St Patrick’s finally hands over 13,500 adoption files to Tusla

More than 13,000 files from St Patrick’s Guild adoption agency have transferred to Tusla, the Child and Family Agency — almost three years after the agency ceased to operate.

The agency held approximately 13,500 adoption files — one quarter of all adoption files in the country. It closed in 2013, with the transfer expected to take between 12 to 18 months.

The Irish Examiner understands that issues around indemnity against any legal action taken by people seeking their records was a significant factor in the transfer delay.

Tusla declined to confirm it had been indemnified in respect of the records but it had “obtained the appropriate protection in respect of known potential issues”.

St Patrick’s Guild has been excluded from the Mother and Baby Homes Commission, despite the Irish Examiner revealing that the government was in 2013 informed that the agency had knowledge of “several hundred” illegal birth registrations.

An Adoption Authority of Ireland delegation told representatives of the Department of Children and the General Register Office in June 2013 that the agency was aware of several hundred cases of illegal birth registrations.

“St Patrick’s Guild are aware of several hundred illegal registrations, but are waiting for people to contact them; they are not seeking the people involved. Must consider how revelations of this sort would affect a family unit,” states a department note of the meeting.

St Patrick’s Guild has hit the headlines on numerous occasions — most notably when this newspaper revealed its role in the illegal adoption of Tressa Reeves’ son.

The agency was criticised by Alan Shatter in the Dáil as far back as 1997, when he hit out at it for having “deliberately misled” people by giving “grossly inaccurate information” to both adopted persons and birth mothers. He said such behaviour by an adoption agency was “almost beyond belief”.

The Government has repeatedly resisted calls by campaigners for an audit of all adoption files held in the State so that the full scale of illegal adoptions and birth registrations can be uncovered.

Susan Lohan of the Adoption Rights Alliance said the fact the transfer of files overran significantly showed the “complete indifference” of the Adoption Authority of Ireland and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs towards the rights of adopted people and natural mothers.

“Both bodies are fully aware of the very significant numbers of illegal registrations on the files and, on the back of other scandals around child trafficking to the US, high mortality rates, mass graves, etc, are fearful of the potential scale of this operation becoming known,” she said.

Paul Redmond, chairman of the Coalition of Mother and Baby Homes Survivors, said the agency had been “exposed on numerous occasions” and called on Tusla to carry out a full audit of the files.

“If the HSE or Tulsa find suspicious issues in the files, the gardaí should be called in immediately and no one should be immune, including the nuns,” he said.

Kathy McMahon of the Irish First Mothers group said it was imperative that the Mother and Baby Homes Commission seek Government sanction to include St Patrick’s Guild in its investigation so it can fully audit all the files.

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No probe into illegal adoption files – 2010

I wrote this in 2010 – almost five years before we get a State inquiry. It also came years before I obtained material showing the Adoption Authority of Ireland was warning the Government that there could be “thousands” of illegal adoptions. The HSE took three months to issue me a response. It answered none of the questions I asked.  The full audit of all adoption records, which I have written about so many times before and since, has yet to happen

 

THE Adoption Board has said it has no intention of inspecting all adoption files held by the HSE and private adoption agencies, despite the HSE admitting some files contain evidence of illegal birth registrations.

The revelation comes after the Irish Examiner queried the HSE concerning an entry on its website.

“After the introduction of legal adoption in Ireland in 1952, some children’s births were registered directly into the name of the ‘adoptive’ parents. This practice had the effect of removing all reference to the natural parents from the official record and also meant the Adoption Board had no record of the case, as there had been no legal adoption. Some adoption agencies have records in relation to these,” states the entry.

It is a crime to falsely register a birth. The result of such practices meant some children were raised believing they were the natural child of their ‘parents’ when, in fact, they were falsely registered and illegally adopted.

In some cases, this was facilitated by adoption agencies, some of which remain accredited by the Adoption Board to this day.

The Irish Examiner asked the HSE if any of the files showing illegal birth registrations were now in the possession of the HSE and, if so, had it informed the Adoption Board about such files.

A response was issued by the HSE after three months, in which it failed to answer any of the questions put to it.

“The HSE did receive files from a number of agencies when they ceased to operate. These files have been stored and are available to be reopened, as required. If the HSE receives a request to access the file from an individual who was adopted, this can be facilitated. Similarly, if information comes to light to suggest that an adoption was illegally registered this can be investigated further. However, it is important to note that if an adoption was illegally registered, this fact is not normally noted in the adoption file,” a statement read.

Despite its knowledge that some adoption files contain evidence of illegal registrations, the Adoption Board said it had never contacted or inspected any files held by the HSE.

The Adoption Board also said it has “no plans” to inspect the files of all adoption agencies and the HSE “within its current work schedule”.

Susan Lohan of the Adoption Rights Alliance said the Adoption Board’s response to the issue was grounds for every member of the authority to resign.

“The fact that the HSE knows the details of adoption agencies which participated in illegal adoptions and that the Adoption Board has no intention to inspect these files to even quantify the extent of the problem is surely grounds for every single member of the board to resign,” said Ms Lohan.

Chairwoman of Adoption Loss – The Natural Parents Network of Ireland, Bernie Harold, called for a full audit of all the files in each of the private and HSE adoption departments in the State to discover the extent of such practices.

“The only body which has the right to inspect every single file in any registered adoption agency is the Adoption Board. We hereby call on the Minister for Children Barry Andrews to issue an instruction to the board to carry out a complete audit of all the files in each of the private and HSE adoption departments in the state,” she said.

 

http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/icrime/no-probe-into-illegal-adoption-files-133262.html

No probe into illegal adoption files

I have been asking about an audit of adoption files for six years now. Despite revelation after revelation, the HSE, AAI, DCYA and Tusla deem these records not worth auditing. I wonder why. Here in 2010, the HSE took three months to respond – even then not answering the specific questions I posed. This is four years before Tuam.

 

THE Adoption Board has said it has no intention of inspecting all adoption files held by the HSE and private adoption agencies, despite the HSE admitting some files contain evidence of illegal birth registrations.

The revelation comes after the Irish Examiner queried the HSE concerning an entry on its website.

“After the introduction of legal adoption in Ireland in 1952, some children’s births were registered directly into the name of the ‘adoptive’ parents. This practice had the effect of removing all reference to the natural parents from the official record and also meant the Adoption Board had no record of the case, as there had been no legal adoption. Some adoption agencies have records in relation to these,” states the entry.

It is a crime to falsely register a birth. The result of such practices meant some children were raised believing they were the natural child of their ‘parents’ when, in fact, they were falsely registered and illegally adopted.

In some cases, this was facilitated by adoption agencies, some of which remain accredited by the Adoption Board to this day.

The Irish Examiner asked the HSE if any of the files showing illegal birth registrations were now in the possession of the HSE and, if so, had it informed the Adoption Board about such files.

 

A response was issued by the HSE after three months, in which it failed to answer any of the questions put to it.

“The HSE did receive files from a number of agencies when they ceased to operate. These files have been stored and are available to be reopened, as required. If the HSE receives a request to access the file from an individual who was adopted, this can be facilitated. Similarly, if information comes to light to suggest that an adoption was illegally registered this can be investigated further. However, it is important to note that if an adoption was illegally registered, this fact is not normally noted in the adoption file,” a statement read.

Despite its knowledge that some adoption files contain evidence of illegal registrations, the Adoption Board said it had never contacted or inspected any files held by the HSE.

The Adoption Board also said it has “no plans” to inspect the files of all adoption agencies and the HSE “within its current work schedule”.

Susan Lohan of the Adoption Rights Alliance said the Adoption Board’s response to the issue was grounds for every member of the authority to resign.

“The fact that the HSE knows the details of adoption agencies which participated in illegal adoptions and that the Adoption Board has no intention to inspect these files to even quantify the extent of the problem is surely grounds for every single member of the board to resign,” said Ms Lohan.

Chairwoman of Adoption Loss – The Natural Parents Network of Ireland, Bernie Harold, called for a full audit of all the files in each of the private and HSE adoption departments in the State to discover the extent of such practices.

“The only body which has the right to inspect every single file in any registered adoption agency is the Adoption Board. We hereby call on the Minister for Children Barry Andrews to issue an instruction to the board to carry out a complete audit of all the files in each of the private and HSE adoption departments in the state,” she said.

Illegal adoptions: Exposing the pain of one of Ireland’s hidden scandals

WHEN well-known scandals, like that of the mother-and-baby homes or the Magdalene Laundries, finally hit the public consciousness — we often hear a common refrain: “Oh it was a different time.”Journalists and commentators get accused of imposing the morality and ethics of 21st century Ireland on an Ireland which bears no comparison.

Journalists and commentators get accused of imposing the morality and ethics of 21st century Ireland on an Ireland which bears no comparison.

As a result, we hear that the religious orders and nuns who ran these homes and institutions “did their best” operating within a very different set of moral boundaries. In short, people thought differently and the treatment of unmarried mothers and their children was an acceptable, if unfortunate, aspect of that society

However, a recent discovery made by the grandson of Dr Halliday Sutherland paints a picture of an Irish clergy deeply suspicious of anyone asking questions of how Magdalene Laundries and mother-and-baby homes operated.

The British physician and author’s book Irish Journey recounts a visit made by Dr Sutherland to the Magdalene Laundry in Galway and the Tuam mother-and-baby home 1955.

Dr Sutherland’s grandson Mark Sutherland wrote a blog post “The Suitcase in the Cellar” on hallidaysutherland.com where he recounted finding an unedited transcript of Irish Journey. What he found shows a clergy fully aware of how it’s treatment of women in its care may be viewed as unsatisfactory — even in 1955.

In order to visit the Magdalene Laundry at Galway, Sutherland needed the permission of the Bishop of Galway, Dr Michael John Browne.

It is clear that there was something to hide at the laundry as the author is only granted permission to visit the laundry on the proviso that everything he writes is submitted “for approval by the Mother Superior of the Sisters of Mercy”. As a result, the account of his visit to the laundry in Irish Journey was censored.

What his grandson discovered last year in a suitcase were those sections which were removed. They paint an interesting picture to say the least.

Included in the correspondence in the suitcase is a letter from the mother superior of the laundry, Sr Fidelma, asking in no uncertain terms that specific sections of Dr Sutherland witnessed at the institution be removed from his manuscript before publication.

“If it makes no difference to you we would much prefer that you did not include this article for your book at all. Should it not be possible for you to comply with our wishes in this matter would you kindly exclude the paragraph marked on page 122, and that marked at the end of page 123. I do not remember hearing anyone say that a girl ever ‘howled’ to be readmitted. They do come along and ask sometimes. Would you also kindly omit the piece marked on page 124,” she wrote.

The sections removed were as follows:

Following a question from Dr Sutherland asking if some of the women resident in the Laundry were “backward” — the following reply was requested to be removed.

“Yes, some of them cannot read or write. A few are sent by Probation Officers into whose care the girl was placed by the Justice before she was charged with some criminal offence.”

The fact that a direct link between the State and the Magdalene Laundries was requested to be removed is instructive, particularly as countless governments stuck by the line that Magdalene Laundries were autonomous institutions, even in the face of overwhelming evidence.

Another section which was requested to be excised concerned an escape attempt by one of the inmates of the laundry:

Dr Sutherland: “Do they try to escape?”

Mother superior: “Last year a girl climbed a twenty foot drain pipe. At the top she lost her nerve and fell. She was fortunate. She only broke her pelvis. She won’t try it again.”

The mother superior also requested that a section concerning the physical abuse of women also be excluded from the final piece:

“For that kind of thing the girl gets six strokes of the cane, three on each hand.

A nun: “Sometimes on the legs.”

Dr Sutherland: “I suppose only the sister-in-charge may inflict corporal punishment.”

Nun: “Yes, and the only time I gave it I felt positively ill.”

This clearly points to physical abuse in the laundry as routine and as something that the order did not want being made public.

Well over half a century later, the McAleese Report was of the view Martin McAleese’s report found that “the ill treatment, physical punishment, and abuse that was prevalent in the industrial school system was not something they experienced in the Magdalene Laundries”.

Clearly this was not the view of the nuns running the Galway Magdalene Laundry.

Remarkably one entry that was allowed to remain tin the chapter by the order was a reference to food being removed from inmates if they misbehaved:

Dr Sutherland: “What about discipline?”

Mother superior: We give them a good scolding when they need it.”

Dr Sutherland: “And more serious offences?”

Mother superior: We stop their food”.

Dr Sutherland: “For how long?”

Mother superior: Only one meal and we know that the other girls feed them.”

Again, here is a nun acknowledging in the mid-1950s that women were starved if they did not toe the line. Such shocking treatment jars uncomfortably with the findings of the McAleese Report.

Another nun spoke of length of stay acknowledging that some women stayed “for life” and confirming that the women were not buried on the same ground as nuns but rather in “common burial ground”.

Dr Sutherland also recounted the conversation he had with Bishop of Galway Dr Michael John Browne when seeking permission to visit the laundry.

The bishop clearly took exception to the request and issued a veiled threat concerning anything negative he might write.

“Well, if you write anything wrong it will come back on you. Remember that.”

Following an extremely tetchy conversation, Bishop Browne denied there was anything to “hide” in the laundry but stressed it was his “duty to defend these nuns. I have done so in the past and shall do again.”

Before visiting the Galway Magdalene Laundry, Dr Sutherland visited the Tuam baby home — which in the past few weeks has made international headlines.

From the chapter, it is clear that the State was paying to keep women and children in the home.

“The nuns keep the child until the age of seven, when it is sent to an Industrial School. There were 51 confinements in 1954 and the nuns had now 120 children. For each child or Mother in the Home the County Council pays £1 per week. That is a pittance… In the garden at the back of the Home children were singing. I walked along the path and was mobbed by over a score of the younger children. They said nothing, but each struggled to shake my hand. Their hands were clean and cool,” Dr Sutherland wrote.

“Then I realised that to these children I was a potential adopter who might take some boy or girl away to a real home. It was pathetic. Finally I said — ‘Children, I’m not holding a reception’. They stopped struggling and looked at me.

“Then a nun told them to stand on the lawn and sing me a song in Irish. This they did very sweetly. At the Dog’s Home, Battersea, every dog barks at the visitor in the hope that they will be taken away.”

Labour TD Anne Ferris, who is herself adopted and also lost a daughter to adoption, first wrote about Dr Sutherland’s account last July but acknowledges that the recently discovered uncensored version is of huge significance.

“The standard refrain from the Church bodies in recent years has been that where abuses occurred they happened within autonomous institutions and so were isolated incidents outside the knowledge of senior members of religious orders or the Church hierarchy.”

“Dr Sutherland’s story shows that, not only was the Catholic Church hierarchy and the senior members of the religious orders aware of the abuse, but that even then the religious people in control sought to hide the extent of what was happening. This is not a case of a different code of practice for different times. In deleting passages from Dr Sutherland’s work, it seems quite clear that Sr Fidelma considered those particular abuses to warrant a level of secrecy,” she said.

Dr Sutherland’s preface to Irish Journey from 1958 contains an accusation about money that could be thrown at the Church in 2014.

“…all the critics have ignored my main criticism, which concerns the Irish secular clergy. In my opinion they have too much political power. They hold themselves aloof from their people, and are too fond of money.”

Some might say little has changed.

 

For my natural mother — a message

By Theresa Tinggal

I KNOW it must have been difficult for you to have to hand over your baby, but what choices did you have in the 1950s — none.

It must have been heartbreaking for you. I know, as I have two children of my own, grown up now, and two beautiful little granddaughters.

I can’t imagine the pain you may have felt to hand over your baby. I have been searching for you now for 12 years since I discovered I was adopted.

I just want to know what happened to you and that you went on to have a happy life.

I hope from the bottom of my heart that you did. I discovered 12 years ago that I was illegally adopted. “Illegally” meaning I was registered as the child of James and Kathleen Hiney and grew up thinking I was Theresa Hiney. The truth came out in May 2002 when my uncle revealed to me that they were not my parents.

My response was “well my birth certificate says I am”. He wasn’t able to tell me how it was done, only that he came back to Ireland from England on holiday one year, and I was an infant. My adoptive parents told him they had adopted me but not in the legal way. I was struck dumb when I heard, and thought it couldn’t be true and if it was, I must be the only one. However, that myth was soon shattered when I started searching and was astonished to discover that there are many, many more like myself, living in limbo without and identity.

This is my story: I was born on 9 June 1954. At two days old, I was handed over to my adoptive mother and taken to be baptised, accompanied by Nurse Doody. I was baptised as Theresa Hiney and six weeks later, again formally registered as Theresa Hiney, like I was their natural child.

What happened to my birth mother, I wonder? Separated from her baby and expected to carry on as though nothing happened. My heart still feels for her and all of the mothers in her situation. I grew up not knowing, but feeling very different from everyone in the family so in some respects I wasn’t surprised.

My search began in zest and I spent a lot of time going back and forth to Dublin looking through archives and searching for information. I was more than surprised when a file turned up from the HSE detailing my childhood from the age of two to 16 years old.

The health board had accidentally discovered about the illegal adoption and through a duty of care called to check on me on a monthly basis. Within the file detailing all those visits is the name and address of Nurse Doody, where I was handed over, and also the name of the social worker involved.

From that information, my birth mother could have been tracked down, but it was totally ignored. I was also given an index card with the name of foster child Margaret O’Grady and foster mother Kathleen Hiney. Is this my real or made-up name? The HSE can’t clarify whether it is or not due to the fact that people gave false names in the 50s.

In 2009, I set up a website for illegal adoptees http://www.adoptedillegally-ireland.com and requested meetings with Frances Fitzgerald, then the children’s minister, which were always declined.

In 2012, Adopted Illegally Ireland held a protest in Dame St and also submitted a petition to Ms Fitzgerald’s office of 1,600 (including paper-based) signatures calling for access to records. The response was a polite thank you letter and the issue was never addressed.

Last October, I finally met with Ms Fitzgerald with Paul Redmond (Adoption Rights Now) and Susan Lohan (Adoption Rights Alliance). She instantly promised she would have her department attempt to gather all records, including Church-held files, and this would go to the heads of bill, which she also said would happen in 2011. The issue of an investigation was not mentioned and we ran out of time. She was meant to arrange another meeting which has never happened. I believe this serious issue should have received more consideration.

I don’t think it can be avoided any longer in view of the Tuam babies scandal. What has been discovered, although gruesome, has been seen as a breakthrough for those of us who have lobbied tirelessly over the years, but our requests have been ignored

SPECIAL INVESTIGATION: Bessborough Mother and Baby Home: It’s time these women’s voices are finally heard

A previously unpublished report by the HSE in 2012 examined Bessborough’s own records. The in-depth findings and conclusions are damning. Conall Ó Fátharta reports

FOR years, places like Bessborough Mother and Baby Home were spoken of in hushed tones.

For generations of Irish people, they were places where thousands of women and girls were sent when they had “a problem”. They went in pregnant and came out alone, some after spending years locked away.

Some left only to be moved to other institutions and Magdalene laundries. Most were never the same. Their voices were never heard.

 

Over the years, those women have found their voices and have demanded answers for how they were treated behind the walls of Ireland’s mother and baby homes. Adoption rights campaigners have been doing the same.

Former residents and lay staff at the Bessborough home, run by the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, have spoken of an institution where women were denied pain relief in labour and basic medical care after birth, and were humiliated by having to cut the institution’s vast lawns on their hands and knees with a scissors.

Just last year, this newspaper uncovered that an official investigation carried out by the Cork County medical officer, on foot of inquiries from an inspector with the Department of Local Government, confirmed an infant mortality rate of 68% at Bessborough in 1943. The government briefly stopped sending women there as a result.

A previously unpublished 2012 HSE report on Bessborough, which examined the institution’s own records, show a system of “institutionalisation and human trafficking”, where “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.

The report was prepared as part of the HSE’s examination of interventions by Irish State health authorities in the Magdalene laundries. It was based on an examination of Bessborough’s own records, which were handed over to the HSE in 2011.

Culture of greed

From the outset, the report, released under the Freedom of Information Act, is crystal clear in what the Bessborough archives reveal. It outlines an order preoccupied with materialism, wealth, and social status, where the women and children in their care were considered as a means to making money.

It points out that “a cultural snapshot” emerges of an era in Ireland where unmarried mothers were considered “not only as “fallen women” and violators of Roman Catholic moral order but were “considered little more than a commodity for trade amongst religious orders”

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

“The only written confirmation of monies being paid were detailed within the ‘Catholic Women’s Aid Society Book 2, 1929-40’. Even a cursory glance at these pages reveals that monies were paid by natural mothers for the care of their babies, while adoptive parents were charged a sum ranging between £50-£60, payable on a monthly payment scheme in exchange for their adopted child. Further investigation into these practices is warranted,” the report states.

The admission books for the mother and baby home between 1922 and 1936 show the nuns “assigned account numbers to some women, (while not others) while marking some entries as ‘private’, ‘paid nothing’, or identifying which institutions or State bodies were financially responsible for the women’s upkeep“.

In other admission books, similar accounting practices were observed where women “were commonly assigned a ‘Reg No’, ‘Order Form No’, ‘Pink Form No’, ‘Admission Card’, ‘Admission Ticket’, or a notation of a ‘Card Received’.”

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.

“While an explicit criteria for adoption at Bessborough could not be located within any materials available during this research, it would appear from the board of management meeting minutes that 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), age, years married, and the committee’s ‘impression’ were mentioned most often as deciding factors [in] whether the couple would be ‘passed’ and ‘given a baby’ or not.”

The report lists a number of remarks at monthly meetings of the board of management between 1974 and 1982, stating that “one can formulate their own opinions about the relationships and interactions between Church and State and the judgements placed upon prospective adopters, and the attitudes toward the babies for whom they were entrusted”.

The entries include:

  • “Ages, 34 & 36, married 4-and-a-half years, Do not want a baby until Christmas.” (From the board of management minutes, April 9, 1979.)
  • “A very nice couple living in Limerick, their own hotel. The ages are 44 & 31; they have a very happy home and plenty of this world’s goods. Would like to adopt a baby. The committee passed them, and if babies are to spare they will get one.” (From the board of management minutes, June 13, 1977.)

Another entry from March 1977 reveals the “lax attitude of the Sacred Heart trustees toward child protection”: “Ages are 32 years… They are married 10 years and have a very comfortable home. They have all the necessary investigations… They are anxious to adopt a little girl. They have received a good reference from the priest but no Garda clearance.” This entry is then followed by the declaration “Passed”.

Shocking phenomenon of child deaths

The Bessborough files also raise questions about the “shocking” number of children who died in the institution. The report raises the question of whether death records were falsified so children “could be brokered into clandestine adoption arrangements, both foreign and domestic”.

It notes that, if this proves true, it could “have dire implications for the Church and State”, not to mention the families involved.

The HSE report reveals, for the first time, the exact number of children that were recorded as having died at Bessborough and states that the numbers unearthed “are a cause for serious consternation“.

“Though an examination of Sacred Heart’s Admission Register SHA/4 (1933-1953) accounts for 93 recorded infant deaths (not including those recorded as ‘stillborn’), a cross-reference with Bessborough’s Registration of Deaths ledger (1934-1953) unearthed a shocking phenomenon of infant mortality as 478 infant deaths were recorded for 19 years.”

That amounts to a death rate of 25 children a year. To put that in perspective, a total of 796 children are recorded as having died in Tuam Mother and Baby Home between 1925 and 1960 — a death rate of almost 23 children every year.

“As Bessborough’s death register contains less than two decades of details of Sacred Heart Adoption Society’s almost 75-year history, one cannot be certain as to the full scope of infant deaths. Curiously there are no death records for any years following 1953,” the report notes. However, the HSE does specifically raise the issue of what sort of conditions were present in the institution to allow such a “shocking” rate of infant death to occur.

“Returning to the matter of the death register, a phenomenal 478 documented infant deaths over 19 years leaves the reader asking what conditions precipitated the deaths of so many babies under the trust of the Sacred Heart Order.

“While a thorough inquiry is beyond the remit of this paper, one cannot help but ponder the implications of this phenomenon.”

In August of last year, this newspaper uncovered material in the Cork City and County archives which shows an official investigation into deaths in Bessborough carried out by the Cork County medical officer in 1943 confirmed an infant mortality rate of 68%.

The HSE report states that, in addition to revealing the number of babies that died between 1934 to 1953, the death record at Bessborough lists each child’s date of death, address, name, gender, age at last birthday, profession (marked as son or daughter), cause of death, and, in some cases, the duration of illness and the date when the death was registered.

The recorded causes of death in the entries include: Marasmus, gastro enteritis, congenital debility, spina bifida, congenital syphilis, pneumonia, bronchitis, congenital heart, tubercular peritiorities, cardiac shock, heat stroke, tonsillitis, and prematurity.

Inexplicably one entry which records a child dying of prematurity states that the child had turned three years of age at her last birthday.

Disturbing as these revelations are, perhaps the most shocking claim made in the HSE study is that death records may have been falsified for children so that they could be “brokered” for adoption, perhaps both at home and abroad.

“The question whether indeed all of these children actually died while in Bessborough 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 states.

It notes that, while the subject of infant mortality may not appear to have much to do with adoption, the ‘boarding out’ of children with foster families, or the discharge strategies of women and children, its relevance becomes apparent “when put in context with the broader issue of the mutually beneficial State/religious order relationships and the covert relationships of the day”.

“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,” the report states.

“While it is beyond the expertise of this author to proffer grand narratives about the historical, fiscal, or social arrangements forged between Church and State, the records themselves expose a telling indictment of what may have been one of Ireland’s most damning and destructive partnership of collusion, corruption, and abuse between Church and State.”

Institutionalisation and human trafficking

The archives paint an equally disturbing picture of how women were treated, with references to “institutionalisation and human trafficking”, “incarceration”, “confinement and servitude”, and to “a cold and lonely environment characterised by harrowing social, emotional, and physical isolation”.

 

The report points out that, while it is historically and socially acknowledged that little regard was given to the care of women pregnant out of wedlock in Ireland at that time, nonetheless “it appears that the women who sought refuge within Bessborough Adoption Society were provided with little more than the basic care and provision afforded to that of any individual convicted of crimes against the State”.

“While it is noted that entrants to Bessborough were not subject to the sanctions of any Irish court order, however their ‘voluntary’ admissions appear to have been a punitive reprise, far worse than a prison term,” states the report.

The report is also scathing about the “culture of confinement” which existed at Bessborough and a “practice of protracted detainment” where women and girls were kept in the institution long after their children were born and they should have been fit for discharge.

Analysis of admission records between 1922 and 1936 show that details for a “staggering” 43% of admissions had no recorded information regarding how they were referred to Bessborough. The second largest category of referrals reveals that 16% of admissions for this period were “By Ambulance”, while 15% came from family relations.

The HSE study notes that the figure of 43% could be interpreted as an administrative oversight save for the high level of specificity of details regarding a wide range of other referral mechanisms. For example, other referral mechanisms listed include:

  • GPs (11%);
  • Hospitals/Matrons (3.7%);
  • Nuns/Priests/Canons/Mother Superiors (2.7%);
  • County Homes (2.2%);
  • Cork Guardians (1.3%);
  • Other (1.2%);
  • Readmissions (1%);
  • Good Shepherd Sisters (0.5%);
  • Cork Union (0.5%);
  • Civic Patrol (0.1%);
  • Sr of Mercy (0.1%);
  • Sr of Charity (0.1%);
  • Bandon Guardians (0.1%);
  • Relieving Officer (0.4%);
  • Kilkenny CBH (0.4%);
  • England (0.3%).

Similarly, between 1933 and 1954, the sources of referral were unknown for 56% of 302 admissions.

Once admitted to Bessborough, the records examined by the HSE were found to “attest to the culture of confinement and servitude” and the “powerful air of authority that the nuns conveyed”.

“Society at large did not question the legitimacy of the Sacred Heart Order’s alleged powers of detainment; many of the women were kept there long past their delivery dates. It would appear that freedom to leave in one’s own time was beyond the reach of many women,” the report states.

Reference is made to one girl being sent to Bessborough in 1922 despite no record of her “being pregnant or ever having delivered a baby or what became of her after she entered the Good Shepherds”.

“What we can glean from this account is the prevailing morality of the times which sanctioned the incarceration of young females in an effort to prevent their moral degeneration. In this particular case mentioned, the young girl was accused of ‘being lead (sic) astray by a man’ so being locked up was considered justified.”

The HSE study states that Bessborough’s archives “reveal a trajectory of institutionalisation and human trafficking among various religious orders and State-funded institutions”.

However, the State is also singled out for harsh criticism for failing in its legal and ethical responsibility to ensure that the rights of unmarried mothers, particularly those under the age of majority, were safeguarded.“

Instead it would appear that the State turned their back on these women and girls, favouring instead to abdicate its responsibility to the religious orders.

“In exchange for assuming the State’s social and legal responsibility, the nuns benefited from a steady stream of free labour and servitude (not to mention financial remuneration for the women and their offspring).

“The practice of transferring women and children among and between State-funded religious institutions was prolific.”

Admission records

Indeed, the admission records of Bessborough reveal well-established practices of women and/or their babies being sent to “County Homes Unions, industrial schools, and orphanages, and within the network of convents and religious orders both domestically and within the United Kingdom” — in a practice that continued throughout the 1950s.

The report notes that the prevalence of such practices is witnessed by the scale of references within the admission registers “to women and children being bandied about from and within religious orders and institutions”.

The report outlines a snapshot of these practices of women and children being transferred among and between State and religious-run institutions as described in the Bessborough admission books between the 1920s and 1950s.

They include:

  • “Miss X age 22 sent to ‘Rev Mother St Mary’s School, North Hyde, Child placed in the school, March 1, 1926’”;
  • “Miss X age 21 Sent to Sanatorium, 18 , November 1927, Rtd (sic) 17.05.1928, Sent to Co Hospital, 05.09.1928’”;
  • “Miss X age 18 ‘Sent to Good Shepherd Convent, 7.06.1933’”;
  • “Miss X age 18 Mother & Child Dis (sic) to Co Home 07.07.1934 (Mental)”;
  • “Miss X age 18 having already spent three years in the care of the Good Shepherd Nuns in Co Kilkenny was admitted to Bessborough on the 12/11/25 (two years after the birth of her baby on 21/02/1923). This young woman was returned to the Good Shepherds on 12/02/1930”;

The report concludes by noting that the question regarding “the interconnectedness between Church and State demands a much more comprehensive exposition than has been offered here.

“The interdepartmental committee has a weighty task ahead of it as it seeks to ascertain the full scope of State/Church relationships, a formidable task by any standards.

“It is my hope that the material provided within this research paper is in some manner useful to the committee in making its conclusions.

“It goes without saying that the dignity and integrity of the women and children, both living and dead, who once lived behind Bessborough’s walls must be safeguarded and at long last their voices heard.”

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,” it said.

http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/special-investigation-bessborough-mother-and-baby-home-its-time-these-womens-voices-are-finally-heard-334069.html

SPECIAL INVESTIGATION: Fears over ‘trafficking’ of children to the US from Tuam

Concerns that up to 1,000 children may have been “trafficked” to the US from the Tuam mother and baby home in “a scandal that dwarfs other, more recent issues with the Church and State” were raised by the HSE in 2012.

The warning is contained in an internal note of a teleconference in October 2012 with then assistant director of Children and Family Service Phil Garland and then head of the Medical Intelligence Unit Davida De La Harpe.

It ends with a recommendation that the then health minister be informed with a view to a state inquiry being launched. This was almost two years before revelations of a mass grave at the home forced the Government into launching a state inquiry into all mother and baby homes.

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 notes 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, “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”.

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 report ends with a recommendation that, due to the gravity of what was being found in relation to the Tuam home, 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.

The Sisters of Bon Secours said it ceased operating the Tuam mother and baby home in 1961 and, at the instructions of the local authority, handed the files on the running of the facility back to them.

“As the Commission of Investigation has now been established the Sisters of Bon Secours do not believe it would be appropriate to comment further except to say that they will co-operate fully with that commission,” said the order.

The Department of Children and Youth Affairs said none of the concerns raised were brought to the attention of the minister at the time, but were discussed in the context of the McAleese inquiry 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.

“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 the statement.

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

http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/special-investigation-fears-over-trafficking-of-children-to-the-us-334315.html

Mother and baby homes: Plenty of information about adoption records to be found if State wishes to look

The Government says an audit of adoption records held by the State is of very limited benefit, but recent revelations prove otherwise, writes Conall Ó Fátharta

 

Records reveal that children — some as young as 12 and pregnant as a result of rape — were in Bessborough into the 1980s.

 

THIS Government has consistently repeated the mantra that an audit of adoption records held by the State was “of very limited benefit” — despite revelation after revelation from this newspaper.

An examination of just a fraction of these records revealed that a religious order reported significantly higher levels of infant deaths to the State than it recorded privately, and that child victims of rape were present in mother and baby homes right into the 1980s.

There are tens of thousands of files in the hands of the State in relation to how unmarried women and their children were treated in state-licensed and funded mother and baby homes and adoption agencies. It seems nobody wants to take a look at them.

 It’s not like they haven’t been asked. Adoption campaigners have called for an audit of all records for years. The Government and the Adoption Authority have ignored all requests.

 

It’s not as if they don’t know what these files contain. In April, this newspaper revealed the adoption authority informed the Department of Children and Youth Affairs in 2013, there “may be thousands” of cases of illegal adoptions.

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 [birth] registrations”.

The authority also named religious-run former adoption agency St Patrick’s Guild as being “aware of several hundred illegal registrations”.

A record of a meeting between two nuns from the guild and representatives from Tusla in 2014 states the agency’s records contained “some illegal registrations” and, crucially, that “full details are available on the majority of cases”.

The Government’s reaction to this? St Patrick’s Guild was excluded from the remit of the of the Commission of Investigation to Inquire into Mother and Baby Homes.

Five months later, the then children’s minister Frances Fitzgerald told the Dáil she “had no plans to initiate an audit of all files”.

 

She also claimed that all adoptions “which the Irish State has been involved in since 1952 have been in line with this [Adoption Act 1952] and subsequent adoption legislation”. This claim was repeated on two separate occasions by her successor, Charlie Flanagan.

More bizarrely still, the department’s response to queries relating to any audit of all State adoption records is that such an exercise would “of very limited benefit”.

“It is important to note that the only way information generally becomes available is when someone with knowledge about the event comes forward… There is little, if any, supporting information in relation to these arrangements… Accordingly, an audit of all adoption records would be of very limited benefit in establishing the number of illegal registrations that took place,” said the department.

However, an investigation of those records has shown such a statement to be patently untrue.

In June, this newspaper revealed that an internal HSE report prepared after an examination of Bessborough Mother and Baby Home records expressed concerns that death records were falsified at the institution so children could “be brokered in clandestine adoption arrangements” at home and abroad.

 

An examination of the order’s own death register revealed a higher infant death rate than Tuam, two years before the Tuam babies scandal broke.

The HSE also expressed concerns in 2012 that up to 1,000 children may have been “trafficked” to the US from the Tuam Mother and Baby home in “a scandal that dwarfs other, more recent issues with the Church and State”.

The warning is contained in an internal note of a teleconference in October 2012 with then assistant director of Children and Family Service Phil Garland, and then head of the Medical Intelligence Unit, Davida De La Harpe.

It ends with a recommendation that that “this goes all the way up to the minister” so that “a fully fledged, fully resourced forensic investigation and State inquiry” could be launched.

All of these concerns were raised by a social worker looking at the records the Government deem not worth auditing.

An investigation by this newspaper revealed last month that the order which ran the Bessborough Mother and Baby Home reported significantly higher levels of infant deaths to State inspectors than it recorded in its own Death Register. The order declined to offer an explanation for the discrepancy.

Yet again, this information was uncovered following an examination of records all of which are in the hands of the State.

Similarly, the records reveal that children — some as young as 12 and pregnant as a result of rape — were in Bessborough into the 1980s. The order declined to answer whether or not they reported any of these crimes to the gardaí.

All of this evidence is contained in records held by the State and which an audit could have put into the public domain before now.

Let’s hope the commission doesn’t view State’s own records as being “of limited benefit”. The women and children on those files deserve better.

http://www.irishexaminer.com/viewpoints/analysis/mother-and-baby-homes-plenty-of-information-about-adoption-records-to-be-found-if-state-wishes-to-look-369318.html