Irish scandal: the lost motherhood of so many women

Throughout the last century, in Ireland, many mommy and baby homes, supervised by nuns, were the homes of what media called “the children of sin”. Daughters and sons of single women were separated from their biological mothers and given to adoption, like the story that inspired the film “Filomena” with Judi Dench.

During the late 1990s allegations of wide scale abuse within Irish Catholic child care institutions began to surface. Subsequent media reports compelled the Irish Government to commission an investigate report that took 9 years to assemble. The Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (The Ryan Report) was published on May 2009 and drew on overwhelming witness testimony to establish that Catholic priests and nuns had abused children for decades, and that said abuse was endemic within Church run institutions and orphanages.

Now, it is estimated that more than 800 children were buried near those houses because of the high rates of back then.

“This is very sad and disturbing news”, said Katherine Zappone, Irish Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, to the Irish Sun.

“It was not unexpected as there were claims about human remains on the site over the last number of years. Up to now we had rumours. Now we have confirmation that the remains are there, and that they date back to the time of the Mother and Baby Home, which operated in Tuam from 1925 to 1961. Now it is about remembering and respecting the dignity of the children who lived their short lives in this home. We will honour their memory and make sure that we take the right actions now to treat their remains appropriately”, she continued.

On international women’s day we talk about motherhood and how lives are changed forever for bad political, social and religious choices and practices.

How important is an investigation on this scandal? Are we finishing a story or starting a new chapter? Will many people come out of their shadow to tell their stories? And if so…What’s the reason behind after so many years?

We tried to talk with the Mother and Baby Homes Comission of Investigation, but we were told by Ita Mangan, the director, that the investigation is being conducted in private in order to guarantee confidentiality to people who are now seeking help.

However, Deirdre Carroll, outreach advice worker at the Irish Women Survivors Support Network (IWSSN) North West, spoke to us about her work in helping women survivors:

“We believe that Survivors deserve committed support to enable their recovery and make progression in their lives. Through practical support and advocacy, we can make a transformative effect in regards to severe poverty and inequality; poor mental and physical health; isolation & feelings of disempowerment.”

The IWSSN supports, advises and campaigns for Survivors of the Irish institutional care system who live across the UK and attended institutions between the 1930s to 1990s.

“Many survivors have poor mental and physical health, and are experiencing long term trauma”, she continues: “Many have tried to supress their experiences, yet the ongoing developments in Ireland (notably the recent findings in Tuam County Galway) can trigger an onslaught of painful memories”.

Therefore, according to Deirdre, the IWSSN first priority “is to provide support to all survivors that make contact with the service, to provide compassion and empathy, to ensure they understand that they do have a service in which they can place their trust, who will listen with a considerate ear, and respond with practical advice and support”.

Even though we still don’t know how this story is going to end, because more interesting and devastating facts can be uncovered, one thing we know for sure: being a mom is a big part of being a woman, and losing that right left certainly a lot of scars for the rest of these Irish women’s lives.



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