Thursday, 9 March 2017
Commission of Investigation Announcement on Tuam Mother and Baby Home: Statements
I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Canney, for sharing time with me. I do not think there is a person in Ireland who has not been touched by the story that has emerged from Tuam in recent days. Those of us who come from the local area are aware that this has been said for a number of years. As the Minister of State said, Catherine Corless deserves to be commended on persisting with this and keeping it going when questions were being asked. I think the people of Tuam will get together. They deserve the truth and they need clarification. As others have said, the truth needs to come out. I think the State needs to apologise for the horrendous things that went on in previous years. We need to make sure the people of Tuam are treated fairly. I commend the Minister, Deputy Zappone, on what she has done so far. I advise her to stay with this issue rather than letting her officials who are not really at the coalface deal with it.
Many years ago, we lived in an Ireland where gardaí, priests and teachers were looked up to as gods. Unfortunately, these things happened in Tuam and in other places. Somebody told me yesterday evening he would have been in the same circumstances only for his grandfather. When the local priest came to the house after his mother gave birth to him, his grandfather said "he will be all right, father; we will look after them". The parish priest landed a few days later. They wanted to take his mother away. It is very easy to stand up here and blame the State for everything. The actions of the orders in Tuam at the time were totally outrageous, to be frank. Deputy O'Dowd referred to the role of local teachers and neighbours in the Ireland we used to live in. During that era, people were worried about what the neighbours would say. I think the parents of those people also need to reflect on what they did. They should have made sure those people were not put into these situations. I heard a woman saying in a radio interview yesterday that she was not allowed to say goodbye to her child, which is totally beyond belief. Although what went on at that time was totally wrong, there is a need for balance. Previous speakers basically said that the religious did nothing right at all.
I can say I was educated in a school it set up and it was sound. What was done wrong was very wrong but not every single thing was wrong. There was a comment about saying a prayer in here. I am no holy Joe but if one does not want to go in for it, do not go in for it; if one wants to stay out, stay out; if one wants to say the prayer, stay in. These debacles are going on all the time.
The Minister has done well over recent days in difficult circumstances. The whole State apologised and every Deputy here is united on the matter. I ask the Minister to work with the people of Tuam and listen to the people who have been affected. She should listen to the harrowing stories, bring her face to it and work with those people. Whatever needs to be done to resolve the matter should be accomplished in a compassionate and fair manner for those people. This has been hanging over them for years and we need finality and the truth. We must ensure that what has been done wrong will never happen again.
We can consider areas like Ballaghaderreen, which has refugees coming next week but the required services will not be in place. This is a problem for a child psychologist. A person came to me 18 years ago when the priests were at the crack of saying children had not been reared correctly. Years ago anybody who committed suicide could not be brought to a church, and that has not even been spoken about in here. We should be ashamed of those actions and remember the affected people today, as well as what went on in Tuam. Not everybody in the orders or society then was bad but we must learn from our mistakes and make things right. I ask the Minister to treat those people with compassion.