Breeda Murphy of the Tuam Mother and Baby Alliance addressed a Special Meeting of Mayo County Council this afternoon and she called on the local authority to open its archives/ files related to the Tuam Mother and Baby Home.
Councillors called on Council Management to do so.
The meeting was convened to look at the local authority’s responsibility for what happened to residents of Tuam’s Mother and Baby Home, in response to the 3,000 page Commission of Investigation Report into Mother and Baby Homes, published last month.
The report indicated that close to a third of the residents of the Bon Secours run Tuam Mother and Baby home were from county Mayo.
An emotional Breeda told cllrs today that its appropriate that Mayo County Council acknowledges its responsibility to residents of the home from 192Os through to the 1960s.
The Cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council Richard Finn opened proceedings by apologising for what occurred in the institutions when Mayo County Council, like other local authorities, was responsible for the County Boards of Health.
The CE of Mayo County Council Peter Duggan also apologised for what occurred to woman and children in Mother and Baby Homes and he said the local authority will assist and support the package of national redress promised by the Taoiseach, when he formally apologised on behalf of the state for what happened to the former residents of these institutions.
Cllr Jarlath Munnelly said “sorry” is an important part of any healing process and it needs to be said, but in addition we all need to ensure it doesn’t happen again. It is important now, he said to focus on survivors and ensure we work them that they now have a voice.
Independent cllr Christy Hyland said it’s not right that survivors had to pay for their own legal advice, if they wanted it, to engage with the commission of investigation report. The Commission, he said, says it has no evidence that adoptions were paid for, but they conducted these interviews electronically and that was not the appropriate method in order to secure the truth and evidence required. Children of 12 and thirteen were sent to the home in Tuam pregnant but there is no reference to criminal reports into what had happened to them - how they became pregnant in the Commission report.
Among the proposals of cllr Hyland at the meeting is for Mayo County Council to set up an annual bursary for survivors,
Mark Duffy said its understood that up to 200 Mayo babies born in Tuam died and their names may not be recorded and the location of their burial remains unclear and he said we need clarity around these lives.
Cllr Donna Sheridan said an appropriate memorial to honour the woman and children needs to go out for public consultation . “We need to ensure any records held by MCC are made available”, she stated.
Cllr Michael Kilcoyne said sorry is one thing, and while the report is welcome, it happened and survivors now need redress. The reality is that some survivors have been refused medical cards and housing and we continue to fail these people. He added that Mayo County Council hadtransferred all records related to the institution to the Western Health board in the 1970s and now, he said, they need to be available to those who want and need them.
Cllr Annie Mae Reape thanked Breda for coming in with her “heart wrenching” presentation. Cllr Reape said she was shocked at the report of commission of Investigation and added that words won’t change what happened to mothers and children.
Breeda concluded her contribution thanking the councillors for all of their responses.
But she said Mayo County Council has relevant archives. She said people were trafficked through orphanages, laundries, county homes and administrative records up to 1961 are in council buildings and pleaded with the local authority to employ an archivist to look at these records.
She said Galway County Council has opened all their records and hosted the Tuam Mother and Baby Home Survival group and let them look at their records
Peter Duggan assured Breeda that any records / archives on file by Mayo County Council are open to anyone who requires them.