He said "unfortunately the response to his complaint was neither adequate or effective. For this I'm truly sorry,” he said.

He is giving evidence about a meeting in 1975 where the then teaching priest took notes when a 14-year-old told of being sexually abused by Smyth.

Cardinal Brady said that there was a shroud of secrecy and confidentially with a view to not destroying the good name of the church.

He admitted that looking back the boy's father should have been present at the meeting.

The inquiry, which is sitting in Banbridge Courthouse, is currently examining whether systemic failings enabled Smyth to continue his offending for so long.

Yesterday it emerged that gardaí were aware of the activities of Smyth as far back as the early 1970s.

Confidential documents revealed at the inquiry show that Smyth asked to be admitted for treatment at St Patrick's Psychiatric Hospital in Dublin after he came to the attention of gardaí in 1973.

The documents also reveal that Smyth had been diagnosed as a paedophile in 1973. 

A victim of Smyth has said she and many others could have been saved if the authorities who knew of his activities had acted sooner.

The 33-year-old woman, who calls herself 'Rose', now lives in the UK and was abused in 1993 when she was 13.

She believes she was Smyth's last victim.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, she gave her reaction to the news that gardaí knew that Smyth was a paedophile and was attacking children as early as 1973.

She said she was "shocked, gobsmacked", adding "why him, why was he let away? Why was nothing done to him? The more you know, the more it could have been prevented. Some of us could have been saved, me included."

She said she is currently taking a civil suit against the Bishop of Kilmore, Leo Reilly, the Norbertine Order and Cardinal Sean Brady.

Smyth, originally from west Belfast but who was based at Kilnacrott Abbey in Co Cavan, was convicted of sexually assaulting more than 40 children in Northern Ireland in 1994.

But he told a treating doctor that the true number of victims could have run into the hundreds.

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Gardai were aware for years?

Gardaí were aware of Smyth's abuse in early 1970s, inquiry told

Wednesday 24 June 2015 14.53
Confidential documents reveal that Brendan Smyth was diagnosed as a paedophile in 1973
Confidential documents reveal that Brendan Smyth was diagnosed as a paedophile in 1973

An institutional abuse inquiry in Northern Ireland has heard that gardaí were aware of the activities of paedophile priest Brendan Smyth as far back as the early 1970s.

Confidential documents revealed at the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry in Banbridge show that Smyth asked to be admitted for treatment at St Patrick's Psychiatric Hospital in Dublin after he came to the attention of gardaí in 1973.

The documents also reveal that Smyth had been diagnosed as a paedophile in 1973. 

Medical notes revealed Smyth was prescribed medication in the hope it would have a dampening effect on his libido.

The notes also showed he was regarded as being a "little bit crazy" and having "a screw loose".

Joseph Aiken, counsel for the inquiry, said: "For some reason Brendan Smyth has asked the doctor looking after him to write a letter to Finglas garda station to say that he is going to be taken in for some inpatient treatment."

Smyth had been conducting a retreat in Finglas in July 1973.

The documents were only released to the long-running HIA inquiry this morning.

The hearing was delayed for several hours today because the medical notes, which the Norbertine order had been trying to obtain for many years, were finally released from St Patrick's Hospital this morning.

In a letter to an officer at Finglas garda station dated 1 November 1973, Smyth's psychiatrist said he was recommending the cleric be admitted for treatment.

The doctor said: "I have been asked to write to you by Fr Brendan Smyth of Holy Trinity Abbey, Kilnacrott.

"He has been a patient under my care for some months and I am familiar with the nature of his problems. I am writing to his superior suggesting that he should have a period of inpatient care in St Patrick's Hospital or in St Edmonds Bury.

"I hope this arrangement will be satisfactory to you and your superiors."

According to a case summary dated February 1974, a doctor at St Patrick's confirmed a diagnosis of paedophilia.

The note read: "Psychosexual difficulties for many years. First developed in the Novitiate. A recurring problem no matter where he has been stationed. His paedophilia has brought him into contact with the police."

Smyth, originally from west Belfast but who was based at Kilnacrott Abbey in Co Cavan, was convicted of sexually assaulting more than 40 children in Northern Ireland in 1994.

But he told a treating doctor that the true number of victims could have run into the hundreds.

The HIA, which is sitting in Banbridge Courthouse, is examining whether systemic failings enabled Smyth to continue his offending for so long.

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500K Legal Bill

Unlike the Commission on Child Abuse in 2002, victims will not be provided with free legal advice93

Derek Leinster

Survivors of Ireland’s hellish Mother and Baby Homes are facing a €500,000 legal bill in their battle for compensation.

Unlike the Commission on Child Abuse in 2002, victims will not be provided with free legal advice.

The previous inquiry racked up more than €55million in lawyers’ bills but survivors were not asked to pay.

Support groups, already unhappy with the terms of reference for the probe, say this is another obstacle to justice.

Derek Leinster, who represents survivors of The Bethany Home, accused the Government of trying to restrict access to the redress scheme.

He said: “We want the same justice that was given to survivors that went before the Commission and Redress in 2002.

“All their costs, including solicitors and barristers, were covered by the State.

“We must get the same now. The overall cost for a survivor to go to a high court could be approximately half a million euros.


Bethany Home, Orwell Road in in Rathgar, Dublin


“Many of us will not be able to get legal cover because of that cost.

“Many of us are old and very frail, some have dementia setting in. They may not be able to go on for much longer.

“Time is running out for many of us. Some of us won’t live to see justice done.”

The inquiry into the mother and baby homes was set up following revelations last year about the deaths of almost 800 children at an institution in Tuam, Co Galway.

The investigation will cover all homes from the foundation of the State in 1922 up to the early 1990s.

A commission of investigation is designed to provide a quicker method of probing matters of urgent concern than a tribunal.

A time-frame of three years has been given for the process but there are fears it will take much longer.

The Child Abuse Inquiry of 2002 dragged on for more than 10 years and survivors fear a similar outcome in the current inquiry.

Mr Leinster said: “Everybody’s case is different. Some people haven’t had their reports done, some have yet to be psychologically assessed.

“Many others who are outside the terms of reference are also seeking compensation.

“This could easily run for eight years or more. For people who have been waiting a lifetime for justice, that’s simply not good enough.

Megan Slade 
Freelance Cinematographer

On 23 June 2015 at 12:11, derek linster <> wrote:
Hi Megan
Subject: Fw: Story link

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Cover -up

Cover-up of Smyth abuse went right to the top


PUBLISHED23/06/2015 | 02:30

Brendan SmythOPEN GALLERY 1
Brendan Smyth

The story of Fr Brendan Smyth is not just one of a predatory abuser who ruined the lives of countless children.


It is also one of cover-up and of turning a blind eye, the default position adopted over a period of decades within the Catholic Church, not just in Ireland, but in the UK and the US.

Belfast-born Smyth's reign of terror lasted over 40 years.

This was only made possible through the willingness of church authorities to move him on whenever allegations surfaced.

Smyth was moved from parish to parish and country to country, often in circumstances where his order, the Norbertines, failed to inform either the local bishop or the civil authorities of his history of sexual abuse.

There appeared to be no appreciation of the damage he was doing and the lives he was destroying.

At all times, the main motivation appears to have been the avoidance of scandal.

Why else would young children abused by Smyth be forced to sign undertakings not to discuss their allegations?

It may never be possible to gauge the full extent of Smyth's monstrous activities.

Previously, it had been thought he may have abused around 150 children in Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the US.

But the evidence heard yesterday at the North's Historical Abuse Inquiry, some 18 year's after his death, suggests there could have been hundreds of victims.

Over the next week the inquiry will examine what opportunities there were to prevent Smyth carrying out abuse. It will look at the actions, or inactions, which allowed him to continue unhindered.

In a statement, the head of the Norbertine Order, Fr William Fitzgerald, said Smyth should never have been ordained into the priesthood. He acknowledged the "immense" failure of the order.

But the failures didn't stop there. They went right to the top of the church in Ireland.

Cardinal Sean Brady took part in a diocesan "investigation" into Smyth in the 1970s.

Then a diocesan secretary, he never alerted the civil authorities.

His abject failure to do the right thing did not harm his career and he would later become Primate of All Ireland.

Even when Cardinal Brady's involvement in the Smyth affair became known in 2010, he was able to remain in situ for a further four years.

Irish Independent

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What chance for children then or now whilst in Church Care?

Smyth was ordained despite suspicions over sex abuse


Lesley-Anne McKeown

PUBLISHED23/06/2015 | 02:30

Brendan SmythOPEN GALLERY 2
Brendan Smyth

The activities of Ireland's most infamous paedophile priest sparked concerns years before he was ordained, an inquiry has heard.


There was suspicion that Fr Brendan Smyth, who admitted sexually assaulting hundreds of children, had abused a boy while training in Rome during the late 1940s.

The revelations were made to the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) inquiry, which is examining whether systemic failings allowed Smyth - a member of the Norbertine order - to abuse for another 40-plus years.

Jospeh Aiken, counsel for the inquiry, said the Norbertine order believes that knowledge of Smyth's activities existed prior to his ordination, yet he was still ordained as a priest.

"A complaint had been made about Smyth when he was a student in Rome in the 1940s. He was accused of abusing a child in the vicinity of the college," he added.


Retired judge Sir Anthony Hart, who is leading the UK probe, was told advice from a senior cleric in Rome not to ordain Smyth had been ignored.

Smyth's direct superiors at Kilnacrott Abbey in Co Cavan and the Belgian-based Abbey which sponsored his study at the Vatican felt it would be a "shame" if the first student they sent to Rome failed.

A letter shown to the inquiry also revealed they did not want the Abbott General - the Norbertine's most senior figure in Rome - "interfering" in their business. Smyth's ordination went ahead in 1951.

Shortly afterwards, a senior priest from Tongerlo in Belgium sent a letter in which he said the Abbott General's opinion may have been right.

"My letter is hard," he wrote. "I hope my fear is exaggerated."

Smyth, who was at the centre of one of the first clerical child sex abuse scandals to rock the Catholic Church, was later convicted of 117 indecent assaults on children across the island of Ireland from the 1960s to the 1990s.

There were also reports he abused children in Scotland, Wales and the USA. The inquiry heard he told a doctor in 1994 the true number of victims could run into the hundreds.

Smyth had a preference for children aged between 10 and 14 years old because he felt they would not inadvertently speak about the abuse, it emerged.

He frequented Catholic residential homes, where he groomed victims with sweets and trips away. His deviant behaviour was known among several of his superiors, who recommended psychiatric treatment and he recieved electric shock therapy as far back as the 1960s.

He was not arrested until the 1990s, was jailed in 1994, and died in prison in 1997, age 70.

Former Primate of Ireland Cardinal Sean Brady, who was part of criticised church investigation in 1975, will give evidence later this week.


In one written statement the Cardinal said: "Sadly at that time there was a culture within the church of secrecy and silence and it was felt that matters could be dealt with within the church structures.

"There was not a proper understanding of the devastating consequences of child abuse. Many of the bishops believed that psychiatric treatment of the individual perpetrator was an adequate response. The full horror and long-lasting impact of such criminal behaviour has now been grasped."


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Tuam babies

The mystery of the missing remains of the Tuam babies

A year on and there is still no sign of the authorities finding the bodies of 794 children. But one historian thinks she knows where they are, writes Sandra Jordan

An Irish shrine to the Virgin Mary
An Irish shrine to the Virgin Mary Photograph: Sean Smith for the Guardian/library

When Catherine Corless walked through a housing estate in Tuam, County Galway, with Judge Yvonne Murphy, head of the government Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes, she pointed to the playground.

This,” said Corless, “is where I think some bodies are buried.”

It is a year since the story of what took place here broke. What became the Tuam Babies scandal, when the headline of “800 Children Dumped in Septic Tank” went around the world. It was Corless who told the media. She was later upset by inaccuracies - she never suggested all the bodies were in a septic tank or that any had been dumped. Researching the St Mary’s Home for unmarried mothers for a local history annual, Corless obtained death certificates for 796 children who died at the Tuam home, run by the Bon Secours Sisters on behalf of Galway County Council from 1925 to 1961. But there were only official burial records for two children.

A fiercely debated, long-delayed investigation into Ireland's Catholic-run institutions said priests and nuns terrorised thousands of boys and girls in workhouse-style schools for decades - a 2,600-page report in 2009 cited reports of abuse from former students sent to more than 250 church-run, mostly residential institutions.
A fiercely debated, long-delayed investigation into Ireland’s Catholic-run institutions said priests and nuns terrorised thousands of boys and girls in workhouse-style schools for decades - a 2,600-page report in 2009 cited reports of abuse from former students sent to more than 250 church-run, mostly residential institutions.Photograph: PETER MORRISON/AP

Corless discovered that in 1975 two boys, playing in wasteland at the former home site, fell into a tank containing children’s skeletons - no one knows how many. Local residents erected a little grotto. “Most of the deceased were newborns up to two years old,” says Corless. Were these some of the missing 794 children? Not all would have fit into a septic tank. She interviewed elderly residents who had witnessed night time burials from their upstairs windows in houses that overlooked the home’s eight foot walls. “I only go by maps and records,” says Corless, “that’s why I think the playground is where the bodies are most likely to be.”

Irish writer John Pascal Rodgers, born in the home for unmarried mothers, poses with a photograph of his mother Bridie Rodgers, last year. Up to 800 babies and children were buried near the home run by nuns AFP PHOTO/PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
Irish writer John Pascal Rodgers, born in the home for unmarried mothers, with a photograph of his mother Bridie Rodgers. Up to 800 babies and children were buried near the home run by nuns AFP PHOTO/PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty ImagesPhotograph: PAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images

Under the Freedom of Information Act, Corless requested Galway County Council’s records on St Mary’s from 1925 to 1961. She was refused. But she was given documents from the 1970s, including an official map of the present day estate the council built on the site. “They obviously didn’t see the importance,” said Corless. “There is an area across the map marked “Burial Ground”, she says. “First, the houses were built, around that area. Finally a playground was built on part of the burial ground itself.” Minutes from a Tuam Council meeting call for “due care and sensitivity” when building the playground because of the “children’s burial ground and adjoining burial ground,” Corless said. “The playground unnaturally big, it’s as big as the town playground.”

The memorial at the site of the septic tank for  the former site of the Bon Secours Home.
The memorial at the site of the septic tank for the former site of the Bon Secours Home. Photograph: Patrick Bolger/Patrick Bolger Photogrraphy

The estate is full of young families, children who are perhaps playing over the remains of dead children who knew little happiness. Previous to the home, a workhouse occupied the site. Maps from its time indicate the “burial ground” area includes cesspit caverns from workhouse days. Could the burial ground relate to remains of people who died at the workhouse? “No,” says Corless. “Some were buried by the North Wall of the site, others in the pauper’s grave in the town cemetery.” Corless urged Judge Murphy to use special probing equipment to search for human remains. “People with siblings buried there want their relatives given proper burials”, says Corless. Ita Mangan is a barrister for the Mother and Baby Homes Commission. Could they exhume remains? “If the commission decided to do it, they could do it,” she says. “But absolutely no decision has been made.”

The Bon Secours sisters say they will cooperate with the commission. But they say they know nothing of burials as they handed all their documents to Tuam Council in 1961. Their PR company, The Communications Centre, told a French documentary maker: “You’ll find no mass grave, no evidence that children were ever so buried, and a local police force casting their eyes to heaven and saying “Yeah, a few bones were found – but this was an area where Famine victims were buried.So?”

But responding to a relative seeking information on a former resident, a sister wrote in 2012 that as that child had died he was “most likely” to have been buried in a “general grave” at the back of the home. Whatever a “general grave” is. Catherine Corless says of the nuns: “They were above the law then and they think they are still above the law now"

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questions and Answers

Department of Children and Youth Affairs

Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries

Photo of Anne FerrisAnne Ferris (Wicklow, Labour)
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136. To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if he will provide an update on the commission of investigation intomother and baby Homes, including the dates and details for the public consultation phase described by him during debates on the publication of the terms of reference for the work of the commission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22821/15]


Photo of James ReillyJames Reilly (Minister, Department of Health; Dublin North, Fine Gael)
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The Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes and certain related matters was formally established by Government Order on the 17th February 2015.

In accordance with its comprehensive Terms of Reference, the Commission is tasked with thoroughly examining the experience of vulnerable mothers and children resident in Mother and Baby Homes during the period 1922-1998. I can advise the Deputy that the Commission has begun this important work. The Government Order and a number of related explanatory documents are available on my Department's website (

The Government specifically provided for a confidential committee as a forum intended to facilitate any individual who wishes to describe their experiences of living or working in relevant homes to the Commission. I know many former residents have welcomed this opportunity. This module, which is scheduled to be completed by August 2016, will allow the Commission to ground its work in the reality of the experience of mothers and children in these institutions. It is essential to reiterate that the Commission is completely independent in the conduct of its investigations. Therefore the precise timing and approach to the Confidential Committee module is a matter for the Commission to decide and progress. I have no role in these decisions.

The Deputy may also wish to note that the Commission recently launched its own website As indicated on the website, the Commission would like to hear directly from persons with information about matters within its terms of reference. I am also aware that the Commission intends to conduct a national advertising campaign to notify members of the public who may wish to engage with its investigations.

Persons wishing to contact the Commission may do so by writing directly to: Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes, 73 Lower Baggot Street, Dublin 2, email or by using the confidential freephone number 1800 806688.

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Clerical Abuse

Catholic Church still receiving new sex abuse claims



Allegations of child sex abuse have been made against five more Catholic priests from the country’s largest diocese.



The new claims came as Archbishop Diarmuid Martin admitted he was still not satisfied that all clergy were doing enough to protect children and survivors of abuse.

“The culture of safeguarding is not evenly embedded across the Church and that is a cause of concern,” he said.

Three of the five priests who were reported to the Dublin Archdiocese during 2014 are now dead and the other two are retired.


Archbishop Martin said while this made investigation difficult, it revealed much about the trauma inflicted on those who were abused.

“Survivors are still coming forward which means that for years they have been suffering without feeling able to tell their story and share their grief,” he said.

READ NEXT: VIDEO: Shandon bells ring out in honour of Rory Gallagher

The Archbishop said he only knew what he had read in newspapers about the Vatican’s planned tribunal to investigate bishops who covered up abuse, and he could not speculate on the possibility that 12 Irish bishops, who have been criticised in various inquiries, could be called before it.

But he said he did not think the tribunal should be hampered by the fact that historically there was no specific offence under Canon Law of concealing abuse.

“I think they will have to apply the normal principles of justice. If what happened was a breach of the law and a breach of the responsibility of the bishop then they should feel free to investigate it.” Archbishop Martin became emotional when talking about survivors. “The sexual abuse of a person touches a person in their depths,” he said.

“It’s not just the horrible mechanics, it’s an attack on their dignity, on their worth. Basically somebody who abuses a child sexually is saying ‘you’re worth nothing and I can do what I like to you’. You don’t get over that overnight.”

He said there was no room for complacency.

“There is a tendency to say this is all something that happened in the 1990s or 1970s. The statisticians will tell you that paedophilia remains a constant in our society.

“We shouldn’t just simply say if we got no complaints for a few years, it doesn’t mean that there may not be something out there.” The Catholic Church yesterday launched a new service for survivors who want to explore or reclaim their faith or spirituality without necessarily returning formally to the Church.

The Towards Peace service will connect survivors to trained lay members of the Church with whom they can discuss and debate questions they are left with, such as why God didn’t protect them when they were being abused. Contact or 086-7710533




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Christian Brothers

Former brother pleads guilty



A former Christian brother at Cork’s North Mon who had been convicted for indecently assaulting several schoolboys — despite his strenuous denials — pleaded guilty for the first time to two more offences yesterday.



When sentenced two years ago Edward Bryan was described as showing not one shred of remorse for his victims and during the trial he said of the abuse, “I deny it emphatically”. When it was put to him that if the allegations by the boys were untrue then he must feel like the unluckiest man in Ireland, he replied, “I certainly feel that way.”

That was in February 2013. He was convicted and jailed for five years. He appealed the convictions and the severity of the sentence. The Court of Criminal Appeal ruled against him on all but one of the convictions and he will be re-sentenced at the appeal court in Dublin tomorrow.


Yesterday, at Cork Circuit Criminal Court he was arraigned on two more indecent assault charges from two other complainants who have come forward.

Bryan was arraigned on the two charges. One related to a schoolboy at the North Monastery secondary school in Cork between September 1979 and June 1981 and the other related to another boy at the school in September 1986. He replied guilty to both charges. In respect of one of those charges a trial by judge and jury had been arranged for Monday next so that case will not need to proceed.

Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin put sentencing of Bryan back to June 16 at Cork Circuit Criminal Court.

He imposed eight concurrent five-year sentences, reflecting the eight counts on which Bryan was convicted for indecently assaulting three boys two years ago.

The judge said at the time that Bryan, 61, of Martinvilla, Athboy Road, Trim, Co Meath, had shown not one shred of remorse for the sexual abuse of the boys.

Aggravating factors in the case, noted by the judge, were the prolonged period of the abuse, the multiple victims and the age difference between Bryan and the boys at the time of the abuse.

The judge was particularly critical of the defendant for the way in which one of the accused was challenged in cross-examination on the basis he was only in it for the money.

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Vatican establishes New Office

Pope approves new office to investigate bishops on sexual abuse

Wednesday 10 June 2015 14.28

The Vatican said bishops could be judged if they had failed to take measures to prevent sexual abuse of minors
The Vatican said bishops could be judged if they had failed to take measures to prevent sexual abuse of minors

Pope Francis has approved an unprecedented Vatican department to judge bishops accused of covering up or not preventing sexual abuse of minors, meeting a key demand by victims' groups.

A statement said the department would come under the auspices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican's doctrinal arm, "to judge bishops with regard to crimes of the abuse of office when connected to the abuse of minors".

Victims groups have for years been urging the Vatican to establish clear procedures to make bishops more accountable for abuse in their dioceses, even if they were not directly responsible for it.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told reporters that the bishops could also be judged if they had failed to take measures to prevent sexual abuse of minors.

The complaints against the bishops would be initially investigated by one of three Vatican departments, depending on under whose jurisdiction the bishops fall, before being judged by the doctrinal department.

The Vatican said the pope had approved proposals made to him by a commission advising him on how to root out sexual abuse of children.

Part of the task of the commission, which is made up of 17 clerics and lay people from around the world, is to help dioceses put in place "best practices" to prevent abuse and work with victims in a process of healing. Eight members are women.

The worldwide scandal has seen known abusers shunted from parish to parish instead of being defrocked and handed over to authorities.

Last February, Francis ordered bishops the world over to co-operate as a matter of priority with the commission to root out "the scourge" of the sexual abuse even if it unearths new scandals. 

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Would yo ask your butcher to investigate Historical Abuse?

Magdalene group says it possesses ‘extensive evidence’


The Justice for Magdalenes group is gearing up to sue the State over the hundreds of women who died and were buried in mass — and often unmarked — graves all over the country.



The long-running scandal of women who were frequently imprisoned and forced to work because they were unmarried mothers was raised by the UN committee on economic and social rights in Geneva.


Two committee members did not appear to accept the Government’s claim that they had properly investigated the Magdalene laundries issue and that the women were not detained against their will.

The State quoted the London-based Irish Women Survivors Support Network as saying: “We hope that time is not wasted calling for more statutory inquiries or demanding yet more bureaucratic statutory processes.

“In their advanced years, the women have repeatedly told us they have no wish for conflict or confrontation.”

The Government insisted there was no evidence to support allegations of criminal torture in the institutions and said that doctors who attended the women did not recall any evidence of ill-treatment.

However, Justice for Magdalenes said they have extensive evidence on what happened in the laundries run by religious orders, and on the unaccounted-for women buried in unmarked graves including in Dublin and Cork.

They are still looking for the graves of women buried in Dún Laoghaire, and they do not know exactly how many women were buried in large mass graves in Galway.

But the survivors continue to be abused by the State, Justice for Magdalenes told the UN committee in a private briefing before the two- day hearing yesterday, because the State is refusing to provide the healthcare it promised to the women two years ago.

To receive the compensation, the women had to waive all their legal rights against the State, but now find that having done so, they are left with no way of getting the healthcare and other elements of the scheme they were promised, said Dr Katherine O’Donnell of Justice for Magdalenes.

UN committee member and former Justice of the Columbian Constitutional Court, Rodrigo Uprimny Yepes, told the Government representatives that he wanted to address the “right to a remedy regarding women that were subjected to forced labour in the Magdalene laundries”, while women’s human rights expert Heisoo Shin said that the “exploitation of Magdalene women needs to be addressed”.



KEYWORDS: Magdalenes

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Appeal to Caranua decisions

Abuse victims appeal redress rulings



Survivors of child abuse appealed 47 decisions by the body established to oversee requests for assistance from the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund last year.



However, only three complaints against decisions by Caranua, the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Board, were upheld by an appeals officer.

Caranua was set up in 2013 to oversee the €110m fund which has been pledged by religious congregations to assist survivors of child abuse at industrial schools and residential institutions.

It is estimated that around 15,000 people who received compensation through settlements, the courts or the Residential Institutions Redress Board are eligible to access the fund for specified approved services such as health, education, and housing supports.


In his first annual report, appeals officer Patrick Whelan said 16 out of 38 appeals concluded last year related to decisions on eligibility to access the fund. However, he stressed that the regulations which established his role allow him no discretion on who is eligible to avail of the fund. He said this explained why it was not surprising that so many appeals were not upheld.

Nevertheless he observed that it seemed “particularly harsh and unfair to deny, without exception, all persons who have not received awards the opportunity to benefit from the fund”.

Mr Whelan also urged Jan O’Sullivan, the education minister, and Caranua to consider the inclusion of some services which do not come within the scope of the fund. They include funeral expenses, writing and book publishing, and visits to the institution and relatives’ burial places.

It is understood Caranua is separately considering requesting that the minister allow funding to be available for such services.

Other appeals related to home improvements or housing, refusals for provision of a car or van as well as mortgage or bank loan arrears.

Mr Whelan said he had found it necessary to remind Caranua on several occasions of its obligation to provide applicants with a reason why their applications were unsuccessful.

He also took issue with Caranua in a number of cases about comments made by some of its staff to unsuccessful applicants about the appeals process. In one instance, a survivor was told that he would be “wasting his time” making an appeal.

Mr Whelan said he advised Caranua it was important for it not to seek to influence an unsuccessful applicant in relation to making an appeal.

He said he believed independence and informality characterised the approach he took over the past year. He said he had striven to produce comprehensive and clear decisions which were objective and fair to both Caranua and appellants.



KEYWORDS: Abusechild abuse


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More and More new information

SPECIAL INVESTIGATION: Centre and laundry ‘one and the same’



Evidence that An Grianán training centre and High Park Magdalene Laundry were “one and the same thing” was uncovered by the HSE in 2012 — yet An Grianán was excluded from the Magdalene redress scheme.



The revelation is contained in a memo sent from the then assistant director of the Children and Family Services, Phil Garland, to the Department of Children and Youth Affairs representative on the McAleese committee, Denis O’Sullivan, and the national director of the Children and Family Services at the HSE, Gordon Jeyes, on June 26, 2012, while the HSE was examining the laundries issue as part of the McAleese inquiry.


Mr Garland points out that the HSE had uncovered evidence that showed “quite categorically” that An Grianán and High Park Magdalene Laundry, which were on the same site in Donnybrook in Dublin, were “one and the same thing”.

He said evidence “describes the functions of the laundry and the training centres and states quite categorically that all of the girls underwent some degree of training in the laundries, in addition to other tasks of ‘housewifery’, that is cookery classes and domestic science”.

READ MORE: SPECIAL INVESTIGATION: Fears over ‘trafficking’ of children to the US

However, former residents of An Grianán, which was excluded from the scope of the McAleese inquiry, were denied access to the redress scheme as it was not considered a Magdalene laundry. Residents of High Park Magdalene Laundry were included in the scheme.

Two other institutions not previously considered laundries — St Mary’s Training Centres in Stanhope St, Dublin; and Summerhill — were included in the Magdalene redress scheme.

Draft minutes of a meeting held by the McAleese committee on the same day the HSE evidence was uncovered indicate that, as An Grianán was previously included in the Residential Institutions Redress Board scheme, it would not be examined.

“Mr O’Sullivan raised the question of An Ghrianán [sic]. A significant volume of records had been uncovered in respect of that institution. There was discussion of that, with [Mary] McGarry noting its inclusion in Redress,” the minutes state, referring to a committee member.

“It was agreed that [committee adviser Nuala] Ní Mhuircheartaigh would secure the date of separation of An Ghrianán from the High Park campus — the committee would not be examining the institution after that point.”

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald told the Dáil last June An Grianán “served a different purpose” to the High Park laundry and there were “a number of different institutions on that site”.

The Government has repeatedly defended the exclusion of An Grianán from the Magdalene redress scheme by stating it was included in the Residential Institutions Redress Board scheme.

All women admitted to An Grianán were entitled to full compensation for the entire duration of their stay under the scheme. Those who did apply for redress under the Magdalene scheme were refused. It is understood a number of these women have appealed to the Office of the Ombudsman.

Claire McGettrick of Justice For Magdalenes Research said she was “shocked but not surprised” that the HSE revelations had been “completely ignored”.

“Given the fact that the Inter-Departmental Committee (IDC) on the Magdalene Laundries was made aware of this evidence, it is inexplicable that the Government included Stanhope St and Summerhill Training Centre in the redress scheme, but chose to exclude An Grianán,” she said.

Ms McGettrick called on the Government to “make immediate arrangements” for An Grianán’s inclusion in the Magdalene scheme.

“We have consistently pointed out that the IDC investigation was not the prompt, thorough independent inquiry called for by the United Nations Committee Against Torture. This evidence strongly reinforces our contention and we reiterate our call for the Magdalene laundries (and all related institutions) to be included in the mother and baby home inquiry.”

In a statement, the Department of Justice reiterated its view that An Grianán “served a different purpose” to the High Park laundry and that, as a result, it was included in the Residential Institutions Redress Board scheme.

“We are aware that some of the girls may have done some hours in the laundry while resident in An Grianán, however, the different nature of An Grianán was recognised by its inclusion in the Residential Institutions Redress Board scheme. Girls who were admitted to An Grianán were entitled to full compensation for the entire duration of their stay under the Residential Institutions Redress Board scheme.”

It says including residents of An Grianán in the Magdalene scheme would mean “those who were present there and have received compensation would receive double compensation for the same institution”.


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Trafficking of Children - Where will it all end?

SPECIAL INVESTIGATION: Fears over ‘trafficking’ of children to the US



Concerns that up to 1,000 children may have been “trafficked” to the US from the Tuam mother and baby home in “a scandal that dwarfs other, more recent issues with the Church and State” were raised by the HSE in 2012.



The warning is contained in an internal note of a teleconference in October 2012 with then assistant director of Children and Family Service Phil Garland and then head of the Medical Intelligence Unit Davida De La Harpe.


It ends with a recommendation that the then health minister be informed with a view to a state inquiry being launched. This was almost two years before revelations of a mass grave at the home forced the Government into launching a state inquiry into all mother and baby homes.

The note relays the concerns raised by the principal social worker for adoption in HSE West who had found “a large archive of photographs, documentation and correspondence relating to children sent for adoption to the USA” and “documentation in relation to discharges and admissions to psychiatric institutions in the Western area”.

It notes there were letters from the Tuam mother and baby home to parents asking for money for the upkeep of their children and notes that the duration of stay for children may have been prolonged by the order for financial reasons.


It also uncovered letters to parents asking for money for the upkeep of some children that had already been discharged or had died. The social worker, “working in her own time and on her own dollar”, had compiled a list of “up to 1,000 names”, but said it was “not clear yet whether all of these relate to the ongoing examination of the Magdalene system, or whether they relate to the adoption of children by parents, possibly in the USA”.

At that point, the social worker was assembling a filing system “to enable her to link names to letters and to payments”.

“This may prove to be a scandal that dwarfs other, more recent issues with the Church and State, because of the very emotive sensitivities around adoption of babies, with or without the will of the mother.

“A concern is that, if there is evidence of trafficking babies, that it must have been facilitated by doctors, social workers etc, and a number of these health professionals may still be working in the system.”

The report ends with a recommendation that, due to the gravity of what was being found in relation to the Tuam home, an “early warning” letter be written for the attention of the national director of the HSE’s Quality and Patient Safety Division, Philip Crowley, suggesting “that this goes all the way up to the minister”.

“It is more important to send this up to the minister as soon as possible: with a view to an inter-departmental committee and a fully fledged, fully resourced forensic investigation and State inquiry,” concludes the note.

The Sisters of Bon Secours said it ceased operating the Tuam mother and baby home in 1961 and, at the instructions of the local authority, handed the files on the running of the facility back to them.

“As the Commission of Investigation has now been established the Sisters of Bon Secours do not believe it would be appropriate to comment further except to say that they will co-operate fully with that commission,” said the order.

The Department of Children and Youth Affairs said none of the concerns raised were brought to the attention of the minister at the time, but were discussed in the context of the McAleese inquiry under the auspices of the Department of Justice.

It stated that the minister became involved in the issue once material around infant deaths in Tuam became public in mid-2014.

“The minister was subsequently tasked by government with leading its response to these important matters and the Inter Departmental ReviewGroup was set up to assist deliberations on the terms of reference of a Commission of Investigation,” said the statement.

A request for comment from the Child and Family Agency Tusla was not responded to at the time of going to print.




© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved

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SPECIAL INVESTIGATION: Bessborough Mother and Baby Home: It’s time these women’s voices are finally heard



A previously unpublished report by the HSE in 2012 examined Bessborough’s own records. The in-depth findings and conclusions are damning. Conall Ó Fáthartareports



FOR years, places like Bessborough Mother and Baby Home were spoken of in hushed tones.


For generations of Irish people, they were places where thousands of women and girls were sent when they had “a problem”. They went in pregnant and came out alone, some after spending years locked away.

Some left only to be moved to other institutions and Magdalene laundries. Most were never the same. Their voices were never heard.


READ MORE: Bessborough death record concerns were raised in 2012 .  

A plaque on the wall of the graveyard at Bessborough.

Over the years, those women have found their voices and have demanded answers for how they were treated behind the walls of Ireland’s mother and baby homes. Adoption rights campaigners have been doing the same.

Former residents and lay staff at the Bessborough home, run by the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, have spoken of an institution where women were denied pain relief in labour and basic medical care after birth, and were humiliated by having to cut the institution’s vast lawns on their hands and knees with a scissors.

Just last year, this newspaper uncovered that an official investigation carried out by the Cork County medical officer, on foot of inquiries from an inspector with the Department of Local Government, confirmed an infant mortality rate of 68% at Bessborough in 1943. The government briefly stopped sending women there as a result.

A previously unpublished 2012 HSE report on Bessborough, which examined the institution’s own records, show a system of “institutionalisation and human trafficking”, where “women and babies were considered little more than a commodity for trade amongst religious orders”, in an institution where women were provided with little more than the care and provision given to someone convicted of a crime against the State.

The report was prepared as part of the HSE’s examination of interventions by Irish State health authorities in the Magdalene laundries. It was based on an examination of Bessborough’s own records, which were handed over to the HSE in 2011.

Culture of greed

From the outset, the report, released under the Freedom of Information Act, is crystal clear in what the Bessborough archives reveal. It outlines an order preoccupied with materialism, wealth, and social status, where the women and children in their care were considered as a means to making money.

It points out that “a cultural snapshot” emerges of an era in Ireland where unmarried mothers were considered “not only as “fallen women” and violators of Roman Catholic moral order but were “considered little more than a commodity for trade amongst religious orders”.

The Littles Angels Plot at Bessborough

The report notes that, even though detailed financial records and accounts were not handed over to the HSE by the order, the archives still reveal that the order earned money from the women for the care of their children and also from the adoptive parents who took them.

“The only written confirmation of monies being paid were detailed within the ‘Catholic Women’s Aid Society Book 2, 1929-40’. Even a cursory glance at these pages reveals that monies were paid by natural mothers for the care of their babies, while adoptive parents were charged a sum ranging between £50-£60, payable on a monthly payment scheme in exchange for their adopted child. Further investigation into these practices is warranted,” the report states.

The admission books for the mother and baby home between 1922 and 1936 show the nuns “assigned account numbers to some women, (while not others) while marking some entries as ‘private’, ‘paid nothing’, or identifying which institutions or State bodies were financially responsible for the women’s upkeep“.

In other admission books, similar accounting practices were observed where women “were commonly assigned a ‘Reg No’, ‘Order Form No’, ‘Pink Form No’, ‘Admission Card’, ‘Admission Ticket’, or a notation of a ‘Card Received’.”

Minutes from meetings of the Sacred Heart Adoption Society’s board of management “further lend evidence to the order’s preoccupation with materialism, wealth, and social status” while the wealth and social status of the adoptive parents was often the prime concern when deciding whether they would receive a child.

“While an explicit criteria for adoption at Bessborough could not be located within any materials available during this research, it would appear from the board of management meeting minutes that prospective adoptive parents were assessed on the basis of their earnings, the size and condition of their home, and their social status within the community (not to mention the fundamental expectation that couples were practising Catholics), age, years married, and the committee’s ‘impression’ were mentioned most often as deciding factors [in] whether the couple would be ‘passed’ and ‘given a baby’ or not.”

The report lists a number of remarks at monthly meetings of the board of management between 1974 and 1982, stating that “one can formulate their own opinions about the relationships and interactions between Church and State and the judgements placed upon prospective adopters, and the attitudes toward the babies for whom they were entrusted”.

The entries include:

  • “Ages, 34 & 36, married 4-and-a-half years, Do not want a baby until Christmas.” (From the board of management minutes, April 9, 1979.)
  • “A very nice couple living in Limerick, their own hotel. The ages are 44 & 31; they have a very happy home and plenty of this world’s goods. Would like to adopt a baby. The committee passed them, and if babies are to spare they will get one.” (From the board of management minutes, June 13, 1977.)

Another entry from March 1977 reveals the “lax attitude of the Sacred Heart trustees toward child protection”: “Ages are 32 years... They are married 10 years and have a very comfortable home. They have all the necessary investigations... They are anxious to adopt a little girl. They have received a good reference from the priest but no Garda clearance.” This entry is then followed by the declaration “Passed”.



Shocking phenomenon of child deaths

The Bessborough files also raise questions about the “shocking” number of children who died in the institution. The report raises the question of whether death records were falsified so children “could be brokered into clandestine adoption arrangements, both foreign and domestic”.

It notes that, if this proves true, it could “have dire implications for the Church and State”, not to mention the families involved.

The HSE report reveals, for the first time, the exact number of children that were recorded as having died at Bessborough and states that the numbers unearthed “are a cause for serious consternation“.

“Though an examination of Sacred Heart’s Admission Register SHA/4 (1933-1953) accounts for 93 recorded infant deaths (not including those recorded as ‘stillborn’), a cross-reference with Bessborough’s Registration of Deaths ledger (1934-1953) unearthed a shocking phenomenon of infant mortality as 478 infant deaths were recorded for 19 years.”

That amounts to a death rate of 25 children a year. To put that in perspective, a total of 796 children are recorded as having died in Tuam Mother and Baby Home between 1925 and 1960 — a death rate of almost 23 children every year.

“As Bessborough’s death register contains less than two decades of details of Sacred Heart Adoption Society’s almost 75-year history, one cannot be certain as to the full scope of infant deaths. Curiously there are no death records for any years following 1953,” the report notes. However, the HSE does specifically raise the issue of what sort of conditions were present in the institution to allow such a “shocking” rate of infant death to occur.

“Returning to the matter of the death register, a phenomenal 478 documented infant deaths over 19 years leaves the reader asking what conditions precipitated the deaths of so many babies under the trust of the Sacred Heart Order.

“While a thorough inquiry is beyond the remit of this paper, one cannot help but ponder the implications of this phenomenon.”

In August of last year, this newspaper uncovered material in the Cork City and County archives which shows an official investigation into deaths in Bessborough carried out by the Cork County medical officer in 1943 confirmed an infant mortality rate of 68%.

The HSE report states that, in addition to revealing the number of babies that died between 1934 to 1953, the death record at Bessborough lists each child’s date of death, address, name, gender, age at last birthday, profession (marked as son or daughter), cause of death, and, in some cases, the duration of illness and the date when the death was registered.

The recorded causes of death in the entries include: Marasmus, gastro enteritis, congenital debility, spina bifida, congenital syphilis, pneumonia, bronchitis, congenital heart, tubercular peritiorities, cardiac shock, heat stroke, tonsillitis, and prematurity.

Inexplicably one entry which records a child dying of prematurity states that the child had turned three years of age at her last birthday.

Disturbing as these revelations are, perhaps the most shocking claim made in the HSE study is that death records may have been falsified for children so that they could be “brokered” for adoption, perhaps both at home and abroad.

“The question whether indeed all of these children actually died while in Bessborough or whether they were brokered into clandestine adoption arrangements, both foreign and domestic, has dire implications for the Church and State and not least for the children and families themselves,” the report states.

It notes that, while the subject of infant mortality may not appear to have much to do with adoption, the ‘boarding out’ of children with foster families, or the discharge strategies of women and children, its relevance becomes apparent “when put in context with the broader issue of the mutually beneficial State/religious order relationships and the covert relationships of the day”.

“Simply put the State had a social problem that it desperately needed to make go away, while the Church had the power and control to turn the ‘problem’ of illegitimacy into a lucrative money making enterprise,” the report states.

“While it is beyond the expertise of this author to proffer grand narratives about the historical, fiscal, or social arrangements forged between Church and State, the records themselves expose a telling indictment of what may have been one of Ireland’s most damning and destructive partnership of collusion, corruption, and abuse between Church and State.”

Institutionalisation and human trafficking

The archives paint an equally disturbing picture of how women were treated, with references to “institutionalisation and human trafficking”, “incarceration”, “confinement and servitude”, and to “a cold and lonely environment characterised by harrowing social, emotional, and physical isolation”.

Bessborough Mother and Baby Home

The report points out that, while it is historically and socially acknowledged that little regard was given to the care of women pregnant out of wedlock in Ireland at that time, nonetheless “it appears that the women who sought refuge within Bessborough Adoption Society were provided with little more than the basic care and provision afforded to that of any individual convicted of crimes against the State”.

“While it is noted that entrants to Bessborough were not subject to the sanctions of any Irish court order, however their ‘voluntary’ admissions appear to have been a punitive reprise, far worse than a prison term,” states the report.

The report is also scathing about the “culture of confinement” which existed at Bessborough and a “practice of protracted detainment” where women and girls were kept in the institution long after their children were born and they should have been fit for discharge.

Analysis of admission records between 1922 and 1936 show that details for a “staggering” 43% of admissions had no recorded information regarding how they were referred to Bessborough. The second largest category of referrals reveals that 16% of admissions for this period were “By Ambulance”, while 15% came from family relations.

The HSE study notes that the figure of 43% could be interpreted as an administrative oversight save for the high level of specificity of details regarding a wide range of other referral mechanisms. For example, other referral mechanisms listed include:

  • GPs (11%);
  • Hospitals/Matrons (3.7%);
  • Nuns/Priests/Canons/Mother Superiors (2.7%);
  • County Homes (2.2%);
  • Cork Guardians (1.3%);
  • Other (1.2%);
  • Readmissions (1%);
  • Good Shepherd Sisters (0.5%);
  • Cork Union (0.5%);
  • Civic Patrol (0.1%);
  • Sr of Mercy (0.1%);
  • Sr of Charity (0.1%);
  • Bandon Guardians (0.1%);
  • Relieving Officer (0.4%);
  • Kilkenny CBH (0.4%);
  • England (0.3%).

Similarly, between 1933 and 1954, the sources of referral were unknown for 56% of 302 admissions.

Once admitted to Bessborough, the records examined by the HSE were found to “attest to the culture of confinement and servitude” and the “powerful air of authority that the nuns conveyed”.

“Society at large did not question the legitimacy of the Sacred Heart Order’s alleged powers of detainment; many of the women were kept there long past their delivery dates. It would appear that freedom to leave in one’s own time was beyond the reach of many women,” the report states.

Reference is made to one girl being sent to Bessborough in 1922 despite no record of her “being pregnant or ever having delivered a baby or what became of her after she entered the Good Shepherds”.

“What we can glean from this account is the prevailing morality of the times which sanctioned the incarceration of young females in an effort to prevent their moral degeneration. In this particular case mentioned, the young girl was accused of ‘being lead (sic) astray by a man’ so being locked up was considered justified.”

The HSE study states that Bessborough’s archives “reveal a trajectory of institutionalisation and human trafficking among various religious orders and State-funded institutions”.

However, the State is also singled out for harsh criticism for failing in its legal and ethical responsibility to ensure that the rights of unmarried mothers, particularly those under the age of majority, were safeguarded.


“Instead it would appear that the State turned their back on these women and girls, favouring instead to abdicate its responsibility to the religious orders.

“In exchange for assuming the State’s social and legal responsibility, the nuns benefited from a steady stream of free labour and servitude (not to mention financial remuneration for the women and their offspring).

“The practice of transferring women and children among and between State-funded religious institutions was prolific.”

Admission records

Indeed, the admission records of Bessborough reveal well-established practices of women and/or their babies being sent to “County Homes Unions, industrial schools, and orphanages, and within the network of convents and religious orders both domestically and within the United Kingdom” — in a practice that continued throughout the 1950s.


The report notes that the prevalence of such practices is witnessed by the scale of references within the admission registers “to women and children being bandied about from and within religious orders and institutions”.

The report outlines a snapshot of these practices of women and children being transferred among and between State and religious-run institutions as described in the Bessborough admission books between the 1920s and 1950s.

They include:

  • “Miss X age 22 sent to ‘Rev Mother St Mary’s School, North Hyde, Child placed in the school, March 1, 1926’”;
  • “Miss X age 21 Sent to Sanatorium, 18 , November 1927, Rtd (sic) 17.05.1928, Sent to Co Hospital, 05.09.1928’”;
  • “Miss X age 18 ‘Sent to Good Shepherd Convent, 7.06.1933’”;
  • “Miss X age 18 Mother & Child Dis (sic) to Co Home 07.07.1934 (Mental)”;
  • “Miss X age 18 having already spent three years in the care of the Good Shepherd Nuns in Co Kilkenny was admitted to Bessborough on the 12/11/25 (two years after the birth of her baby on 21/02/1923). This young woman was returned to the Good Shepherds on 12/02/1930”;

The report concludes by noting that the question regarding “the interconnectedness between Church and State demands a much more comprehensive exposition than has been offered here.

“The interdepartmental committee has a weighty task ahead of it as it seeks to ascertain the full scope of State/Church relationships, a formidable task by any standards.

“It is my hope that the material provided within this research paper is in some manner useful to the committee in making its conclusions.

“It goes without saying that the dignity and integrity of the women and children, both living and dead, who once lived behind Bessborough’s walls must be safeguarded and at long last their voices heard.”

In a statement, the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary said it had “no knowledge of any such report”.

“We are in contact with the commission in regard to the mother and baby homes inquiry, which will be having our full co-operation. For the present, as is appropriate, we will be dealing directly with the commission on all related matters,” it said.


READ MORE: Bessborough death record concerns were raised in 2012 .  




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