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SPECIAL INVESTIGATION: Concern over possible falsification of Bessborough death records raised in 2012

Concerns that death records were falsified in Bessborough Mother and Baby Home so children could “be brokered in clandestine adoption arrangements” at home and abroad were raised in an internal HSE report in 2012.

The unpublished report highlighted the “wholly epidemic” infant deaths rates at the Cork home and said: “The question whether indeed all of these children actually died while in Bessboro or whether they were brokered into clandestine adoption arrangements, both foreign and domestic, has dire implications for the Church and State and not least for the children and families themselves.”

The report, compiled as part of the HSE’s examination of the State’s role in the Magdalene Laundries as part of the McAleese inquiry, lifts the lid on the culture of cruelty at the home and found the State effectively washed its hands of the women and children.

It reveals the institution, run by the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, as a place where:

 

  • Women and babies were considered “little more than a commodity for trade amongst religious orders”;
  • “Institutionalisation and human trafficking” took place among various religious orders and State-funded institutions;
  • Women were provided with “little more than the basic care and provision afforded to that of any individual convicted of crimes against the State”;
  • Infant death rates were “wholly epidemic” and a “cause for serious consternation”;
  • The order had a “preoccupation with materialism, wealth and social status”;
  • A “cold and lonely environment” prevailed, “characterised by harrowing social, emotional and physical isolation and institutionalisation”.

The study, previously released under freedom of information, revealed that from 1934 until 1953 (the only years for which deaths were recorded at Bessborough) 478 children died — a death rate of almost one infant a fortnight for nearly two decades.

The report said it was “curious” that there were no death records for any year following 1953 and, as a result, “one cannot be certain as to the full scope of infant deaths”.

However, in a disturbing revelation, the study raises concerns that the deaths of children may have been falsified so they could be “brokered” for adoption both at home and abroad.

“Simply put, the State had a social problem that it desperately needed to make go away, while the Church had the power and control to turn the ‘problem’ of illegitimacy into a lucrative money-making enterprise,” notes the report.

It notes that, even though detailed financial records and accounts were not given to the HSE by the order, the archives reveal the order earned money from the women for the care of their children and also from the adoptive parents who took them.

One record noted that, in the period from 1929 to 1940, “adoptive parents were charged a sum ranging between £50-60, payable on a monthly payment scheme in exchange for their adopted child”. The report said “further investigation into these practices is warranted”.

The Government did not launch an inquiry into mother and baby homes for almost another two years after the report was compiled in 2012.

In a statement, the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary said it had “no knowledge of any such report”.

“We are in contact with the commission in regard to the Mother and Baby Homes Inquiry, which will be having our full co-operation. For the present, as is appropriate, we will be dealing directly with the commission on all related matters,” said the order.

The Department of Children and Youth Affairs said none of the concerns raised were brought to the attention of the then minister Frances Fitzgerald at the time, but were discussed in the context of McAleese Inquiry under the auspices of the Department of Justice.

It said the minister became involved in the issue of mother-and-baby homes once material around infant deaths in Tuam became public in mid-2014.

“The minister was subsequently tasked by Government with leading its response to these important matters and the Inter Departmental ReviewGroup was set up to assist deliberations on the terms of reference of a Commission of Investigation,” said a statement.

A request for comment from Tusla was not responded to at the time of going to print.

http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/special-investigation-bessborough-death-record-concerns-were-raised-in-2012-334106.html

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Grave situation: Deaths at Bessborough don’t add up

Religious order reported to the State that 353 babies died in Bessborough, but its own register showed 80 fewer deaths. A report found a system of ‘human trafficking’ in which ‘women and babies were considered little more than a commodity for trade’. Conall Ó Fatharta reports

THE revelation that the order which operated the Bessborough Mother and Baby home was reporting higher numbers of infant deaths to the State than it recorded in its own death register raises some serious questions

So far, the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary have declined to offer any answers. The order says it will only deal with the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes. It can only be hoped that Judge Yvonne Murphy can get some answers. It is imperative she does.

One question is straightforward: Why was the order informing the State of higher numbers of infant deaths in Bessborough than it was recording in its own death register?

The figures are worth repeating. An inspection report from Department of Local Government and Public Health (DLGPH) by inspector Alice Litster in late 1944 revealed that between March 31, 1938, and December 5, 1944, a total of 353 infants died in Bessborough (out of 610 births).

Ms Litster stated that the figures for 1939 to 1941 “were furnished by the superioress”, while those for 1943 and 1944 had been “checked and verified and their accuracy can be vouched for”.

However, the order’s own death register — supplied by the Registrar General for Ireland “for the purpose of facilitating the accurate registration of deaths” in Bessborough — for the exact same time period, records just 273 deaths. That is a discrepancy of 80 deaths.

Take the figures for 1939 to 1941: For the year ended March 31, 1939, the DLGPH inspector was told 38 infants died. This is also what is reported in the death register.

However, for the following two years, the order informed Litster of higher numbers of deaths. For example, for 1940, Ms Litster was told 17 children died. The register records only eight. Similarly, for 1941, the DLGPH was told 38 children died, whereas the register records just 22.

For every other year cited by Ms Litster, the figures given to the DLGPH are significantly higher than what is recorded in the order’s own death register. This is particularly the case for year ending March 31, 1943, and 1944. In these years, Litster reports that 70 and 102 infants died, respectively. In the latter figure, this amounted to a death rate of 82% in that year.

However, again, these figures differ greatly to the order’s death register, which records 55 and 76 infant deaths in these years. For 1944, this brings the death rate from 82% down to 62%.

This 82% death rate had caused such concern at Government levels that it was in regular contact with the head of Bessborough on the issue. So, why was the order content for a DLGPH report to publish higher numbers of deaths than it was recording itself?

Perhaps there is another death register for the same period where the order logged the other deaths.

However, the order is on the record that the register is the only one in existence. It confirmed this to Tusla via its solicitors in January of this year, when it stated that “all records” it held were transferred to the HSE in 2011 and that it “does not hold any other death register”.

Given that Bessborough took in both public and private patients, perhaps the death register only recorded public patients. This appears unlikely, for a number of reasons.

Firstly, the figure of 38 infant deaths for 1939 provided to Ms Litster by the order matches the figure in the death register. It would therefore seem that the register was the source for the figures she received from the superioress. However, they do not match for any other year.

Secondly, Litster points out that the 102 deaths recorded in 1944 include 35 deaths of children from private patients. The death register records 76 deaths in this period. Adding the 35 private deaths to this figure comes to 111. In short, it doesn’t explain the discrepancy in any way.

The Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary is the only body that can provide an answer to all of this. It declined to answer a series of queries posed by this newspaper, stating it was dealing directly with the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes on all such and related matters.

It has stated in the past that it reported all deaths to the appropriate authorities at the time.

The question then is what is the correct number of deaths for this period? Where are the other 80 children listed as having died at Bessborough in the DLGPH report? Why were their deaths not recorded in the order’s death register? These are questions which must be answered, whether by the order or by the commission.

THE story of Ireland’s mother and baby homes is one that has taken decades to reveal. It is still not fully clear. The media has outlined the experiences of women who remain scarred by their experiences in these institutions and haunted by the fate of the children they lost, either through adoption or death.

Yet, despite all of these events happening decades ago, a shroud of secrecy continues to hang over the entire period. Firstly, we heard from the women, then we heard about deaths, then we had Tuam.

Now, we have the spectre that the number of infant deaths reported to the State at one of the country’s largest mother and baby homes are significantly higher than what the order recorded in its own records.

It is worth noting that this latest revelation comes just five months after this newspaper revealed an unpublished internal 2012 HSE report which, based on an examination of the Bessborough records, expressed concerns that death records were falsified in Bessborough, so children could “be brokered in clandestine adoption arrangements”.

Prepared as part of the HSE’s examination of the State health authorities’ interaction with the Magdalene Laundries for the McAleese Committee, it highlighted the “wholly epidemic” infant death rates at the home as revealed in the death register and added: “The question whether indeed all of these children actually died while in Bessboro or whether they were brokered into clandestine adoption arrangements, both foreign and domestic, has dire implications for the Church and State and not least for the children and families themselves.”

Those words take on a whole new significance in light of the discrepancy in the number of deaths recorded by the order compared to the State.

Rumours of such a system have abounded in Ireland for years. Mothers have spoken of being told their child had died, but having never seen the body.

The HSE report into Bessborough describes the number of recorded deaths as “wholly epidemic”, “shocking” and a “cause for serious consternation”.

Despite this, it went ignored. When it was revealed by the Irish Examiner earlier this summer, the reaction of the Government was to deny any knowledge of it, then admit that two departments — the Department of Health and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA) — had seen it, before dismissing its contents as “conjecture”.

New material released under FOI reveals that not only was the report seen by two departments, its contents compelled Dr Declan McKeown — consultant public health physician and medical epidemiologist — of the Medical Intelligence Unit in the HSE to write to principal officer at the DCYA and member of the McAleese Committee Denis O’Sullivan on November 1, 2012, to warn that “adoption, birth and registration and the recording of infant mortality” were issues that may require “deeper investigation”.

Clearly, senior medical professionals within the HSE were telling DCYA officials that the issue of how deaths were recorded needed to be investigated, not to mention how adoptions were contracted and how births were registered. Yet, it took almost another two years and worldwide headlines about a mass grave in Tuam before the Government felt compelled to act and order a State inquiry.

If any action had been taken on the contents of the HSE report or on the words of Dr McKeown, the discrepancy in the number of deaths contained in the register versus what was reported to the State could have been found years ago.

Apart from uncovering a death rate higher than that found in Tuam two years later, the Bessborough report outlined a system of “institutionalisation and human trafficking”, in which “women and babies were considered little more than a commodity for trade amongst religious orders”, in an institution where women were provided with little more than the care and provision given to someone convicted of a crime against the State.

It revealed evidence from an admission book from 1929-1940 that adoptive parents were charged a sum ranging from £50 to £60, payable on a monthly scheme in exchange for their child, before advising that “further investigation into these practices is warranted”.

While no specific criteria for assessing adoptive parents could be found, minutes from meetings of the Sacred Heart Adoption Society’s board of management suggested prospective adoptive parents were assessed “on the basis of their earnings, the size and condition of their home, and their social status within the community (not to mention the fundamental expectation that couples were practising Catholics)”.

However, despite all of this, the HSE report on Bessborough was not included in the final HSE submission to the McAleese Committee. While included in various earlier drafts, Denis O’Sullivan emailed Gordon Jeyes on November 7, 2012, to advise that any issues around mother and baby homes were outside the remit of the McAleese Committee

“Material included beyond that is beyond the scope of our work — eg, the scope does not extend to an examination of other places of refuge eg mother and baby homes, other than in the context of referrals from Magdalene laundries.

“If there are separate and validated findings of concern emerging from such additional research, obviously they should be communicated by HSE and through a separate process.”

The previous month, Nuala Ní Mhuircheartaigh of the McAleese Committee had emailed then HSE Assistant National Director of Child and Family Services Phil Garland acknowledging the Bessborough report, but stating it was “heavily focused on broad narrative and context rather than fact.”

However, it wasn’t just Bessborough that was on the radar at this point. Serious concerns were also being reported about Tuam Mother and Baby Home — again almost two years before it made headlines around the world.

In June, the Irish Examiner revealed that senior HSE officials expressed concern that up to 1,000 children may have been “trafficked” to the US from the Tuam Home in “a scandal that dwarfs other, more recent issues with the Church and State”. The revelations were contained in an internal note of a teleconference in October 2012 with Phil Garland and then head of the Medical Intelligence Unit, Davida De La Harpe.

THE note relays the concerns raised by the principal social worker for adoption in HSE West, who had found “a large archive of photographs, documentation and correspondence relating to children sent for adoption to the USA” and “documentation in relation to discharges and admissions to psychiatric institutions in the Western area”.

It notes there were letters from the Tuam Mother and Baby Home to parents asking for money for the upkeep of their children and says that the duration of stay for children may have been prolonged by the order for financial reasons.

It also uncovered letters to parents asking for money for the upkeep of some children that had already been discharged or had died. The social worker had compiled a list of “up to 1,000 names”, but said it was “not clear yet whether all of these relate to the ongoing examination of the Magdalene system, or whether they relate to the adoption of children by parents, possibly in the USA”.

At that point, the social worker was assembling a filing system “to enable her to link names to letters and to payments”.

“This may prove to be a scandal that dwarfs other, more recent issues with the Church and State, because of the very emotive sensitivities around adoption of babies, with or without the will of the mother.

“A concern is that, if there is evidence of trafficking babies, that it must have been facilitated by doctors, social workers etc, and a number of these health professionals may still be working in the system.”

The note ends with a recommendation that, due to the gravity of what was being found in relation to Tuam, an “early warning” letter be written for the attention of the national director of the HSE’s Quality and Patient Safety Division, Philip Crowley, suggesting “that this goes all the way up to the minister”.

“It is more important to send this up to the minister as soon as possible: with a view to an inter-departmental committee and a fully fledged, fully resourced forensic investigation and State inquiry,” concludes the note.

It’s unclear what, if any action, was taken on foot of this dire warning from the HSE. What is clear is that since 2012, the Government has been advised of serious concerns with both Bessborough and Tuam Mother and Baby Homes.

It was specifically told that the number of deaths recorded were “a cause for serious consternation” and that the issue of how these deaths were recorded needed to be investigated.

It was advised that what was being found in relation to Tuam warranted a full State inquiry. Now, we know that there are large discrepancies in the deaths reported to the State versus those recorded by a religious order.

We now have a State inquiry. Let’s hope it can get to the bottom of why the figures don’t add up.

http://www.irishexaminer.com/viewpoints/analysis/grave-situation-deaths-at-bessborough-dont-add-up-363812.html

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Order reported 80 more infant deaths to State than were on death register

The religious order that ran the Bessborough Mother and Baby Home reported significantly higher numbers of infant deaths to state inspectors than it recorded privately.

An Irish Examiner investigation can reveal that between March 31, 1939, and December 5, 1944, Department of Local Government and Public Health (DLGPH) inspector Alice Litster was informed that 353 infant deaths occurred at the institution. The figures are contained in a inspection report from 1944 obtained by this newspaper. However, the Bessborough Death Register, released under Freedom of Information, reveals the nuns recorded just 273 infant deaths in this period — a discrepancy of 80.

A year-by-year comparison of the records reveals that, in all but one year, the State was told that a higher number of children were dying in Bessborough than the nuns recorded privately.

In her report, Ms Litster stated the figures for 1939 to 1941 “were furnished by the Superioress” while those for 1943 and 1944 had been “checked and verified and their accuracy can be vouched for”. The DLGPH report reveals the following number of infant deaths for each year ended March 31:

  • 1939 — 38 deaths
  • 1940 — 17 deaths
  • 1941 — 38 deaths
  • 1942 — 47 deaths
  • 1943 — 70 deaths
  • 1944 — 102 deaths
  • April 1, 1944 to December 5, 1944 — 41 deaths

The numbers recorded in the Bessborough Death Register for the same dates are as follows:

  • 1939 — 38 deaths
  • 1940 — 8 deaths
  • 1941 — 22 deaths
  • 1942 — 43 deaths
  • 1943 — 55 deaths
  • 1944 — 76 deaths
  • April 1, 1944 to December 5, 1944 — 31 deaths

The order confirmed to Tusla via its solicitors this year that the death register was the only one in existence and it “does not hold any other death register”.

The discrepancy in the recording of deaths comes just months after the Irish Examiner revealed that an unpublished 2012 internal HSE report raised concerns that death records were falsified in Bessborough Mother and Baby Home so children could “be brokered in clandestine adoption arrangements” at home and abroad. The report highlighted “epidemic” infant deaths rates at the home and said: “The question whether indeed all of these children actually died while in Bessboro or whether they were brokered into clandestine adoption arrangements, both foreign and domestic, has dire implications for the Church and State and not least for the children and families themselves.”

The Irish Examiner asked the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary for an explanation for the discrepancy. In a statement, it said it was dealing “directly with the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes on all such and related matters — and it would not be appropriate to enter into communication, other than with the commission at this time”.

 

http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/bessborough-mother-and-baby-home-order-reported-80-more-infant-deaths-to-state-than-were-on-death-register-363863.html

New Bessborough revelations show wider range of products tested on children

Previously unseen details of a medical trial by Glaxo in 1974 at a Cork mother and baby home have generated a whole new series of questions for the nuns and the companies involved.

For almost two decades, the public has been drip-fed revelations about medical testing by British pharmaceutical companies on children in care in Ireland.

These tests involved the trialling of various vaccine combinations by predecessor companies of pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) — Glaxo Laboratories and Burroughs Wellcome. These revelations generated more questions than answers — answers it is hoped the Mother and Baby Homes Commission can provide.

However, it has now emerged thashoot Glaxo Laboratories was also trialling other products on children here — namely lactose and baby formulas.

This occurred in 1974 in the Bessborough Mother and Baby Home in Cork and had never been made public. Once again, the revelation has generated lots of questions but few answers.

A trial sheet obtained by the Irish Examiner reveals that Glaxo Laboratories carried out a “clinical acceptability and safety trial” of “Golden Ostermilk and Lactose”, while a separate trial sheet reveals a trial of “overseas milk powders (by 0111)”.

The “clinician responsible” for the tests was Eithne Conlon — a local Cork GP who worked with the institution for many years.

The trial sheets recorded a range of reactions to the products. These included vomiting (slight, moderate, severe, or none), excessive regurgitation, wind (slight, moderate, severe, or none), stools (locae, normal, or constipated) and stool colour (yellow, grass green, olive green, yellow green, no stools, meconium, changing).

Other “abnormal conditions” were also noted. These included excessive crying, irritability, napkin rash, thrush, and others.

The latter trial sheet was contained in the records of Breda Bonass, who had sought information on her medical history from Tusla under Freedom of Information.

The former only came to light when Ms Bonass sought further information from Tusla.

However, this only confused matters further as the trial sheet for “Golden Ostermilk and Lactose” was found in the antenatal records of other women — and all contain identical details including patient numbers — something which the FOI officer told Ms Bonass was “perplexing”.

“In the majority of cases where this record was present the record was glued to another copy of the same record [front to front] and details about the respective baby’s feeding schedules, types of formula given, reactions to feeds, etc, were hand written on this paper,” said the FOI officer.

“When I pried the two sheets apart I noticed that these trial sheets all contained the exact same patient and trial numbers and identifying details as the trial sheet located in your file.”

Ms Bonass went to the religious order which ran Bessborough — the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary — and GSK looking answers.

The nuns responded via their solicitors, telling her they no longer held the records nor had any access to them and that she should go to Tusla.

GSK’s UK data protection section informed her that the data had been “destroyed” as the “retention period has already expired some years ago”.

The Irish Examiner contacted GSK in an effort to get answers as to why this trial was carried out in Ireland, how many children it involved and if consent was sought.

It responded by saying it was “unable to locate any records relating to a 1974 study” but that it had located records relating to a trial from 1967.

“The assumption therefore would be that the 1974 study’s purpose was to compare current milk powder with a newer formulation. The records contain no names or information about the children involved,” said GSK in a statement.

It had no documentation to explain why Ireland was chosen as a location, but that the 1967 trial was also carried out in the UK, Kenya, Argentina, Malaysia, “and probably more”.

With regard to the consent of mothers, GSK said that, due to the fact that it had no records, it could not confirm who gave consent but that its assumption was that it would have been “those Sisters running the homes as the legal guardians”.

Obtaining consent would been left to the doctor conducting the trial.

The company said that, to the best of its knowledge, no financial remuneration would have been provided to the Order for allowing children in its care to be used for the trial.

GSK said the identical sheets were probably blank forms or templates and that the information entered “appear to be codes, possibly relating to a spreadsheet collating all responses”.

It also confirmed that this was the first time it was made aware of this study and that it had not been asked to disclose it in any official capacity, “as this is clearly outside of the current Commission’s [Into Mother and Baby Homes] vaccines inquiry”.

That, of course, is technically correct. The Commission is only tasked with examining vaccine trials carried out by GSK legacy companies. This latest revelation confirms that it wasn’t just vaccines that were being tested on children in care here.

The involvement of Burroughs Wellcome and Glaxo Laboratories in trials on children in Mother and Baby Homes and other institutions is worth repeating.

It’s been a long tale which saw a previous State inquiry —the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (CICA) in 2000 — try and fail to fully investigate the matter.

Before that inquiry was halted following a Supreme Court ruling in 2002, GSK had confirmed just three vaccine trials in the 1960s and 1970s involving more than 250 children.

In 2011, in a response to an RTÉ investigation, it acknowledged a fourth trial but stated that this was the only other clinical trial sponsored by Wellcome using children in institutions in Ireland.

However, in 2014, documents uncovered by Michael Dwyer of UCC’s School of History revealed a fifth trial of a measles vaccine on 34 children took place in 1965.

It was carried out by Irene Hillary and Patrick Meenan of UCD’s microbiology department and AJ Beale of Glaxo Laboratories. The UCD academics (both now deceased) were also involved in the first two vaccine trials also.

Earlier that year, Dr Dwyer also discovered evidence that Wellcome had carried out vaccine trials on more than 2,000 Irish children in 24 residential institutions between 1930 and 1935.

Despite this, the Inter-Departmental Group on Mother and Baby Homes published in 2014 only referred to three vaccine trials. It also failed to mention a 1965 trial of a 5-in-1 vaccine carried out on Philip Delaney at Bessborough Mother and Baby Home in Cork.

Questions around the involvement of British pharmaceutical companies in vaccine trials in Ireland have been popping up in the media for almost three decades now.

They first hit the headlines in the 1990s, but it wasn’t until 1997 that then health minister Brian Lenihan gave an undertaking that the matter would be examined.

This resulted in the Kiely Report in 2000, by Jim Kiely, chief medical officer of the Department of Health, which confirmed three trials had been conducted on behalf of the pharmaceutical company the Wellcome Foundation.

The i nstitutions involved were Wellcome Laboratories in Britain, the Department of Medical Microbiology in UCD, and the Eastern Health Board.

The first trial took place between December 1960 and November 1961 in four Mother and Baby Homes — St Patrick’s on the Navan Road in Dublin (14 children), Bessborough in Cork (25 children), Castlepollard in Westmeath (six children), and Dunboyne (nine children).

Four children from Stamullen baby home in Meath were also used for this trial.

The purpose of the trial was to look at the response the children would have to a 4-in-1 vaccine — diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, and polio.

The second trial involved 69 children from St Anne’s Industrial School in Booterstown in Dublin being administered an intranasal rubella vaccine. A further 53 children from the wider community in Kilcullen in Westmeath were also used in this trial.

The first two trials were carried out by Prof Hillary and Prof Meenan from the department of Microbiology in UCD, as well as other doctors.

The third trial involved 53 children in a number of residential institutions in Dublin including St Patrick’s Home, Madonna House, Bird’s Nest, and Boheenaburna.

A total of 65 children living at home in Dublin also received the vaccine.

The aim of the third trial was to compare commercially available batches of the 3-in-1 vaccine — Trivax and Trivax D — with that of equivalent vaccines prepared for the trial. There is no published paper or report of this trial, but the Eastern Health Board was aware it was being conducted.

Dr Kiely’s report in 2000 concluded that, given the conditions which the vaccines sought to counter, the decision to conduct the trials was “acceptable and reasonable”.

However, Dr Kiely said there was a lack of documentation available to clarify whether consent was either obtained or sought from the parents of the children or the managers of the institutions.

However, an entry in the 1962 British Medical Journal concerning the first trial seems to confirm that parental consent was not sought.

“We are indebted to the medical officers in charge of the children’s homes for permission to carry out this investigation on infants under their care,” it wrote.

Responding to the Kiely Report in 2000, Prof Hillary said it was her “invariable practice at the time to obtain consent of the competent authority”, be it the mother, the manager, or the medical officer.

However, no record of written consent has been acknowledged. The religious orders who ran the homes involved in the trials have also denied that they authorised any clinical trials.

Of the victims of the vaccine trials who have located their natural mothers, all mothers have said they were not asked for their permission.

In 2000, then minister for children Micheál Martin admitted the Kiely report was “incomplete” and raised “as many questions as it answered”.

However, despite this, Mr Martin reassured the Dáil that the trials appeared to have had no medically negative consequences for any of the children involved.

In an effort to deal with the matter, the Government decided to extend the terms of reference of CICA.

This was done despite objections that the trials could not adequately be dealt with by an inquiry looking primarily into physical and sexual abuse.

The ‘Vaccines Module’ of CICA began investigating in early 2002.

It obtained documentation from GSK — the successor of Wellcome — and identified the names and addresses of some of those involved in the trials.

It also sought records from a range of religious orders who were caring for the children used in the trials.

In November of last year, the Irish Examiner revealed that the files of vaccine trial victims from Bessborough involved in the 1960/61 4-in-1 vaccine were altered just weeks after the CICA sought discovery of records from the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

The document listing the changes opens with: “8.8.02 Checked the 20 files.” This is immediately followed by: “9.8.02 Made the changes.”

The changes made to files Nos 5, 8, 11, 12, and 15-20 are then detailed.

The changes include:

  • The alteration of discharge dates of mothers (by a period of one year and two years):
  • The changing of discharge dates of children;
  • The changing of admission dates of mothers;
  • The alteration of the age of a mother (by two years);
  • The alteration of dates of adoption;
  • The changing of baptism dates and location of baptism;
  • The insertion of certain named locations and information into admission books.

In a series of statements, the order said it wished to “categorically state that no documents were altered”.

“In your recent correspondence, you are suggesting that something illegal or inappropriate had occurred in regard to the documents to which you refer. This is entirely untrue; and we will continue to deal directly with the official commission on all such matters,” said a statement.

This document listing the changes was discovered in the Bessborough archive handed over to the HSE by the nuns in 2011.

It wasn’t discovered until 2016 — some 13 years after CICA’s investigation into the vaccine trials was suspended.

This occurred after the probe was hit with a Supreme Court ruling which upheld Prof Meenan’s challenge against a High Court order directing him to give evidence before the inquiry.

The court also criticised the decision to ask the commission to examine the vaccine trials in the first place, stating they had “only the most tenuous connection, if any, with the appalling social evil of the sexual and physical abuse of children in institutions, which was the specific area into which the commission was established to inquire”.

Mr Justice Hardiman stated that Prof Meenan’s involvement in vaccine trials related only to one trial in 1960/61 and that the issue of the “reputational damage” associated with being involved with a commission primarily looking at sexual abuse had to be considered.

Following this, Prof Hillary challenged the Government’s order directing an investigation into the vaccine trials and when the the Government declined to appeal this decision, the work of the Vaccines Module ceased in November 2003.

However, at the time, many people believed there were far more than three trials carried out by Wellcome here.

The Third Interim Report from CICA in December 2003 confirmed as much when it stated that the documentation it received from GSK “disclosed a considerable amount of information in relation to other vaccine trials conducted in the State”.

When RTÉ’s Prime Time asked the pharmaceutical giant about this statement in 2011, it confirmed a fourth trial had taken place in 1965. This trial involved giving differing doses of the measles vaccine to 12 babies aged between nine and 19 months in the Sean Ross Abbey mother-and-baby home in Tipperary.

GSK stated that this fourth trial was the only other clinical trial sponsored by Burroughs Wellcome using children in institutions in Ireland.

Then, in 2014, the Irish Examiner revealed a fifth trial also occurred during this period.

An article in The Lancet medical journal in August 1965, discovered by Dr Dwyer confirms that Glaxo Laboratories Ltd carried out another measles vaccine trial on 34 children aged between eight months and just over two years.

The trial was carried out by Prof Hillary and Prof Meenan and AJ Beale of Glaxo Laboratories. It is also the first trial which confirms Glaxo Laboratories involvement in a vaccine trial.

The report does not mention an institution. However, it makes reference to the fact that the reaction to the vaccine were monitored by “the adults looking after the children”.

It also says examinations were done on the children from day six to 14 at the same time — 6pm — indicating the children were in a group setting.

However, in response, GSK disagreed that these references amounted to evidence that the trial was carried out on children in care.

The pharmaceutical giant pointed out that, in other papers by the same investigator, it was stated explicitly that the study was carried out on children in care. GSK said if it had any evidence that this trial was carried out on children in care, it would have handed it over to the CICA at the time.

So, three years on, we now know that it wasn’t just vaccines that were being tested on children in Ireland’s Mother and Baby Homes.

Now, we know that clinical acceptability and safety trials of lactose, Golden Ostermilk and “overseas baby powders” were being trialled in at least one Mother and Baby Home.

Can and will the commission examine this latest development? Why was a British company testing such products in Ireland?

Were religious orders benefiting financially by allowing children in their care to be involved in such trials? Was the consent of mothers obtained, or was it even sought?

The Mother and Baby Homes Commission said it will investigate all aspects of living conditions and care arrangements at Bessboro.

Verdict in Magdalene case may be far-reaching

The determination of the Department of Justice to fight any efforts to give redress to a small number of women who worked in High Park Laundry but were admitted to the An Grianán Training Centre is revealed in a bitter nine-month behind the scenes row with the Ombudsman. It led the latter to launch a full investigation into how the scheme is being administered.

 

THE determination of two women to go to the High Court to fight a decision by the Department of Justice to exclude them from the Magdalene redress scheme has led the Ombudsman to launch a full investigation into whether the scheme has been administered fairly.

While the case has received the smallest amount of publicity, it could have far-reaching consequences for the Department of Justice in terms of how it has administered one of the largest redress schemes in recent years.

The Ombudsman has confirmed it is to investigate possible “prima facie evidence of maladministration” of the scheme by the department — a significant development by any stretch.

The inquiry will consider whether the application process operated in an open and fair manner and whether the department relied on information that was irrelevant and/or incomplete, when deciding on a person’s eligibility under the scheme.

It will also look at how the department sourced, gathered, and evaluated information on the Magdalene laundries and other institutions covered under the redress scheme.

The investigation will cover issues raised in nine of the 30 complaints the Ombudsman has received from women who were excluded from the scheme but will also involve a wider investigation into the administration of the scheme generally.

In a letter to one of the women involved in the case, the Ombudsman bluntly states that, following a re-examination of her case, he has concluded that there is “on the face of it, evidence of maladministration”.

So how did it get to this?

It began with two women who had been admitted to An Grianán training centre which was located on the grounds of the High Park Magdalene laundry operated by the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity.

Both women worked in the laundry as young girls. This was not disputed. However, they were denied access to the redress scheme by the Department of Justice because they had been admitted to An Grianán and not to the laundry directly.

The view of the department — which was publicly stated on numerous occasions by Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald — is that An Grianán was a separate entity to the High Park laundry which served a different purpose.

The Government also repeatedly defended the exclusion of the training centre from the scheme by stating it was included in the Residential Institutions Redress Board scheme (RIRB).

All women admitted to An Grianán were entitled to full compensation for the entire duration of their stay under that scheme.

After the Department of Justice refused the women on appeal in June and October 2015, proceedings were lodged.

Separately, in June 2015, the Ombudsman upheld a decision by the Department of Justice to refuse three women who were in An Grianán access to the scheme.

“While the fact that you worked in the laundry attached to St Mary’s Refuge is not in dispute, I do not see anywhere in the file where there is any dispute regarding the fact that you were admitted to An Grianán and not St Mary’s Refuge.

“Therefore, as you were not admitted to one of the 12 listed institutions, I do not see a basis for concluding that there was maladministration in the team’s decision not to approve your application on the basis that you did not qualify for funding under the Scheme,” he said.

The Ombudsman’s decision came on June 2, 2015 — just two days before the Irish Examiner revealed that evidence that An Grianán training centre and the High Park Magdalene laundry were “one and the same thing” was uncovered by the HSE in 2012.

This evidence was to become central to the High Court case that followed and the current investigation of the scheme.

The three women sought a judicial review of the Ombudsman’s decision and in December 2015, as part of a settlement, the Ombudsman agreed to re-examine the cases.

According to the correspondence obtained by the Irish Examiner, within four months, the Ombudsman had changed its position and had formed the view that An Grianán residents should be eligible for the Magdalene redress scheme.

This sparked a remarkable nine-month dispute between the Ombudsman and the Department of Justice over the latter’s interpretation of An Grianán and the scheme itself. It ended with the Ombudsman feeling it had no choice but to launch an investigation into whether the scheme has been administered fairly.

Remarkably, none of this had been revealed to the two women taking the case against the department or their legal team until last January.

The row began in April 2016, when a senior investigator at the Office of the Ombudsman, Tom Morgan, wrote to assistant secretary at the Department of Justice and Equality Jimmy Martin stating that the latter’s decision to refuse a Ms McG access to the scheme “should be reviewed”.

He stated this should be done as the department’s assertion that An Grianán was a “specific and separate” institution from High Park laundry that had been dealt with by the Residential Institutions Redress Board (RIRB) was “not supported by the evidence”.

“Having considered the facts of this case again, we cannot agree with this contention and do not believe it is supported by the evidence. From the information available, it appears that any division between An Grianán and St Mary’s laundry can only be considered quite artificial and did not reflect the reality of everyday life there,” states the letter.

Mr Morgan stated that while alterations were carried out in 1971 partitioning off a second floor of the laundry, this was “not enough to show that separate entity was created”. He also refers to the HSE evidence uncovered by the Irish Examiner in support of this view.

“Furthermore, the HSE accepted (in a memo dated June 2012) that St Mary’s and An Grianán were “essentially one and the same”. This would appear to be a reasonable conclusion in view of the fact that the women and girls all shared the same buildings and had to automatically spend a portion of each day working in the St Mary’s laundry, regardless of what part of the building they slept in.

Mr Morgan also points out that while the woman (Ms McG) received an award from the RIRB, such women are not excluded from the Magdalene redress scheme.

A lengthy response was issued by Mr Martin at the department on May 4, in which he accepts that, as An Grianán was not a separate entity until 1971, Ms McG would be admitted to the scheme.

However, he argued that there was “strong evidence” that they were separate institutions by the very fact that it was eligible for the RIRB and those in the laundry were not. He also states that An Grianán was a certified place of detention for remand and probation and was an approved residential childrens home by the Department of Health.

“It is clear from 1971 that a newly created unit called An Grianán Training Centre, with its own access was established and more formal education was provided,” he states.

Mr Martin also states that the HSE memo stating that An Grianán and High Park laundry were “one and the same thing” did not “in any way constitute acceptance by the HSE that St Mary’s and An Grianán were one and the same”.

“The author of the memo was not in effect in a position, nor do not believe it was the intention of the memo, to establish whether St Mary’s and An Grianan was ‘essentially one and the same’.

“He was considering if records relating to An Grianán should be submitted to the McAleese committee.”

Mr Martin also took issue with the Ombudsman’s views that women who received a payment under the RIRB could access the scheme pointing out that the terms of reference make it clear that institutions covered under the RIRB are not included in the redress scheme.

“If An Grianán was to be included in the scheme it would be necessary to seek a further Government decision on expanding the scheme to include a further institution. We would also need to ask the Government to consider including an institution which was provided for in the Residential Redress Board Scheme resulting in a situation whereby some women will receive double compensation for the same period of time spent in the one institution.”

By June, the department had issued the Ombudsman with a document certifying An Grianán as a place of detention in 1971.

Mr Martin also supplied correspondence with the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity in 2013 in which they “clearly set out the services they provided in High Park and clearly state that, in 1971, a newly-created unit was established with completely separate living space and its own access which could accommodate 15 girls and was called An Grianán Training Centre”.

However, the material was not enough to sway the Ombudsman. In fact, it only confirmed its view that the two institutions remained intrinsically linked post 1972.

On June 10, Mr Morgan informs Mr Martin that the Office of the Ombudsman has conducted a review of 30 complaints to its office from women had applied to the scheme and had decided that 13 “warrant further consideration”.

Three further cases shared the same characteristics as Ms McG’s case and Mr Martin is advised that they “should be treated accordingly”.

“There are another four applicants who resided in An Grianan between 1972 and 1980 and who worked in the laundry. It is our view that the lines between An G and St Mary’s continued to be blurred after 1972 when it was certified as a remand centre.

“The Order certifies it as a remand centre for four girls but there were 15 there at any one time. Even the report of the inspection [supplied to the Ombudsman by the Department Of Justice] refers to reserving ‘one bedroom for remand girls accommodating about four’.

“It was separate in so far as the sleeping arrangements were concerned but there is no evidence that it was separate in any other real way, such as kitchen, dining room or any other communal areas.”

Mr Morgan also points out that the correspondence from the Order themselves in 2013 confirms that girls continued to work in the laundry up to 1980.

“As this is a restorative justice scheme, it is our view that the absence of evidence to the contrary, the benefit of the doubt should be afforded to these applicants and these further four complainants should be entitled to redress under the scheme,” he wrote.

The senior investigator also points to two other applications raising a similar issue to An Grianán “in that the institutions may have been one and the same and we intend to consider this further”.

“While we have had sight of 30 cases, you will have received a far greater number of applications and we would expect that any applicants who were resident in An Grianán should automatically have their case reviewed.

“I should point out that we received a new complaint from an applicant as recently as this week, therefore, we cannot say that this is the totality of cases under consideration by us,” writes Mr Morgan.

However, the department refuses to budge on the issue and the following month restates its opinion that that High Park and An Grianán were separate institutions and that any effort to include the latter in the redress scheme would require a decision from Government.

By July 15, the Ombudsman’s annoyance becomes clear and the first mention of a possible investigation of the administration of the scheme is mentioned.

Mr Morgan points out that no decision of Government is required as all of the women under review by the Ombudsman had worked in one of the 12 listed institutions by dint of the fact they all worked in the High Park laundry.

“It is our view that any individual who underwent forced labour at the behest of the State without pay should be entitled to redress under the scheme… While we are of the view that the operation of the scheme itself may show evidence of prima facie maladministration, if it is intended through the Memorandum for Government or otherwise, to interpret the scheme as including these individuals, then we would be satisfied to resolve the complaints on that basis.

“If, however, that is not the intention, then we will need to consider whether an investigation into the operation of the scheme is warranted,” states Mr Morgan.

However, the threat of an investigation did little to sway the department which asks for any evidence of maladministration to be forwarded on.

On September 30, Mr Morgan replies to Mr Martin outlining a case where the Ombudsman felt it was “unclear” why the department relied on a specific date of discharge for a Ms R.

“According to correspondence on file, Ms R was admitted to St Mary’s Refuge/An Grianán on xxx. The department has stated that she was discharged on xxx. However, it is not clear from an examination of the file, why this date was chosen as other possible dates of discharge are also referred to in correspondence. Ms R has stated that she did not leave An Grianán until around xxx.

“The amended social insurance record, as provided by the Department of Social Protection, shows a date of entry into insurable employment as 1981/82. In light of this, and in the apparent absence of any other independent evidence, it is our view that Ms R’s testimony in this regard should be accepted.”.

Mr Morgan states that the above amounted to “prima facie evidence” that the decision to refuse Ms R’s application for the whole of the period she worked there “may have been taken on irrelevant grounds, based on erroneous or incomplete information, improperly discriminatory and otherwise contrary to fair or sound administration”.

By October 21 last, relations between the two parties deteriorated further with the Ombudsman unhappy that the department’s responses go “back over old ground hat has already been covered and makes general assertions that do not adequately address the specific facts and issues raised in the above cases”.

Mr Morgan again states that if the department is not willing to review the cases of women who worked in An Grianán up until 1980 “the Ombudsman will have no alternative but to institute an investigation encompassing the outstanding cases”.

On November 3, Mr Martin informs the Ombudsman’s office that it had sought the advice of the Attorney General on the matter and simply wished to “reiterate” what had previously been argued in relation to the status of An Grianán.

Mr Martin also states that it is the view of the department that the Ombudsman is acting outside of its remit, as including residents of An Grianán to the redress scheme amounts to adding an institution to the scheme.

“It is our understanding that the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction is confined under section 4 of the Ombudsman Act 1980 (as amended) to the examination of the administration of scheme such as the Magdalene Laundries Restorative Justice Ex Gratia Scheme and that the Ombudsman does not have jurisdiction to engage in matters of policy.

“It is our view that any suggestion to nominate new institutions or to change the nature or scope of the scheme is to question the underlying policy and is ultra vires the Ombudsman’s role under the Act.”

On December 9, Mr Morgan informs Mr Martin that the Ombudsman is launching an investigation into the scheme. This was formally issued by Ombudsman Peter Tyndall to secretary general of the Department of Justice Noel Waters.

Mr Tyndall stated the investigation would examine whether the application process operated in a clear, open, fair and consistent manner; whether the Department relied on irrelevant and/or incomplete information when deciding on a person’s eligibility under the scheme and the various practices of the department in sourcing, gathering and evaluating information on the institutions covered by the scheme.

What Cabinet privately feared on Magdalene Laundries: further inquiries into mother and baby homes and a redress bill

Despite the many pronouncements on the Magdalene Laundries, the State is hugely concerned at the payout it may have to make, writes Conall Ó Fátharta.

FEW people will forget the apology offered by Taoiseach Enda Kenny in February of 2013 on behalf of the State to the women who suffered in the Magdalene Laundries.

He spoke of a “nation’s shame” and of women taking the country’s terrible secret and making it their own.

“But from this moment on you need carry it no more. Because today we take it back. Today we acknowledge the role of the State in your ordeal,” he said.

However, less than two years earlier in June 2011, many members of his Cabinet were determined to distance the State as far as possible from any liability.

A series of cabinet observations on a Department of Justice memorandum for Government seeking permission for the establishment of what eventually became the McAleese Committee reveal a Cabinet concerned about three things — not conceding on the issue of that State liability, calls for further inquiries into issues like Mother and Baby Homes and foster care settings and avoiding a redress bill.

The memorandum seeks approval for the establishment of an inter- departmental committee (later the McAleese Committee) as well as the issuing of a letter to the religious orders providing them with a copy of the November 2010 Irish Human Rights Commission (IHRC) assessment of human rights issues arising in relation to the Magadalene Laundries and the observations of the UN Committee against Torture (UNCAT) and inviting them to make their records available and to enter a restorative justice process with former residents.

Observations provided by a number of ministers express concerns about redress, admitting State liability and, notably, that an investigation into Magdalene Laundries may lead to calls for inquiries into other related issues and instititions like Mother and Baby Homes, psychiatric hospitals and foster care settings.

The observations of then Minister for Education and Skills Ruairí Quinn state that while he supported the approach outlined in the Memorandum, he noted “that there may be demands for enquiries into other situations”.

“Following the publication of the Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (the Ryan Report), there were renewed demands for the Redress Scheme to be extended to include other institutions, such as Magdalene Laundries, mother and baby homes, psychiatric hospitals and foster care settings.

“The Government decided against any extension of the arrangments and the Department for Education and skills has circulated a draft Memorandum for Government for observations, which deals inter alia, with the winding-up of the Residential Institutions Redress Board.”

This possibility of demands for other inquiries is noted by then Justice Minister Alan Shatter who states that and his proposal “only deals with the issue of Magdalene insititutions”.

The issue of financial redress is also front and centre in the Ministerial observations.

Mr Shatter is recorded as being “conscious” of the Minister of Finance Michael Noonan’s view that the proposals in the memorandum “would very likely generate pressure for opening up redress.”

However, then minister for public expenditure Brendan Howlin goes even further stating that it should be made clear that no redress would be paid to women, even if the State is found liable.

“In the circumstances the minister accepts the proposals in the memorandum. However, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform considers that the issue of possible financial or other redress supported by the Government must also be considered in advance of the measures in the memorandum.

“If this is not done, it is likely that there will be strong immediate public pressure for an agreement in principle to financial redress, which may lead to an open-ended commitment for the Government.

“In view of the severe constraints on public expenditure, the minister proposes that the Government make clear in the press release that it does not have the resources to allow for the establishment of redress measures should they be appropriate in this case.”

The importance of not conceding on the issue of the State’s liability in relation to inspection of the laundries was stressed in the observations of then minister for jobs enterprise and employment Richard Bruton.

“The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation wishes to point out that, whether under employment rights or health and safety codes, there neither was, nor is there now any obligation on the State to inspect every workplace. It is clear that the State does not have the resources to inspect every workplace.

“The minister recalls that, in another context, the ex-miners compensation issue, his department was advised by the Attorney General, that the mere fact that statutory regulation exists in relation to a sector does not , of itself, impose any duty of care on the State in relation to the employees of that sector.

“The minister believes that great care should be taken to ensure that this fundamental principle is not conceded by any action or statement of the Government on this issue.”

Mr Bruton also noted “the absence of evidence to support the claims made and no formal complaints have been made to the gardaí.”

“This strongly suggests that it would be unwise, in this case, to depart from the principle that the State is not responsible for alleged tortuous acts by third parties for whom it does not have responsibilities,” state his observations.

The lengthiest observations, however, were provided by the Office of the Attorney General which stressed the “limitations” of the proposed independent committee given its lack of any powers to compel witnesses or procure documents.

“It will need to exercise great care not to make any finding that could reflect on the good name of any person affected. It will not be in a position to make findings in terms of liability, causation, or culpability. These factors will be important in managing the expectations of interested parties.”

The Attorney General also stressed the need to address the possibilty that the planned independent committee may not be seen as objective and that this was an important issue in terms of the “management of expectations”.

“Furthermore, while it is the case that the committee and its work might be perceived as a serious and detailed response by the State, chaired as it will be by an “independent” chairman, we are concerned as to whether it will actually be regarded as ‘objective’ or ‘at arms length’ from any State involvement.”

While these are matters of policy for the department (and indeed for the Government as a whole), this also is an important issue as regards management of expectations. Failure to address these issues can lead to pressure for statutory inquiries and for redress.

The Attorney General also advised the Government that the religious orders were “likely to be suspicious” of any overtures by the State on Magdalene Laundries and that their attitude from a legal perspective “may be robust”.

“The congregations have in the past brought litigation in relation to fair procedures and to protect and vindicate the names of their members and to protect the good names of their congregations as a whole.

“They have both at meetings and in the media felt that they felt ‘bounced’ by the State into redress in respect of residential childhood abuse,” states the AG advice.

On the issue of redress specifically, the AG’s office states that the proposals contained in the memorandum would “very likely generate pressure for opening up redress”.

“We note from the terms of the Memorandum, that to date no form of oppression has been proven against the congregations who ran the Magdalene Laundries. As the department itself comments, the IHRC Report is full of supposition and qualifcations. It falls short of making any factual findings.”

This rather negative view of the November 2010 Irish Human Rights Commission (IHRC) report on the Magdalene laundries taken by the Office of the Attorney General is mirrored by then justice minister Alan Shatter who is recorded as having “serious reservations about the methodology, accuracy and conclusions” of the report.

“The IHRC report is effectively based on allegations put forward by JFM and no effort was made to obtain clarification, information or observations from the State or (apparently) the relevant religious orders on any of the issues raised.”

It is noted that the women involved “have apparently chosen not to make any complaints to the gardaí or to pursue a civil action”.

“There is an underlying presumption that any inquiry will confirm that there were serious abuses and that the State responsibility rather than the religious orders should provide redress.”

Tuam and Bessborough: Government already knew of deaths

The State has said it was horrified by the revelations about the 796 babies buried at Tuam. However, HSE reports into Tuam and Bessborough mother and baby homes had been prepared for the Government two years previously, writes Conall Ó Fátharta

The latest revelations about the Tuam and Bessborough mother and baby homes raise a number of serious questions as to why a State inquiry into the issue was not launched three years ago.

Material obtained by the Irish Examiner shows that the HSE examined both Tuam and Bessborough as part of the Magdalene laundries inquiry in 2012.

What it uncovered was so shocking that senior HSE figures recommended that the minister be immediately informed so that “a fully fledged, fully resourced forensic investigation and State inquiry” could be launched.

However, it would be almost another two years before an inquiry was announced, on foot of the revelations of historian Catherine Corless.

The HSE material directly addresses infant deaths, and records that the nuns had been soliciting money from parents of children that had been discharged or died. Most shocking of all, concern is expressed that almost 1,000 children may have been trafficked from Tuam for adoption, “possibly in the USA”, noting that “this may prove to be a scandal that dwarfs other, more recent issues with the Church and State”.

A separate report on Bessborough, written in 2012, spoke of “staggering” numbers of children listed as having died at the institution. The author of the report says infant mortality at Bessborough between 1934 and 1953 is “a cause for serious consternation”. Curiously, no deaths were recorded after 1953 but 478 children died in this 19-year period — which works out as one child every fortnight for almost two decades.

Perhaps most shocking of all is the view of the report that death certificates may have been falsified so children could be “brokered into clandestine adoption arrangements, both foreign and domestic” — a possibility the HSE report said had “dire implications for the Church and State“.

It is worth noting that the HSE was making such allegations after examining the institution’s own records. The report, which runs to more than 20 pages, notes that these records reveal a culture “where women and babies were considered little more than a commodity for trade amongst religious orders” and that they were “provided with little more than the basic care and provision afforded to that of any individual convicted of crimes against the State”.

The report highlights the “intricacies of Bessborough’s accounting practices”, and that “detailed financial records and accounts were not handed over to the HSE by the Sacred Heart Order”.

We also learn of the nuns’ “preoccupation with material assets” and “preoccupation with materialism, wealth, and social status”, and that the women provided “a steady stream of free labour and servitude”. The nuns also received “financial renumeration” for the children of these women.

With regard to the money made by the order both via adoption and by making natural mothers pay for their care, the report specifically states that “further investigation is warranted into these practices”.

Thus it was that, in 2012, while preparing material for the McAleese investigation into Magdalene laundries, two separate HSE reports noted the issue of infant deaths at both Tuam and Bessborough. One noted that almost 500 children died in Bessborough in less than 20 years.

Both reports mentioned the possibility that children had been trafficked for adoption with one speculating that it was possible that death certificates were falsified so children could be “brokered” for adoption.

Both mentioned that these issues needed to be investigated as a matter of urgency; one was so concerned about the implications of what was located at Tuam that it recommended the minister be informed immediately so that a State inquiry could be launched.

It also noted the possibility that up to 1,000 children may have been trafficked from the Tuam mother and baby home, which could “prove to be a scandal that dwarfs other, more recent issues with the Church and State”.

None of the concerns are mentioned in the McAleese report. However, the issue of mother and baby homes was outside of its terms of remit.

In that report, Martin McAleese points out that the committee uncovered material that was, “strictly speaking, outside its core remit” but that he was happy to include it “in the public interest”. He said some of this material “may challenge some common perceptions” about Magdalene laundries.

The ‘Report of the Inter-Departmental Group on Mother and Baby Homes’, published by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs in July 2014, also failed to mention any of these concerns.

The Department of Children and Youth Affairs said neither it nor the minister were made aware of the concerns at the time but that the issues were being discussed in the context of the McAleese report, which was conducted under the auspices of the Department of Justice.

It stated that the minister became involved in the issue once material around infant deaths in Tuam became public in mid-2014, and launched a commission of inquiry on foot of these revelations.

The Irish Examiner reported at the time of the State apology to the Magdalene women that the Government may have been fearful that mother and baby homes would be next.

This newspaper has frequently speculated that the elephant in the room on such issues is the spectre of forced and illegal adoptions.

When, thanks to the tireless work of Ms Corless, the world was made aware around this time last year of the 796 babies that lay forgotten in Tuam, the Government expressed horror at the revelations.

The then children’s minister, Charlie Flanagan, told the Dáil that the deaths brought the horrors of the mother and baby homes to the attention of the Government, as the issue had not featured prominently before then.

“The revelations in Tuam, Co Galway, have brought to the fore the situation in other mother and baby homes throughout the country,” said Mr Flanagan. “The practices in mother and baby homes have to date not featured prominently in the various reviews and investigations which have dealt with many of the past abuses which were inflicted on vulnerable citizens, many of them women and children.”

However, we now know that the State had known about both Tuam and Bessborough for nearly two years. The HSE had investigated both institutions in 2012 when it was examining the health authorities’ interaction with the Magdalene laundries.

Just last month, the Department of Children reiterated its belief that an audit of adoption records to ascertain the scale of illegal and forced adoption that occurred here “would yield little useful information”, as there would be “little, if any, supporting information in relation to these arrangements” on the files.

This statement was issued in response to revelations that the department was told by an Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI) delegation in June 2013 that one adoption agency, St Patrick’s Guild, had “several hundred” illegal birth registrations on its books. The agency holds 13,500 adoption files — one quarter of all adoption files in the country. The AAI speculated that the number of illegal adoptions may run into thousands.

This latest material shows that the HSE was raising extremely disturbing issues around infant deaths and the possible trafficking for the purposes of adoption relating to Tuam and Bessborough one year earlier again, in 2012.

These concerns were raised on examination of the very files that the department continue to feel are not worth auditing.

Adoption support groups have repeatedly said the Government refuses to order such an audit because it fears what will be found. Given what the HSE found way back in 2012, this may well be the case.

We finally have an inquiry into the scandal of mother and baby homes. It’s not before time. It was launched because the Government had no option — an international media storm about the Tuam revelations made sure of that.

We now know it could have and should have been launched earlier — almost two years earlier.

http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/special-investigation-government-already-knew-of-baby-deaths-334260.html

Vaccine trial victim to lodge complaints over altered files

One of the victims of the Bessborough vaccine trial is to make a formal Garda complaint after it emerged files were altered in 2002.

On Tuesday, the Irish Examiner revealed the files of mothers and children used in the 1960/61 4-in-1 vaccine trial were altered in 2002 — just weeks after the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse sought discovery of records from the religious order running the home.

Mari Steed was born in Bessborough in 1960 and subsequently adopted in the US. Her natural mother’s file is one of those listed as having been changed. She plans to make a formal complaint to the gardaí and Data Protection Commissioner.

“Now that it’s been confirmed the information in my file has been altered, I feel I have an obligation to make both a Garda and data protection complaint. How many other files, not even relevant to the vaccine trials, may have been altered? People have a right to know this. I am awaiting legal advice on jurisdiction for the Garda filing and then will make both complaints as soon as possible,” she said.

Ms Steed also said Tusla, which now holds the records, had “an ethical, moral, and public interest” in contacting all of the people it can confirm were part of a trial.

The Irish Examiner put a series of questions to the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary in relation to the document. It declined to answer any of them.

A statement from Ruairí Ó Catháin solicitors, representing the order, stated it had “no immediate knowledge of any specific event” concerning alterations made to records.

In a separate statement, the order said it wished to “categorically state that no documents were altered” and that it would deal with the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation on all such matters.

Material obtained  under Freedom of Information shows that changes were made to the records of mothers and children used in the 1960/61 4-in-1 vaccine trials.

The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (CICA) had sought discovery of the records from the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary on July 22, 2002. An affidavit was sworn on October 3, 2002, and on a number of later dates in 2002 and 2003.

The document listing the changes opens with: “8.8.02 Checked the 20 files.” This is immediately followed by: “9.8.02 Made the changes.” The changes made to files Nos 5, 8, 11, 12, and 15 to 20 are then detailed.

 

The changes include:

  • The alteration of discharge dates of mothers (by a period of one year and two years);
  • The changing of discharge dates of children;
  • The changing of admission dates of mothers;
  • The alteration of the age of a mother (by two years);
  • The alteration of dates of adoption;
  • The changing of baptism dates and location of baptism;
  • The insertion of certain named locations and information into admission books.

Tuam and Bessborough: Houses of horror

The Tuam mother and baby home should not be treated as an individual scandal, but as part of a national trafficking network that commodified people, says Conall Ó Fátharta.

 

The women and children in Bessborough’s care were ‘considered little more than a commodity for trade amongst religious orders’.

 

“This may prove to be a scandal that dwarfs other, more recent issues with the Church and State…”

There’s that word, “scandal”, again. As a nation, we don’t tire of hearing it.

That time it was used by senior management in the HSE, in 2012, in relation to the contents of an archive of the Tuam mother and baby home, two years before the Tuam babies scandal broke. It wasn’t the first time the word was used in relation to mother and baby homes and the horrors they hold.

Seventy years earlier, the same word was used by parliamentary secretary to the then minister for local government and public health, Dr Con Ward, in relation to an 82% infant death rate at the Bessborough Mother and Baby Home. That rate had been reported to state inspectors.

Two things are instructive. Not only has the State known for decades about this issue, but it is impossible to look at Tuam, or mother and baby homes, in isolation. Yet, that is exactly how this issue is playing out.

First, there is a scandal. Then there is an outcry. Then, there is an inquiry, but a limited one.

Focus on the narrow and ignore the broader picture. It’s a well-worn path.

Instead of examining the bigger picture of how unmarried women and children were treated in a sprawling network of interlinking institutions, private agencies and individuals, we compartmentalise.

We treat the Magdalene Laundries, and then the mother and baby homes, as if they are distinct entities, instead of as part of the same story.

And what about the adoption agencies, private nursing homes, maternity hospitals, priests, doctors, and even some prominent Irish names?

What about the baby rackets, the trafficking of children, the thousands of illegal adoptions, the falsification of records? Maybe one day we will get to that.

While we have spent the last year laying flowers at the feet of monuments honouring the dead male Irish heroes of 1916, female heroes lie in graves that are unmarked, forgotten, and largely ignored. Their children lie in other graves, or live, having been adopted, in both Ireland and abroad, many in very dubious circumstances.

This is a history we don’t like to talk about. We have barely written about it.

This is a history in which women who didn’t fit the idealised vision of newly independent Ireland were hidden behind high walls, their children removed from them, boarded out, adopted, or trafficked abroad.

We still don’t know how many were used for medical trials. Thousands more died, while hundreds of infant bodies were used by Irish universities for anatomical research and buried in the Angels’ Plot in Glasnevin as “anatomical subjects”.

The children’s crime? Simply the circumstances of their birth. Their mothers’ crime? That they were unmarried women.

The mistake, now, would be to simply focus on Tuam and the deaths that occurred there. This is a scandal that is as much about the living as it is about the dead.

Very specific concerns about infant mortality in such institutions were raised as early as 1945. The previous year, state inspectors reported that out of 124 infants admitted to the Bessborough home after birth, 102 died — a death rate of 82%.

[timgcap=A memorial at Bessborough, Blackrock, Cork.]zzzBessboroughBlackrockMotherAndBabyMemorial100317_large.jpg[timgcap]

It briefly led to the government of the day banning pregnant women being sent to the home and led Dr Con Ward to write to then Bishop of Cork, Daniel Cohalan, to express fears about a “public scandal” over the figures.

Our most recent governments fare little better, in terms of institutional knowledge of such shocking infant death rates.

In 2012, senior HSE management was expressing concern at what was being found in relation to both Tuam and Bessborough.

Two reports on the institutions were prepared by the HSE, while it was preparing material for the McAleese investigation into Magdalene Laundries.

These reports not only explicitly reference infant mortality rates, but also express serious concerns about the possible trafficking of children from the institutions. They also mention that these issues needed to be investigated as a matter of urgency.

IN THE case of Tuam, a note of a teleconference call on October 12, 2012, reveals that senior management in the HSE felt what had been discovered warranted a state inquiry.

The call involved then assistant director of the Children and Family Service at the HSE, Phil Garland, and then head of the medical intelligence unit, Davida De La Harpe, expressing concern that 1,000 children had been trafficked from the Tuam mother and baby home in what could “prove to be a scandal that dwarfs other, more recent issues with the Church and State”.

These concerns had been raised by the principal social worker for adoption in HSE West, who had found “a large archive of photographs, documentation, and correspondence relating to children sent for adoption to the USA” and “documentation in relation to discharges and admissions to psychiatric institutions in the Western area”.

The archive contained letters from the Tuam mother and baby home to parents, asking for money for the upkeep of their children, and notes that the duration of stay for children might have been prolonged by the order for financial reasons.

It also contained letters to parents asking for money for the upkeep of some children who had already been discharged or who had died.

The social worker, “working in her own time and on her own dollar”, had compiled a list of “up to 1,000 names”, but said it was “not clear yet whether all of these relate to the ongoing examination of the Magdalene system, or whether they relate to the adoption of children by parents, possibly in the USA”.

Those on the conference call raise the possibility that if there is evidence of trafficking, “it must have been facilitated by doctors, social workers, etc, and a number of these health professionals may still be working in the system”.

The note concludes by stating that, due to the gravity of what was being found, an “early warning letter” be written to the national director of the HSE’s quality and patient safety division, Philip Crowley, suggesting “that this goes all the way up to the minister”.

“It is more important to send this up to the minister as soon as possible: with a view to an inter-departmental committee and a fully fledged, fully resourced forensic investigation and state inquiry,” concludes the note.

A week later, in a separate report sent by Mr Garland to Mr Crowley, and which CC’d then national director of Children and Family Services, Gordon Jeyes, and Ms De la Harpe, Dr Declan McKeown, of the medical intelligence unit, outlines concerns about death rates at both Tuam and Bessborough.

Dr McKeown notes that the infant mortality rate for Tuam was “approximately 20%-25%, similar to that recorded in Bessborough”. He also raised questions as to the veracity of such death rates.

“Queries over the veracity of the records are suggested by causes of death such as ‘marasmus’ in a 2 ½-month-old infant; or ‘pernicious anaemia’ in a four-month-old. These diagnoses would be extremely unusual in children so young, even with the reduced nutrition of the time,” he said.

A separate report into Bessborough not only revealed that the deaths of hundreds of children were recorded in the order’s own register, but that, similar to Tuam, the operation was aimed at making money.

The examination of the order’s own records found that the women and children in its care were “considered little more than a commodity for trade amongst religious orders”.

Minutes from meetings of the Sacred Heart Adoption Society’s board of management “further lend evidence to the order’s preoccupation with materialism, wealth, and social status”, while the wealth and social status of the adoptive parents was often the prime concern when deciding whether they would receive a child.

None of the concerns made it into the McAleese report, as they were outside its terms of remit.

However, that report did include other material that was, “strictly speaking, outside its core remit”, but deemed “in the public interest. This material “may challenge some common perceptions” about Magdalene laundries.

The Report of the Inter-Departmental Group on Mother and Baby Homes, published by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs in July 2014 also failed to mention any of these concerns.

This is despite the fact that two government department’s had seen the 2012 HSE report on Bessborough, which revealed that hundreds of children died at the institution over a 19-year period.

All of the HSE concerns were being raised almost two years before the Tuam babies scandal made international headlines.

Where adoptions fit into all of this should be of particular interest. Adoption campaigners have spent years repeatedly calling for an audit of all adoption records held by the State. So far, these calls have fallen on deaf ears.

It’s hard to understand why. The Adoption Authority informed the government in 2013 that there “may be thousands” of cases where people had their birth history falsified, so they could be illegally adopted. This has never been investigated.

The Department of Children and Youth Affairs was told by an AAI delegation in June, 2013 — more than a year before the mother-and-baby home scandal — that there were “at least 120 [confirmed] cases” of illegal registrations.

This is not a small number, given the small sample size that would have been examined.

However, the AAI went further, stating that this could well be the tip of the iceberg and that there “may be thousands” more. It named a well-known former private nursing home — St Rita’s, in Dublin — where women went to give birth to their children, before having to place them for adoption, as a “huge source of illegal registrations”.

It specifically named one religious-run former adoption agency — St Patrick’s Guild, in Dublin — as being “aware of several hundred illegal registrations”, stating that the agency “are not seeking the people involved”, but were, rather, “waiting for people to contact them”.

The agency’s 13,500 adoption files — one of the largest archives in the country — are now in the hands of Tusla.

In a statement to this newspaper, AAI chief executive, Patricia Carey, said that the ‘may be thousands’ comment made at the meeting was “a throwaway remark” and was “not based on verifiable facts”.

However, the fact that the department had called for a meeting on the subject, and that an AAI delegation was willing to speculate at all on such a large number, indicates that the issue was firmly on the radar of the adoption regulator.

Any woman or adopted person who was through one of the above institutions will not be examined by the current commission, unless her case can be linked to one of the institutions under its remit.

Despite this, and countless media reports of adoptions being contracted on the back of documentation which is as best extremely dubious, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs has stood steadfastly to the line that an audit of adoption records, to ascertain the scale of illegal and forced adoptions, “would yield little useful information”, as there would be “little, if any, supporting information in relation to these arrangements” on the files.

It is impossible to make such a claim without at least examining the records and, secondly, it’s blatantly clear that these records do contain evidence of illegal adoptions.

Adoption support groups have repeatedly said that government refuses to order such an audit, because it fears what will be found. Given what the HSE found in 2012, in relation to Tuam and Bessborough, this may well be the case.

More than one government minister has said, on record, that every adoption carried out by the State since 1952 was done in line with the legislation of the day.

If that level of certainty exists at official levels, then why not open the files, let everyone see them and, for once, have this country do the right thing?

Bessborough Mother and baby vaccine trial files altered in 2002

The files of vaccine trial victims in Bessborough Mother and Baby Home were altered in 2002 — just weeks after the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse sought discovery of records from the order running the home.

Material obtained by the Irish Examiner under Freedom of Information shows that changes were made to the records of mothers and children used in the 1960/61 4-in-1 vaccine trials.

The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (CICA) had sought discovery of the records from the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary on July 22, 2002. An affidavit was sworn on October 3, 2002, and on a number of later dates in 2002 and 2003.

The document listing the changes opens with: “8.8.02 Checked the 20 files.” This is immediately followed by: “9.8.02 Made the changes.” The changes made to files Nos 5, 8, 11, 12, and 15 to 20 are then detailed.

The changes include:

  • The alteration of discharge dates of mothers (by a period of one year and two years);
  • The changing of discharge dates of children;
  • The changing of admission dates of mothers;
  • The alteration of the age of a mother (by two years);
  • The alteration of dates of adoption;
  • The changing of baptism dates and location of baptism;
  • The insertion of certain named locations and information into admission books.

A data protection request released to Bessborough vaccine trial victim Mari Steed in 2011 also confirms this timeline.

A file listing details about both her and her natural mother was created on August 6, 2002. This was done following a request “for Solicitor re Vaccine”. Ms Steed’s natural mother is listed as “No 19 on Doctor’s List”. The record lists “All Counties DUBLIN” above discharge information pertaining to her mother.

The document listing the changes notes that this information was inserted into Ms Steed’s original file.

The entry reads: “No 19 [house name redacted] Crossed out the Indoor Reg entry as it is corssed (sic) out in the Book. Inserted DUBLIN after All Counties.”

Another entry reads: “No 17 [house name redacted] Changed nm [natural mother] disch from x/x/60 to x/x/62”.

Given that the trial took place between December 1960 and November 1961, this change has the effect of placing this woman in Bessborough during the period her child was vaccinated.

If she was, in fact, discharged from Bessborough at the date given in 1960, she could not have been present to consent for her child to have been part of the vaccine trial.

The question of consent was the key issue being examined by the CICA’s Vaccines Module before it was shut down in 2003 following a Supreme Court ruling.

The Irish Examiner put a series of questions to the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary in relation to the document. It declined to answer any of them.

A statement from Ruairí Ó Catháin solicitors, representing the order, stated that it had “no immediate knowledge of any specific event” concerning alterations made to records.

“We are in contact with the commission in regard to the Mother and Baby Homes Investigation, which is having our full co-operation. For the present, as is appropriate, we will be dealing directly with the commission on all related matters,” said a statement.

In a separate statement, the order said it wished to “categorically state that no documents were altered”.

“In your recent correspondence, you are suggesting that something illegal or inappropriate had occurred in regard to the documents to which you refer,” said the statement. “This is entirely untrue; and we will continue to deal directly with the official commission on all such matters.”

The Mother and Baby Homes Commission has copied all the records relating to Bessborough and is currently analysing them alongside the other 17 institutions being examined. Its final report is expected in February 2018.