Tuesday, 13 February 2018
Third Interim Report from the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes: Statements
I welcome the opportunity to speak about mother and baby homes. I compliment the Minister on her endeavours in dealing with this sensitive issue. Earlier we listened to how Galway County Council was dealing with the issue in Tuam. I come from Tuam and was educated there. I have met a lot of people, some of whom are in the Visitors Gallery, who have been affected in one way or another. I refer to survivors or family members of people who passed away. It is a sensitive issue and we have to make sure we deal with it in a way that we will satisfaction for those who have been affected by this terrible tragedy.
One of the things I find in speaking to survivors is that they find themselves in a position where they are beginning to talk about their experiences. They are talking to one another about them. They are talking in groups and beginning to find some consolation in the fact that they are meeting others who have had the same experiences. Over a long period of time, from the time they were babies until they started to talk about it, they were holding it as a dark a secret as if there was something wrong with them. At this stage what we have to do as a state is to make sure we find the truth for them and make reparation.
As Deputy Mattie McGrath mentioned, we must be as vigilant as possible to ensure it will never happen again in this country or elsewhere.
I met the group in Tuam before Christmas. We went to the site, said some prayers, read some poems and sang some hymns. There was reverence. It must also be taken into account that the lives of those who live in close proximity to the site have been affected. Even though they are innocent and had no part to play in anything that happened, there has been an intrusion in their area and lives. We must respect them as well and ensure they get the support they need in terms of counselling, advice and information on what is happening.
Questions arise as to how to go about this work and ensure everyone is treated fairly. At the end of the day, decisions will have to be made. The Minister is in the consultation process. It is important that everyone get a fair crack at stating his or her case. However, time is an issue. Personally, I do not mind delays if we find the truth, but some people will be frustrated by how the timeframe keeps lengthening and by the delays in the process. We must be sensitive to this issue and spare no effort in doing everything that we can as humanly and as quickly as possible. I have great confidence that the Minister will do so. She will treat this situation with the compassion it deserves. We are not proud of it as a society, but we must deal with it.
It is not widely known that counselling services are available to the victims. Barnardos is running a service whereby it takes appointments and sees people in the new primary care centre in Tuam. More information on this service needs to get out in order that people know about it.
I wish to make another point. It is a comment rather than a complaint. When people telephone for advice, there might not be someone on the other end of the line, meaning that they have to telephone time and again. Someone might not revert to them for a number of days. We must ensure that, when people telephone, someone responds to them. Otherwise, people will become even more frustrated.
We will have to make tough decisions on what to do, not only in Tuam, but at other sites. Whatever we do, we must ensure we get to the truth and that those who have been affected receive reparation. In modern society, we must be vigilant against anything like this happening again.