'We failed them' - Council ‘profoundly sorry’ for its failings at Tuam Mother and Baby Home

Cathaoirleach of Galway City Council, James Charity, also described local historian Catherine Corless as "a heroine"
'We failed them' - Council ‘profoundly sorry’ for its failings at Tuam Mother and Baby Home

Galway County Council Cathaoirleach James Charity said the Commission’s findings showed “a local authority which was far more consumed with mundane budgetary and financial oversight than its role as custodian of those who were most vulnerable and required its care and protection“. File picture: Ray Ryan

Galway County Council has said it is “profoundly sorry” for its failings in relation to the care of mothers and children at the Tuam Mother and Baby Home.

The Tuam home was run by the Bon Secours on behalf of the local Galway authority. It was open from 1923 until 1961.

In 2017, largely due to the work of local historian Catherine Corless, the remains of hundreds of young children were found inside a disused septic tank on the site.

In a statement issued this afternoon, Cathaoirleach of Galway City Council, James Charity wrote of the “deep sense of shame” he felt when the failings of the Council “were set out in black and white for all to see” upon the release of the Mother and Baby Homes report last week.

Mr Charity said the Commission’s findings showed “a local authority which was far more consumed with mundane budgetary and financial oversight than its role as custodian of those who were most vulnerable and required its care and protection." 

Mr Charity said the Galway County Council “failed in its most basic and principal duty."

"This Council should have put the needs and welfare of the most vulnerable in our society to the fore. 

Lists of the names of dead children at the grotto on an unmarked mass grave at the site of the Tuam Mother and Baby Home run by the Bon Secures sisters. Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Lists of the names of dead children at the grotto on an unmarked mass grave at the site of the Tuam Mother and Baby Home run by the Bon Secures sisters. Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire

"The invisible and voiceless, particularly vulnerable women, innocent beautiful precious newborn children; little girls and boys, who should have survived, grown and thrived, learnt and laughed, worked and played, participated in society and perhaps even led it." 

He said it was to the current Council’s “eternal shame,” that both mothers and their children were failed at a time when they most needed its support and protection.

"We also remember today those for whom this apology is sadly too late,” Mr Charity said.

"To the shame and sorrow of all of us, this Council did not ensure that those who died in the Tuam Mother and Baby Home were afforded the dignity of an appropriate place of rest, which was the very least that they deserved.

Mr Charity said the council was “profoundly sorry” for not having the “foresight or courage at times to ensure the welfare of those entrusted to its care was paramount.

To all those with a personal connection to the Tuam Mother and Baby Home, in particular, the frightened mothers and innocent children, to their families and to the people of County Galway, Ireland and beyond, this Local Authority is humbly sorry.

Chief Executive of Galway County Council, Kevin Kelly, said that the lack of respect and dignity afforded to the women and children in death was "particularly upsetting" and a source of great hurt and sorrow. 

Galway County Council praised the work done by Tuam locals, particularly historian Catherine Corless, for their "commitment and respect the local residents in Tuam have afforded to maintaining the site in Tuam over several decades." File Picture: Laura Hutton/RollingNews.ie

Galway County Council praised the work done by Tuam locals, particularly historian Catherine Corless, for their "commitment and respect the local residents in Tuam have afforded to maintaining the site in Tuam over several decades." File Picture: Laura Hutton/RollingNews.ie

The Council accepted its role in failing to ensure that these individuals were afforded the dignity of an appropriate and respectful resting place.

Mr Kelly acknowledged the work of several local residents in and around Tuam who had afforded "dedicated care, commitment and respect to maintaining the site in Tuam over several decades."

He singled out the work done by local historian Catherine Corless in particular, calling her "a heroine"

"There is no description which can more aptly or appropriately apply to Ms Corless other than to acknowledge her as a 'heroine', who is deserving of all of our admiration, and of our profound and deepest respect, for bringing the dark history of the Tuam Mother and Baby Home out into the open.

Mr Kelly said the Council was fully committed to supporting the full range of actions agreed by Government including progressing on the work already undertaken directly by Galway County Council in relation to providing survivors with appropriate access to archives and records. 

"The Council acknowledges the commitment by Government to advance burials legislation to support the excavation, exhumation and, where possible, the identification of remains together with their dignified reburial," he said. 

He said the Council has and will continue to "actively assist the ongoing work to implement the Government’s agreed course of action and response for the Tuam site". 

"No one can change the past; however, it is important that we accept and learn from it, acknowledge the sad and painful truth, the personal impact and heavy burden carried by survivors and humbly acknowledge our failings," he added.

More in this section

War of Independence Podcast

A special four-part series hosted by Mick Clifford

Available on
www.irishexaminer.com/podcasts

Commemorating 100 years since the War of Independence

Home Delivery
logo-ie

HOME DELIVERY SERVICE

Have the Irish Examiner delivered to your door. No delivery charge. Just pay the cover price.