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796 dead at St.Mary’s Mother and Baby Home over 40 years

category galway | gender and sexuality | news report author Thursday May 29, 2014 11:43author by Andrew Report this post to the editors

When a child dies a fortnight for 40 years its no accident but process

If you are feeling strong this morning Rabble published a must read article yesterday on the 796 dead children found in a mass grave at the St.Mary’s Mother and Baby Home, Tuam. That's not a misprint, for the 40 years this institution operated at least one child died a fortnight, a death rate that approached 10% of those in the home per year! They ranged from 2 days (Thomas Duffy) to 9 years (Sheila Tuohy) old.

childrenglenconnachttribune.jpg

The home operated from 1921 to 1961 and this revelation shows what life was really like, particularly for the poor, in the 'good old days' before feminism, effective contraception and access to abortion. Women with unwanted pregnancies were forced to give birth and the babies were sent to such homes to be killed through neglect unless they were
'lucky' and were fostered out. That is the only explanation for a death rate that suggests that a child placed in the home at birth would only have a 50:50 chance of surviving five years.

This system was ran by the same religious institutions that shamed and punished women who had sex outside of marriage and which campaigned to keep contraception and abortion illegal and inaccessible. They still continue to do so to this day, next time one of them refers to themselves as pro-life remember the deaths behind their empty rhetoric.

From the Rabble article
"An Irish Mail on Sunday front page article on 25th May 2014, recounted a local health board inspection report from April 16/17th 1944 which recorded 271 children and 61 single mothers for a total of 333. The ‘Home’ had capacity for 243.

The report continues listing children as ‘emaciated’, ‘pot-bellied’, ‘fragile’ with ‘flesh hanging loosely on limbs’. 31 children recorded in the ‘Sun room and balcony’ were ‘poor, emaciated and not thriving’."

Read on at http://www.rabble.ie/2014/05/28/the-septic-tank-full-of...rets/

author by Andrewpublication date Thu May 29, 2014 12:51Report this post to the editors

A revealing addition to this story, some 3-4 years after this institution was opened the Archbishop of Tuam (the same town) oversaw the burning of library books that had
1. "Complete frankness in words in dealing with sexual matters"
2. "glorification of the unmarried mother"
3. "glorification of physical passion"

A press clipping about this is at https://twitter.com/Limerick1914/status/471966810208997...oto/1

author by punterpublication date Fri Jun 06, 2014 12:53Report this post to the editors

There is a good chance that there are a lot more other mass graves from the other Mother Baby homes around the country. As they say if there is one bad bank then they are probably all bad. In this case we already know all these homes were bad places. Someone on the radio this morning pointed out that the Catholic orders view on this was since these mothers sinned then they had to pay for their sins and no level of punishment was enough. It seems very much a case of extreme fanatical religious doctrine. You could call it the Irish Taliban of its day.

In the same show someone else stated that it was known even years ago that the infant mortality rate was 5 times higher than the national average which would have been quite bad in those days and mention was made of a 1934 dail debate about the homes.

author by Tpublication date Sat Jun 07, 2014 00:21Report this post to the editors

A search of the Dail debates archives from 1934 trawls up some interesting perspective on how long this has been going on.

In this first quote it is covering Committee on Finance. - Children Bill, 1934—Second Stage.

In this matter the Bill proposes to give effect to the recommendations of the Commission on the Relief of the Sick and Destitute Poor, including the Insane Poor. In their report, dated August, 1927, the Commission pointed out that the death rate amongst illegitimate children was five times as great as in other cases. While the provisions of Part I of the Act of 1908 to some extent brought baby farming under control, the Commission were of opinion that the Act did not go far enough, and as a protection to the children for whom the Act was intended the Commission recommended certain amendments.


Src: http://oireachtasdebates.oireachtas.ie/Debates%20Author...times

So it seems that there was recognition that children of the poor had a huge death rate and while not clear from this quote, it would have been clear that many of these were been given away or in orphanages. What is even more intriguing is the reference above to 'baby farming'. One can only conclude from this that the poor were basically been paid for babies and these were most likely for adoption.

The second set of quotes are from http://oireachtasdebates.oireachtas.ie/Debates%20Author...times

The debate is covering Registration of Maternity Homes Bill, 1934—Second Stage and spells out clearly the situation with these maternity homes at the time.

“266. It would seem from the evidence given before us that in the City of Dublin there are a number of poor class maternity homes from which children are placed out to nurse.

“We are of opinion that all private maternity homes should be licensed annually by the local authority and that no licence be granted unless the home is properly and suitably [1214] equipped for the purpose, and that it was in charge of a respectable person trained in maternity care and nursing.

“267. From the Registrar-General's Report for 1924, it appears that one in every three illegitimate children born alive in 1924 died within one year of its birth, and that the mortality amongst these children is about five times as great as in other cases.

“268. It is high for many reasons, but there is one to which we wish specially to refer. The illegitimate child being proof of the mother's shame is, in most cases, sought to be hidden at all costs. What frequently happens is that the mother, or the mother's family, at the time the mother leaves the hospital or home, make arrangements with someone to take the child, either paying a lump sum down or undertaking to pay something from time to time.

“These arrangements are often made or connived at by those who carry on the poorer class of mater nity homes, and the results to the child can be read in the mortality rates.

“If a lump sum is paid or if the periodical payment lapse, the child becomes an encumbrance on the foster mother, who has no interest in keeping it alive.”

At present there is no means of obtaining information as to the where abouts of the homes referred to by the Commission. Neither is there any power of inspecting them except that provided for the purposes of the Midwives (Ireland) Act, 1918, by Section 17 thereof. This section relates chiefly to the supervision of midwives. It is quite insufficient to insure the suitable and efficient management of the maternity home.


So it looks like efforts were being made to regulate these institutes but there were plenty of conservative forces resisting it and in the centre of it appeared to be the exchange of money. And later a Dr Ward spells out what was going on and yet it appears nothing was ever done to correct it.

Dr. Ward: Information on Dr. Francis Constantine Ward Zoom on Dr. Francis Constantine Ward Deputy Minch must not have been listening very carefully to the first part of my statement. The necessity for this Bill is not due to any known increase in illegitimacy. The Bill has become necessary because of the high death rate amongst illegitimate children. Attention was drawn to the abnormally high death rate amongst these children by the Poor Law Commission, in paragraph 267 of their Report. This is the quotation:

“From the Registrar-General's report for 1924 it appears that one in every three illegitimate children born alive in 1924 died within one year of its birth, and that the mortality amongst these children is about five times as great as in other cases.”

It is because of the high death rate amongst illegitimate children that we want to establish some more effective control over the numerous maternity homes now operating. As Deputies are probably aware, these institutions take it upon themselves to dispose of and to board out these children. From the [1218] abnormally high death rate amongst this class of children one must come to the conclusion that they are not looked after with the same care and attention as that given to ordinary children
.


 
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