Questions raised as to whether gardaí told of Bessborough rape cases

Questions have been raised in the Seanad as to whether the cases of pregnant children in the Bessborough mother and baby home, in Cork had been reported as rapes to gardaí.

Details from maternity registers, released under the Freedom of Information Act by Tusla — the Child and Family Agency, reveal that between 1954 and 1987, girls as young as 12 had been pregnant in the institution.

The youngest child mentioned in the registers dated from 1968, and was listed as being aged 12 when transferred from Bessborough to St Finbarr’s Hospital, where her child had been delivered stillborn in January.

The presence of children in Bessborough, pregnant as a result of rape, continued into the 1980s. The Maternity Record Book 40, for example, lists a girl of 14 whose child was stillborn in 1982.

Speaking in Leinster House, independent senator and former Children’s Rights Alliance chief executive Jillian van Turnhout asked if Tusla or its predecessor — the HSE — had reported these cases to the relevant authorities.

Ms van Turnhout said: “Two cases stood out. One was in 1968 which was the year I was born. A child of age 12 who was a rape victim had a child in the home. That woman would now be 57. In 1982, there was a birth mother who was 14 years of age. I was 14 in 1982. She would now be 47. Her record states, ‘Premature, 33 weeks, gasped, and died’. I want to know if these cases were reported to the gardaí.”

Ms van Turnhout referenced the fact that, under section 19 of the Commissions of Investigations Act 2004, statements and documents given to the mother and baby home inquiry are inadmissible as evidence against a person in any criminal or other proceedings.

“These women are still alive today and I do not trust what has happened in these homes. The reports and figures show us why it is vital to have an audit,” she said.

“The State has a responsibility. These were children who were raped.

“What are we doing for them now? We can talk about times being different then but the last case goes up to 1982, it was not such a different time. What are we doing now with the full knowledge that we know? Are we ensuring that they will at last get justice? These women, very likely still alive today, were mistreated horrendously by the State. By our actions now we can show we have learnt the lessons of the past.”

Seanad leader Maurice Cummins (FG) described the revelations as “appalling”, and said they need to be dealt with “as a matter of urgency”.

The Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary declined to answer any queries on the subject, stating it would only communicate directly with the mother and baby homes commission.

http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/senator-jillian-van-turnhout-asks-if-gardai-told-of-bessborough-rape-cases-369341.html

Bessborough order claims it was told to ‘destroy all documents’ relating to vaccine files’ in 2013

The Order which ran the Bessborough Mother and Baby Home has claimed it was instructed in 2013 to destroy “all documents” it held in relation to vaccine trials carried out on children.

The Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary made the claim via its solicitors in a letter to Tusla in January 2015 of this year which has been released under Freedom of Information.It said the instruction was issued to them by the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (CICA) – which was examining the vaccine trials as part of a separate module until legal action halted the investigation.

It said the instruction was issued to them by the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (CICA) – which was examining the vaccine trials as part of a separate module until legal action halted the investigation.

In a statement, the CICA has said it issued “no such instruction” and nor would it do so.

The Order made the claim in response to a letter sent by Assistant Principal Social Worker Pearl Doyle in August 2014 asking a series of questions in relation to material transferred by the Order to Tusla in 2011. The letter was sent as the Government was proposing setting up an investigation into Mother and Baby Homes.

A total of 23 questions were posed concerning infant mortality, burials, financial records and vaccine records.

In relation to vaccine records, Ms Doyle asked the Order where the “complete” list of vaccine records are. She also asked how children were chosen, whether the consent of the mother was obtained and, if so, where these consent forms are.

Responding via its solicitors some five months later, the Order said it had been instructed to destroy “all documents” relating to vaccine trials on the advice of the CICA.

“The Congregation handed over all records held to the HSE. The Congregation were directed by the Commission of Inquiry into the Vaccine Trials in 2013 we believe to destroy all documents in their possession or under their control regarding the trials. That Commission may be in a position to assist you in this regard,” said the letter.

However, the CICA has confirmed it issued “no such instruction”.

“The Commission did not issue any instruction to destroy medical records nor would it do so. The Commission as part of its process of wind down requested the return, or in the alternative certified destruction, of all discovery material issued to the legal representatives of those who were participating and feeding into the investigation.”
“Equally any discovery material sent into the Commission was returned to its original source eg Health Board records supplied to the investigation team under discovery orders were returned to the HSE and material supplied under discovery by other various parties to the investigation were returned to them via their legal representatives,” said a statement.

Mari Steed of Adoption Rights Alliance, herself a victim of vaccine trials as a child at Bessborough, said the revelation was “gravely concerning” stating that if files were destroyed it warranted criminal investigation.

“This is gravely concerning for fellow victims who may not have been able to obtain their records or confirmation that they were part of a trial before they were destroyed. It is an outrage if vaccine records were destroyed and, in my view, this amounts to criminal obstruction of justice. It needs a thorough investigation by the relevant authorities and the Commission.”

Ms Steed, who was adopted to the USA, obtained records of her own participation in the 1960-61 Bessboro vaccine trials prior to 2000 and through a data protection request to GlaxoSmithKline.

The pharmaceutical giant also released a dossier indicating that it had been monitoring statements she had been making to the media on the vaccine trials going back almost a decade.

Bessborough: ‘Evil monsters made me give up my baby’

This woman wrote to me after I published a two-day series on Bessborough Mother and Baby Home. I have since spoken to her numerous times. She had never spoken about her time there.

This happenes almost every time I write something of note. These people ask for help in tracing. To them, a journalist is their best bet as they have no legal right to information. A story in a newspaper is a better bet.

 

A woman who was in Cork’s Bessborough Mother and Baby Home in 1975 has described the nuns who ran the institution as “evil monsters”.

She was made sign adoption forms to give up her child despite being under the legal age of consent.

The woman, who still lives in Cork and asks not to be identified, is still in possession of a calendar given to her on entering the institution, where she marked off the months she stayed.

She sent a letter to this newspaper following an Irish Examiner two-day special investigation into Mother and Baby Homes.

Simply signed ‘M’, the woman said her experience in Bessborough in 1975 “had a lasting effect on my life” and, only in recent months, she had found “the courage to seek counselling to try and rid myself of some of the guilt I have felt for the past 40 years”.

 

She described the fear she had entering Bessborough as a pregnant teenager: “When I arrived in Bessborough in February 1975, I was 16-years-old with no idea of what was ahead of me.

“My name was changed straight away and I was warned not to tell anybody who I was, or where I was from.

“One of the women there was about 70 and I was told that she had been there all her life. Lots of the women there never left. I wondered if I would ever again go home,” she wrote.

‘M’ outlined in detail the treatment of the residents, from the lack of preparation for labour and the refusal to allow mothers to bond with their children.

“There was no preparation for childbirth and as we slept in dorms, almost every night it seemed someone went into labour and I knew all that was ahead of me without having a clue as to what was really going on.

“My daughter was born in August and I cared for her for about four weeks. During that time I became very attached to her but the nuns put me on night duty caring for all the babies and labour ward duties so my time with my daughter would be less,” she wrote.

Shockingly, she reveals how mothers had to drink Epsom salts on the premise it would help their digestive systems.

“Once the babies were born the mothers were given Epsom salts dissolved in hot water to drink first thing in the morning. We were told that it was for our digestive system but it was purely to deter breast feeding.”

At the age of just 17, ‘M’ was brought to a solicitor’s office and made sign the consent forms to adopt her child, despite not being of legal age to do so.

“One day the nuns sent me into Cork city for something and when I came back my daughter was gone.

“It is hard to explain how I was feeling at that time but I am sure you can imagine,” she wrote.

“Shortly after that I was brought to a solicitor’s office on Patrick’s Hill and made swear on the bible that I would never try and contact my daughter again and then I was told to sign adoption papers. There was no one with me, only a nun from the convent. Remember I was only 17 and I could not legally sign any document at that age but I signed the adoption papers.”

Her daughter’s adoptive mother told ‘M’, many years later every time someone knocked on the door she hid the girl in the wardrobe in case the natural mother was coming back for her.

“That speaks for itself,” said ‘M’. “The adoption of my daughter was illegal and I am sure some money changed hands,” she wrote.

http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/bessborough-evil-monsters-made-me-give-up-my-baby-340849.html

Special investigation – Vaccine trials on children worse than first thought

The scale of use of children for vaccine trials is much greater than was first thought, writes Conall Ó Fátharta

THE latest revelations that another legacy company of pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline sponsored a fifth, previously undisclosed, medical trial on children in care here in the 1960s needs to result in action from the Government.

The fact is that the picture now emerging is now far more disturbing than that which compelled the then Fianna Fáil-led government to refer the matter for investigation by the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (CICA) in 2000.

Before that inquiry was halted following a 2002 Supreme Court ruling, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) had confirmed just three trials in the 1960s and 1970s using over 250 children. We now know there were at least five trials in this period — the fifth exposed today by the Irish Examiner.

Indeed, recent revelations have shown that, far from carrying out just four vaccine trials on children in care here, Wellcome (now GlaxoSmithKline) sponsored trials in Ireland now span almost half a century — involving dozens of institutions and thousands of children.

The records released to CICA by GSK have now been returned to the company. The commission retained no copies. Yet, no questions have been answered.

Why are victims finding out about new trials now — through the press? Why did the short-lived inquiry not know a fourth and fifth trial had occurred?

Why did the report of Inter-Departmental Group on Mother and Baby Homes published this year still refer only to three vaccine trials — when a fourth was admitted in 2011 and the 1930-1935 trials of a Burroughs Wellcome vaccine for diphtheria carried out on 2,000 children in residential institutions were uncovered by Michael Dwyer of UCC’s School of History just a month before its publication?

Nor did it mention the 1965 trial of a 5-in-1 vaccine carried out on Philip Delaney at Bessborough mother-and-baby home in Cork. Why did this report claim a total of 123 children in institutional settings were used in the first three acknowledged trials when, in fact, 180 children were used?

The revelation that vaccine trials were carried out on children in mother-and-baby homes and other institutional settings first hit the headlines in the early 1990s.

Questions were raised in the Dáil on the subject, but it wasn’t until 1997 that then health minister Brian Cowen gave assurances that the matter would be examined.

In 2000, the Kiely report confirmed that three trials had been conducted on behalf of the pharmaceutical company the Wellcome Foundation. The institutions 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 — diptheria, 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 Professor Irene Hillary and Professor Patrick 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 concluded that, given the reasons 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 the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse. 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 GlaxoSmithKline — the successor of Wellcome — and identified the names and addresses of some of those involved in the trials.

However, 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. The Government did not appeal this decision. As a result, the work of the Vaccines Module’ ceased in November 2003.

However, those who suspected they were victims of the trials continued to claim that 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, 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.

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

However, as the Irish Examiner reveals today, a fifth trial also occurred during this period.

An article in The Lancet in August 1965, discovered by Michael Dwyer of UCC’s School of History, confirms that Glaxo Laboratories Ltd carried out yet 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 of UCD and AJ Beale of Glaxo Laboratories. It is also the first trial which confirms Glaxo Laboratories involvement in a vaccine trial. All of the other trials were carried out by Wellcome.

Although the report does not mention an institution, it makes reference to the fact that the reaction to the children 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.

The Irish Examiner put questions to GSK concerning this trial, what institution it was carried out in and why it failed to disclose this trial in 2011.

The company did not agree that the references in The Lancet amounted to evidence that the trial was carried out on children in care, stating that, in other papers by the same investigator, the author explicitly stated 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.

On the issue of whether consent was either sought or obtained for this study, GSK stated that any studies were done to the highest ethical and safety standards as a fundamental part of developing and delivering new vaccines to treat and prevent illnesses that were a major public health risk at that time.

“The studies of The Wellcome Foundation vaccines were conducted by independent healthcare professionals. The children who participated in the trials were recruited from the community and those living in children’s homes. The methodology and results of at least two of the studies were published in respected journals,” said a statement.

GSK said it had “limited archived documentation” given the trials happened decades ago, but was seeking to investigate the facts. It also confirmed it would fully co-operate with any Government investigation into the issue.

The upcoming Mother and Baby Homes inquiry cannot ignore the issue. Many victims were resident in these homes and deserve answers, justice and all of the information held on them by GSK. Otherwise this state really does view them, even now, as was said in the Dáil in 2000 as “children of a lesser god”.

 

Vaccine trial confirmed by data request

In 2011, GlaxoSmithKline released a data protection request to vaccine trial victim Mari Steed which confirmed she was part of a vaccine trial it carried out half a century earlier.

It also released a dossier indicating that it had been monitoring statements she had been making to the media on the vaccine trials going back almost a decade.

Ms Steed, who was adopted to the US from Bessborough, discovered she was a victim of the trials in the late 1990s when she was trying to trace her natural mother.

A handwritten note on her medical file released to Ms Steed — the Sacred Heart order then ran the home — confirms she was given three injections for the 4-in-1 vaccine, the third of which was “given by Prof Hillary”. This entry is immediately followed by: “Baby to America.”

Ms Steed’s natural mother Josephine, who passed away last year, always stated that she was never asked for her permission, nor was she aware that vaccines were being trialled on her daughter during her time in Bessborough.

The 4-in-1 trial took place between December 1960 and November 1961 in four mother-and-baby homes. The purpose of the trial was to look at the response the children would have to a 4-in-1 vaccine — diptheria, whooping cough, tetanus, and polio.

Following her data protection request, Ms Steed was astounded to discover that GSK had kept a substantial file on her — and not all of it related to her medical records.

Referred to as “GSK 36” in parts of the documents released to her by the pharmaceutical firm, the records confirm her participation in the trial. However, she was astounded to discover the firm also had a file monitoring media appearances she made talking about the issue.

This included press cuttings from a range of newspaper interviews given by Ms Steed — some almost a decade apart.

Also included were typed transcripts from a number of different radio interviews. These included an interview with PJ Coogan on Cork radio station 96FM and an extract from a news bulletin on the station where she was quoted.

Ms Steed said the fact that the pharmaceutical giant was monitoring her public statements was “shocking”, although “not entirely surprising”.

“It was somewhat shocking to realise that GSK had been keeping such data on me, although not entirely surprising,” she says. “Just prior to receiving my DPA reply from GSK, I had received my entire file from the HSE South, which included a six-page dossier that Sister Sarto of Bessborough had kept on me, noting similar media references and untoward comments regarding my search for my mother.”

Ms Steed said she was aware of a number of Bessborough adoptees who had made DPA requests from GSK, but said she was not aware of anyone else that has had their participation in a vaccine trial formally confirmed by the company.

“I personally know one individual who came forward as part of the initial Laffoy investigation, but has not filed a request under DPA as far as I know; and of course, one other who participated in the Prime Time investigation,” says Ms Steed. “Many more have unexplained marks and scarring on their bodies, including outside areas where vaccines would typically be given.

“And every person I know, among hundreds, who were adopted from Ireland to the US, reported that as children we all came up as testing positive for TB during routine childhood doctor visits, despite not actually suffering from it. This anomaly has never been able to be explained by our family practitioners here in the US.”

The Philadelphia woman said the fact that the vaccine issue has never been fully investigated defied belief, and said many US adoptees were considering going to the courts unless the issue was included in the upcoming Mother and Baby Home inquiry.

“Failing that, I believe there are enough of us to move forward through the courts on the matter, including the EU court and potentially the UN,” says Ms Steed.

“There seems to be an inexplicable reluctance on the part of the Irish legal community to represent victims of such trials and proceed with cases. Although we are now making inroads to US law firms who have handled legal cases against GlaxoSmithKline and may be willing to provide representation.”

 

Waiting for some answers

Mari Steed is one of the few people that knows she was used in a vaccine trial. Others are not so lucky.

For people such as Christopher Kirwan, the wait for answers goes on.

He has written to numerous ministers of children to no avail. He has also written to GSK and to the Sacred Heart Sister — both of which have told him he was not used in any vaccine trial carried out in Bessborough.

A investigation by the Data Protection Commissioner in 2011 also confirmed that neither GSK nor the records then held at Bessborough indicated that he was part of a vaccine trial. That would be fine if the Cork man didn’t have eight unexplained scars on his arms and legs.

Mr Kirwan was born in Bessborough in November 1960 and was adopted the following June. He was in Bessborough during the period of the first Burroughs Wellcome vaccine trial, and even had his photo taken with Mari Steed as a baby.

Despite his scars, his records simply state that he was inoculated for the BCG and smallpox and that no documentation indicating he was part of those trials.

Mr Kirwan believes he was involved in a vaccine trial of some form as the marks on his body do not make sense for someone who just received two inoculations. His adoptive mother told him that when he left Bessborough as a child he had bandages on his arms. “I just want answers,” he says.

Philip Delaney has also been told he was not part of any vaccine trial, despite his medical records indicating he was give three injections of a 5-in-1 vaccine for polio, measles, diptheria, whooping cough, and tetanus. Beneath the record showing this injection, the words “Contact Dr Hillary, Dublin” are crossed out.

His adoptive mother told Prime Time in 2011 that she was told by a doctor who came to take the blood in a follow-up visit that Mr Delaney was one of 20 babies used for a trial for a 5-in-1 vaccine and that the babies were not supposed to have been given up for adoption.

“The Government are saying there have been no ill effects,” says Mr Delaney. “How do they know? Because they don’t know about this trial.”

Garda probe of baby deaths discrepancy in Bessborough sought

Campaigners have called for a Garda investigation into why the religious order which ran Bessborough Mother and Baby Home reported significantly higher numbers of infant deaths to state inspectors than it recorded privately.

An Irish Examiner investigation found between March 31, 1939, and December 5, 1944, Department of Local Government and public health inspector Alice Litster had been informed 353 infant deaths occurred at the Cork-based institution. The figures are contained in a inspection report from 1944 obtained by this newspaper.

However, the Bessborough Death Register revealed the nuns had recorded just 273 infant deaths in that period — a discrepancy of 80.

The discrepancy in the recording of deaths comes just months after this newspaper revealed an unpublished 2012 internal HSE report had raised concerns death records had been falsified in Bessborough Mother and Baby Home so children could “be brokered in clandestine adoption arrangements” at home and abroad.

Susan Lohan of the Adoption Rights Alliance said the gardaí now needed to become involved in order to ascertain why such a large discrepancy in the figures exists.

“We have been advised on numerous occasions by both the Minister for Children James Reilly and chairman of the Adoption Authority Geoffrey Shannon that if we believed there was evidence of wrongdoing to report it to the relevant authorities. It’s now time the gardaí investigate where these 80 infants are,” she said.

Ms Lohan said her organisation was regularly contacted by people who believe they were adopted from Ireland but when they contacted the Department of Foreign Affairs, they had been told they did not appear in the records relating to the export of babies to the US found in the National Archives in 1996.

Paul Redmond of the Coalition of Mother and Baby Homes Survivors has also called for a garda investigation into the issue of how deaths had been recorded at Bessborough.

“The Bessborough Death Register is another example of the Sacred Heart nuns’ complete disregard for the lives of babies and children in their care who died from neglect and indifference. The missing babies should be reported to the Garda and a full criminal investigation is necessary,” he said.

Independent senator and former Children’s Rights Alliance chief executive Jillian van Turnhout said she was “hugely concerned” at the discrepancies.

“If there is no register, as the order have said, then where are the other 80? We know that clandestine adoptions happened. It is reasonable to ask the question: ‘Is there a chance that there are people out there in their 70s that are adopted and do not know?’”

The Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes has said it will investigate the discrepancy in the figures.

The Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary said it was dealing directly with the commission 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/state-feared-public-scandal-over-infant-deaths-at-mother-and-baby-homes-366523.html

State feared public scandal over infant deaths at mother and baby homes

The State feared a “public scandal” in relation to the alarming number of children dying in mother and baby homes — 70 years before the Tuam babies scandal made worldwide headlines.

The revelation is contained in a letter sent on behalf of parliamentary secretary to the Minister for Local Government and Public Health Dr Con Ward in 1945 to the Bishop of Cork Daniel Cohalan.

The letter was in response to an angry letter sent to Dr Ward by Bishop Cohalan where he questioned the department’s request that the order remove the head of Bessborough over the “trouble” of infant mortality at the institution.

Records show there was an 82% infant death rate at Bessborough at the time.

“Rev Mother Martina has informed me that the Mother Superior in England was asked to remove her. That procedure was scarcely correct. Mother Martina is Reverend Mother of the Community of Sisters, it is an ecclesiastical appointment; it was not a correct thing to call for he removal,” he wrote.

However, in response, the department was clear that should information about the number of children dying leak into the public domain, it would result in a “public scandal”.

“The parliamentary secretary is only concerned with her position as matron of a home in which the death rate has reached an exceptionally high figure. The fact that 102 babies died in the institution before reaching the age of 12 months during the year 31st March last — the total infants born in the home and admitted after birth in that year being 124 — is viewed with disquietude.

“Apart from any public scandal which might result, the parliamentary secretary felt that the case called for immediate action and that to allow the Rev Mother Martina to continue as manager would mean acquiescence on his part in the state of affairs which has been disclosed,” stated the letter.

The 102 deaths referred to an 82% death rate at Bessborough reported to inspector Alice Litster for year ended 31 March 1944. Last week, the Irish Examiner revealed that this figure was substantially higher than the level of deaths the order recorded in its own death register.

Bishop Cohalan informs the department that he had spoken to the ex-chaplain at Bessborough and Sr Martina and that “the seriousness of the problem is realised”.

“The view is that a young doctor is needed, not a general practitioner but a specialist in gynaecology; that with a young doctor — gynaecologist — the cause of the mortality would be soon discovered and a remedy found,” he said.

The department agreed with this assessment but also expresses the hope that the re-organisation proposed by the superior-general of the order, whereby “an efficient and energetic Matron was to be transferred from Shan Ross to Bessboro, will have Your Lordship’s support”.

http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/state-feared-public-scandal-over-infant-deaths-at-mother-and-baby-homes-366523.html

HSE fear of legal threat at Bessborough nuns’ past actions

The HSE expressed repeated concerns that the past actions of Bessborough adoption agency meant it had to be indemnified against any legal action taken by people seeking their records.

The concerns were raised throughout 2009 and 2010, in material released under Freedom of Information Act, as the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary prepared to cease operating Bessborough as an adoption agency and transfer some 15,000-plus files to the HSE.

An undated memo of a meeting the HSE held with the management group from the religious order notes its desire to “manage liability for past Bessboro responsibility and ongoing re their activities as an adoption agency when and if it arises”.

In a letter on February 8, 2010, to solicitors representing the order, childcare manager in the HSE South region, Mike van Aswegen, said the HSE needed this assurance, as it had reason to believe that the past practices of the agency had “not always been exemplary”.

“In your correspondence, you refer to the need for providing an indemnity. I believe that in this case we will need to be provided with this comfort, as we have good reason to believe that the practice from the agency has in the past not always been exemplary,” he wrote.

Another memo from 2010 referenced legal advice that such indemnity would be required to protect the HSE: “Following legal advice to the HSE a further meeting took place on October 5, 2010. At this meeting matters concerning previous practice in the Society was discussed, and the issue of the Society indemnifying the HSE in the event that any claims would be made against the Society for past activity. The legal advice from the HSE solicitors had been that to safeguard the HSE this would be advisable.”

However, a non-dated service agreement briefing note, which appears to be from 2010, reveals that the order were initially not keen to indemnify the HSE.

“The Society stated they were not in a position to continue the arrangement of employing the staff nor were they prepared to indemnify the HSE should the HSE take over the files and the work involved in Search and Reunion,” read the memo.

An agreement was eventually reached with the order whereby it agreed to indemnify the HSE against “all liabilities, claims, charges, expenses, wrongdoing, losses or demands for an indefinite period”.

The order is also obliged to notify the HSE immediately when it becomes aware of any claim or potential claim being made against it.

In November of last year, an Irish Examiner investigation revealed the religious order which ran the Bessborough Mother and Baby Home reported significantly higher numbers of infant deaths to state inspectors than it recorded privately.

This came just months after another investigation revealed 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.

In a statement, the order declined to comment on the HSE concerns about its past actions, stating it was dealing with the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes “on all such and related matters” and that it would “not be appropriate to enter into communication, other than with the Commission at this time”.

http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/hse-fear-of-legal-threat-at-bessborough-nuns-past-actions-374560.html