Veil of silence must be broken

It is hard to believe several years have passed since local Tuam historian Catherine Corless uncovered the heartbreaking scandal of undocumented burials at the Tuam Mothers and Baby home - one which is sadly still ongoing.

For the families of the 798 children who died, and then were buried in the grounds of the institution, there can be no peace when still so many questions need answers.

To achieve closure is necessary after years of what appears to be stonewalling from the various authorities involved. And after yet another interim report, the frustration is palpable, particularly for those people who survived the home, and had family members who died.

That frustration is matched by the simple, but desperate need to know why those children were buried in what has been described officially as a "substructure" in the grounds of the former mother and baby home. Only a memorial built by locals marks this area, and that is not good enough.

Tireless campaigner Corless, and the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone, are urging locals who may have any knowledge or memories of events or children in the home to come forward. There can be no condemnation for those who have been reticent heretofore, particularly in a society which for years lived under the control of the Church.

Tuam is no different from a lot of communities where such insititutions were built. It is easy to say they were part and parcel of a country at that time, and yes, the events of the time do need to be contextualised, but today that portrayal of Irish society is alien, distasteful and utterly heartbreaking. It was unacceptable then, particularly for those without a voice, and it remains so today, particularly that no burial records have been produced for these children.

It is too easy to pass the buck from one institution to another department, and that appears to have happened with both Church and state organisations failing to help progress this inquiry. There must be someone who knows if these records existed, and if so, what happened to them. If they weren't kept, if they were destroyed, then it is time to let those who are still clinging to hope know. The Bon Secours Sisters, the Catholic congregation that ran the Tuam institution, said on the closing of the home in 1961, that all the records were returned to Galway County Council - the owner and occupier of the lands of the home.

The veil of silence continues in a country which prides itself on its agreeableness and extroversion.

Linley MacKenzie

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