‘We did not just hide away the dead bodies of tiny human beings, we dug deep and deeper still to bury our compassion, our mercy’

A hole which has been cut out in the wooden door at the site at the mother and baby home in Tuam. Picture: Ray Ryan

Infants were taken from their mothers and sold, starved, trafficked, and in some cases denied life itself, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said in relation to the Tuam buried babies scandal.

Addressing the Dáil on shocking revelations about the finding of infant remains at the Bon Secours site in Tuam, Mr Kenny failed to agree to amend the terms of the mother-and-baby inquiry. Instead, he insisted that the work of gardaí and the local Galway coroner must go ahead independently while there is a need to deal with the “sad legacies of the past”.

In a passionate response during leaders’ questions in the Dáil, an outraged Mr Kenny described how the Tuam site reflected the larger neglect of Irish society in years gone by.

“Tuam is not just a burial ground, it is a social and cultural sepulchre. That is what it is. As a society in the so-called ‘good old days’, we did not just hide away the dead bodies of tiny human beings, we dug deep and deeper still to bury our compassion, our mercy and our humanity itself,” declared Mr Kenny.

Referring to the scandal of the Bon Secours mother and baby home in Tuam, Mr Kenny said “no nuns broke into our homes to kidnap our children”.

Instead, he added: “We gave them up to what we convinced ourselves was the nuns’ care. We gave them up maybe to spare them the savagery of gossip, the wink and the elbow language of delight in which the holier than thous were particularly fluent. We gave them up because of our perverse, in fact, morbid relationship with what is called respectability. Indeed, for a while it seemed as if in Ireland our women had the amazing capacity to self-impregnate.

“For their trouble, we took their babies and gifted them, sold them, trafficked them, starved them, neglected them or denied them to the point of their disappearance from our hearts, our sight, our country and, in the case of Tuam and possibly other places, from life itself.”

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin called for a state apology for the infants buried at the Tuam site. He also demanded a commemoration be held and that the judge-led inquiry into homes be expanded to include other institutions or sites.

But Mr Kenny declined to commit to these and instead said time was needed for reflection.

However, he commended historian Catherine Corless, whose work on baby deaths helped reveal the shocking find in Tuam.

Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty called for gardaí to be resourced to investigate the deaths while the TD also called for those responsible to be brought before the courts.

Mr Doherty also called on the Government to publish the second interim report of the commission investigating mother and baby homes, finished last September.

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