It is emerging that thousands of children were starved to death in state funded homes run by nuns in Ireland. The Daily Mail today carries a detailed report which quotes Philip Redmond, a survivor of Sean Ross Abbey Hospital, Roscrea, Co. Tipperary where of the 167 babies born in 1942, there were 72 deaths. Mr Redmond says "As far as Bessborough is concerned, there is little doubt in our minds that as many as 2,000 died while we believe another 1,200 died in Sean Ross Abbey" This figures are to be added to the estimated 796 bodies found in a waste tank in the grounds of then Tuam home - see the earlier piece on this page.
The nuns were apparently invited to set up these homes by Éamon de Valera’s government which along with other administrations waged a war on women in Ireland after independence in order to impose a rigid catholic morality of the sort the so called 'pro-life' movement wants to retain today. On the one hand figures like the Bishop of Tuam were removing & burning books with any sex education content from public libraries, as well as those he consider favourable to unmarried mothers. On the other hand poor women who gave birth outside marriage were having their children taken from them, many of whom we now know died in these homes, and were themselves sent into the slavery of the Magdeline laundries to provide free labour, in some cases for the rest of their lives.
The Mail reports that "As stillbirths were rarely recorded, the total of how many babies died .. might never be known. The certificates researchers have seen so far make for harrowing reading. Time and time again, the cause of death is described as ‘marasmus, cardiac failure’. Marasmus is the result of chronic undernutrition, other characteristics are diarrhoea, dry, loose skin and dry, brittle hair."
This story was published on the WSM Facebook page 31st May 2014 based on the reporting that appeared in that mornings Daily Mail (a UK based tabloid). Because no Irish media source ran with the story for several more days our post was shared over 1100 times and attracted 147 commnets, some of them from survivors of these homes detailing their experiences.
If you are feeling strong this morning (29th May 2015) Rabble published a must read article yesterday on the 796 dead children found in a mass grave at the St.Mary’s Mother and Baby Home, Tuam. That's not a misprint, for the 40 years this institution operated at least one child died a fortnight, a death rate that approached 10% of those in the home per year! They ranged from 2 days (Thomas Duffy) to 9 years (Sheila Tuohy) old.
The home operated from 1921 to 1961 and this revelation shows what life was really like, particularly for the poor, in the 'good old days' before feminism, effective contraception and access to abortion. Women with unwanted pregnancies were forced to give birth and the babies were sent to such homes to be killed through neglect unless they were
'lucky' and were fostered out. That is the only explanation for a death rate that suggests that a child placed in the home at birth would only have a 50:50 chance of surviving five years.
This system was ran by the same religious institutions that shamed and punished women who had sex outside of marriage and which campaigned to keep contraception and abortion illegal and inaccessible. They still continue to do so to this day, next time one of them refers to themselves as pro-life remember the deaths behind their empty rhetoric.
From the Rabble article
"An Irish Mail on Sunday front page article on 25th May 2014, recounted a local health board inspection report from April 16/17th 1944 which recorded 271 children and 61 single mothers for a total of 333. The ‘Home’ had capacity for 243.
The report continues listing children as ‘emaciated’, ‘pot-bellied’, ‘fragile’ with ‘flesh hanging loosely on limbs’. 31 children recorded in the ‘Sun room and balcony’ were ‘poor, emaciated and not thriving’."
7th June 2014 - This week’s ‘Westmeath Examiner’ newspaper carries further revelations about the existence of mass graves containing the bodies of dead babies and children, this time referring to a plot in Castlepollard Co. Westmeath which contains the bodies of up to 500 babies.
The newspaper quotes the Adoption Rights Now organisation as saying that between 2,800 and 3,000 babies were born in the Castlepollard Mother and Child Home between the time it was founded in 1934 and when it closed in 1971. Of these “2,500 were adopted out and between 300 to 500 died although this figure could be higher (no one knows the actual numbers)”.
Over the course of the past 2 weeks, the spotlight has begun to be focussed on up to 10 similar homes across the state. A story in the ‘Belfast Telegraph’ on Thursday 5th June says that about 35,000 women were incarcerated for differing periods of time in these 10 homes alone - for the crime of being pregnant. In at least 4 of these homes, mass graves have been uncovered containing the bodies of up to 4,000 babies and children.
This story brings into focus the extent to which Irish society was – and remains to a large degree – bound up in a moral bankruptcy propounded by the Catholic Church but also promoted and espoused fully by the powers-that-be in secular society. It was a moralism that was and remains about controlling the lives of the working class.
It was a moralism that for decades denied women access to contraception and that still exalts the 'right to life' of a foetus but apparently has no qualms about the mass killing of real live babies through malnutrition, starvation, denial of medical care, physical abuse and who knows what else.
It was a moralism that holds up 'motherhood' as the ideal to which all women should aspire but treated these mothers as chattels and slaves.
And it is a moralism that still controls patronage of the vast majority of primary schools and a large proportion of our health service – and a moralism that by law is allowed to sack an employee in those schools or hospitals that it controls if it deems them to have a lifestyle that 'undermines their ethos'.
Surely it is the duty of every right thinking person to undermine an ethos that allowed such horrors. Surely as a society we must use these latest revelations to get rid of this moral bankruptcy and build a society based on justice and fairness.