Taoiseach's apology has no meaning if we're still denied our identity, survivor says 

Taoiseach's apology has no meaning if we're still denied our identity, survivor says 

Children's teddys and toys along with flowers sit at the 'Little Angels' memorial plot in the grounds of Bessborough. File picture: Laura Hutton/RollingNews.ie

A survivor of the Bessborough Mother and Baby Home in Cork has said today's apology by the Taoiseach does not have any meaning for survivors of mother and baby homes who are still being denied their identities, stigmatised and “othered’.

Noelle Brown, an artist and adoption rights activist, who was born at the Bessborough home, said survivors had asked for an apology to be delayed so they could digest the “enormous report and the hurt and harm and trauma that it has brought up for survivors”.

“The only apology I want, moving forward, is that they acknowledge the collusion with the Catholic Church that has brought about this absolute horror in Irish history and the legacy that, as adoptees and birth mothers, we are dealing with now. We are still being denied our identities. We are still stigmatised. We are still othered,” Ms Brown said speaking on RTÉ's Today with Claire Byrne.

Survivors, she said, were being re-traumatised by the language used by the Taoiseach and Minister in their summary of the findings at a webinar launching the final report on Tuesday: “These are the people making the decisions, and making the laws and the legislation and they have no sense of what it is like for survivors. they say they are listening but they are not."

The government, she added, was “out of step” with society today, which was supportive of survivors and the need to reverse the decision to seal documents and records for 30 years.

Ms Brown said she feels "very raw" after yesterday's publication of the Commission's findings and that at least "10 glaring inaccuracies” in the testimony she gave to the Mother and Baby Homes Commission had "not helped".

The campaigner had requested the transcript, before the records were sent to the Minister, and was told that they would read it out to her over the phone but she insisted on having a hard copy.

On receiving the transcript on Wednesday morning, she discovered several inaccuracies including that she was raised by her birth parents when she wasn't.

“I had to beg for that transcript, which is essentially 222 questions with a lot of box-ticking and there are at least 10 inaccuracies on it,” Ms Brown said.

“They had one job, to transcribe accurately my testimony or extracts from my testimony to fit into this,” she added.

The adoption rights activist said details were “really important” to anyone who was adopted and looking for information about their lives and identity: “These are our stories and we know them inside out and we ask that they be transcribed correctly and mine hasn’t and I don’t know how many others haven’t”.

Ms Brown said her testimony was also shoehorned to fit questions that she was never asked.

“I spoke for an hour. There were one of two questions asked, some of them inappropriate but there was not 222 questions asked of me. They listened and they obviously took some of what I said and shoehorned it to fit these questions,” she said.

“I felt it was a wasted exercise. I went there to find out if I was the subject of vaccine trials, which they wouldn’t investigate on my behalf. I was sent back to Tusla,” she added.

On the Commission’s findings that children were not injured in vaccine trials, she said, was “reprehensible” and highlighted the work of the Irish Examiner and former journalist Conal O’Fatharta on investigating the issue.

Plans to develop on the Bessborough site must be stopped, Ms Brown said: “It’s extraordinary. If the remains of one baby were found in a shallow grave or there was the knowledge that a baby was buried somewhere there would be a criminal investigation. Why 900 babies don’t matter or the babies in Tuam, why that doesn’t matter, I don’t understand.

"How a religious organisation that is involved in burial and ritual and prayer and rights could create mass graves on mother and baby homes around Ireland is beyond belief,” she added.

“Of course it has to be investigated. Of course, the building cannot go ahead,” she continued.

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