Friday, 22 July 2016

Tuam Spirit Babies - A Broken Heart

A Broken Heart
The first of the 'keepsakes' arrived in the post yesterday, 'A Broken Heart' came from a woman in Donegal and it speaks volumes. Even before the package was opened, there was a powerful feeling from it. So much has been poured into this little, white square of knitting and the impact of it brings up questions about this this lady and her experience but also about her connection to this project. We've never met and her name's not familiar, yet here was a hand written letter and a hand knitted item which took time, effort and thought to put together. It shifted something in me which is exactly what art should do.
'A Broken Heart' pulls at the heart strings and leaves us wondering. 
In response, I've decided to share everything that comes in from now on, so we can all access that experience and have an online archive of the work. We'll all glean a lot from this part of the process and it'd be good to recognise the unique qualities of the individual within the group. I've spoken to a few people who are in the midst of their pieces and it's so interesting to hear how they are encapsulating their thoughts which vary immensely. 
Really looking forward to seeing what evolves. .‪#‎Tuamspiritbabies‬ Sadie

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Tuam Spirit Babies – Keepsakes

Just received this beautiful little keepsake and a hand written letter in the post, just now, from a lady in Donegal. It's called 'Broken Heart. 'Thank you for taking the time and for being the very first contributor. It's deeply touching.‪#‎Tuamspiritbabies‬

If you want to get involved there's plenty of time, just watch the video to find out how.

Tuam Spirit Babies - Atonement

Women and children were imprisoned in Ireland for the crimes of illegitamacy or poverty. They were brutally punished; often enduring heavy physical labour and held against their will for years upon end. Many were physically and sexually abused and the fundamental rights we accept readily as human beings were snatched from them. These were crimes against humanity. The Church and State were complicit in these acts and until they fully recognise this sordid past with an all inclusive judicial inquiry and an unreserved apology accompanied by generous monetary compensation, this cycle of apartheid (apartness) will continue to rear it’s ugly head.

The clearest evidence to date that the State hasn't acknowledged its past gross failings is in its treatment of Asylum seekers. The Direct Provision system is the current day equivalent of the 'homes' and therefore a legacy of them and represents a continuity of their injustice and horror. 

In order for the State to atone, it must end Direct Provision and tackle the housing crisis in order that children no longer are hauled up in inappropriate accommodation and exposed to unnecessary dangers.‪ #‎Tuamspiritbabies‬

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Tuam Spirit Babies - In Tuam

We'll be in Tuam on Saturday 13th August to start phase two of the Tuam Spirit Babies project. Please come and say hello.‪#‎Tuamspiritbabies‬

Tuam Spirit Babies - The Journal on inquiry terms.

From yesterday's Journal 19th July 2016 - Author Aoife Barry

Mother and baby home survivors say their community is "torn in half" over inquiry terms

They are seeking the remit of the commission to be widened and will hold a protest against it today.

Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

MOTHER AND BABY home survivors are to protest against the government’s commission of inquiry into the homes today.
The survivors are all part of the Coalition of Mother and Baby Home Survivors (CMABS), and they will be lodging a formal complaint with the government over the fact some homes are not included in the inquiry.
The group will hold a short protest outside the Dáil before meeting at the commission of inquiry’s headquarters on Baggot St, where they will hand in the official complaint. They are expected to hold a picket outside the building.
They are also appealing for a legal team to take on their case pro bono so that they can undertake a judicial review of the inquiry.
They say that Northern Ireland’s comparable historical abuse inquiry is making Ireland “look ridiculous”.
“Deeply unhappy”
Paul Redmond of Adoption Rights Now and Castlepollard mother and baby home told that the CMABS members are “deeply unhappy” with the inquiry.
He said that their biggest problem is that the inquiry “has the power to recommend to the government that it can expand its own terms of reference” and they are unhappy that certain survivor groups are not included in the scope of the inquiry.
He said that this included illegal adoptees. “We are looking for the terms of reference to be extended to cover all issues related to the treatment of single mothers and children in the country,” said Redmond.
The terms of reference can be read here.
He said that anyone who was not born in one of the inquiry’s named institutions “is completely excluded” because of the length of time that has elapsed since their cases.
CMABS had a full formal meeting with all the commissioners on the inquiry in January. “We put our case across to them – there’s no doubt we made our case,” said Redmond.
However he said that CMABS has not had a “definitive” answer on the issue.
It is understood that the commission cannot change its terms of reference – only the government can do this. However, it can make recommendations on changes to the terms.
The commission is not commenting on today’s protest.
Seeking justice
CMABS said that “survivors are dying without seeing justice and are profoundly wounded and injured” by the situation.
It’s expected that 30 – 40 people from across Ireland will attend today’s protest.
Asked if he had a message for the inquiry, Redmond said:
“Stop exclusion… stop tearing our community in half. The survivor community has been through enough; we deserve to be all treated equally and we deserve to be included.”
The commission is due to send a report on the inquiry to government next month.
Redmond said that if the commission doesn’t seek to extend the terms of reference, CMABS will be seeking a meeting with the Taoiseach.
The members of CMABS are Adoption Rights Now; The Bethany Home Survivors; Beyond Adoption Ireland; Adopted Illegally Ireland and the Castlepollard Mother and Baby Home group, in equal partnership with the Adoption Coalition Worldwide.
CMABS says it has offered the inquiry a low cost and speedy method to include all survivors. It is demanding an immediate acknowledgment, apology and redress from this government “while there is still time”.
CMABS is an umbrella group that came together in late 2013 to jointly submit a complaint to the UN Committee Against Torture.
The members of the commission of investigation are Professor Mary E Daly, Judge Yvonne Murphy and Dr William Duncan. The full list of homes being investigated can be found here.
By Aoife Barry - for The Journal

Monday, 18 July 2016

Tuam Spirit Babies - Missing mothers cont..

I always made the assumption that women interned at the Mother and Baby homes were young and unmarried but after pondering the age range of the five missing mothers from yesterday's post (24-42 years) I'm left with more questions. 
Bon Secours Mother and Baby home Tuam 

What kinds of backgrounds were these women from?
Were they unmarried?
Did they have other children?
What were the circumstances surrounding their eventual internment at the 'home'?
Did money exchange hands?
How long were they in the 'home' for?
Who signed them in and why?
Was this a common practice?
Were they returnees?
Are any of the babies still alive?(Patricia Hickey and Mary Bridget Joyce don't have death certs. in that case, what happened to them? Where are they?)

Questions were asked in the early 1990's when nuns who owned the vast Hyde Park Convent in Dublin wanted to sell the land where there's now a car park. It was the unmarked 'burial site' (a blank field) for former magdalene laundry workers. The nuns employed a grave digger Barney Curran(based in Kildare) BBC Our World 2014 Ireland's Hidden Bodies Hidden Secrets to dig up the remains of 133 bodies of women (it was done in secret.) The nuns stated there were 133 bodies beneath the soil, when in fact, 22 other bodies were also discovered. Barney observed that many of the bodies exhumed had plaster casts on their arms, legs, ankles.

Why did they have broken limbs?
Was this something experienced by women in other institutions or just typical to the Hyde Park Convent? 
Are there death records for these women?
How and when did they die?
What did they do with the bones once they were dug up?
Were these women acknowledged in a memorial?
Why was this done in secret?
Why was there such a casual reference to the exact numbers of women buried there by the nuns?
Is there are a correlation between the treatment of the women at the laundries and the women at the Mother and Baby Homes?

Some women went from orphanages to laundries and often to mother and baby homes and spent a lifetime interred behind walls. 
For what crime?.‪#‎Tuamspiritbabies‬

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Tuam Spirit Babies - Missing Mothers

We know from Catherine Corless's findings that five mothers died during their stay at the Tuam Mother and Baby home but their remains cannot be accounted for.dailymail

Mary Hickey died on June 3rd 1961 on the day she gave birth to her baby she was 36 years old. No burial record. Her baby died too.

Mary Joyce died on August 25th 1948 of whooping cough and cardiac failure. There is no 
burial record and she had a baby named Mary.

Bridget O'Reilly, 32 years, died from measles on May 20th 1947. No burial record.

Annie Roughneen, 42 years, died on August 13 1941 from TB. No burial record for her and her baby died only a few weeks before that.

Margaret Henry died of cardiac failure aged 24 years on April 4th 1940, her baby died a few weeks previous to her death. No burial record.

Where are there?

Is it possible that they, like some of the children are buried at the site too?

We also know from the findings from the 'Prime Time' programme 'Anatomy of a Scandal' that large numbers of baby cadavers were sent to medical schools to be dissected (without the mothers prior knowledge or consent.)

Is it a possibility that the mothers remains were sent there too? 
It was a common practice during the workhouse era.

We also know that human organs are traded on the black market now. 
Is it a possibility that this happened to some of the mothers?

We don't know. 

But what we do know is that places like Bolivia used to sell cadavers on the black market. I wrote a thesis back in 1993 focusing on Taboos in art and it observed artists who crossed the line of human decency and directly exploited either themselves or others in their unethical art.
I came across one particular artist named Joel Peter Witkin (I'm deliberately not going to include a link here) who had originally been a war photographer and during his time in this position witnessed and recorded some horrific scenes. It was something he never really got over but instead became obsessed with. All his work featured cadavers which he rearranged and photographed, until they looked like Carravagio 'still life's.' He imported the bodies from Bolivia and he was actually allowed to exhibit the resulting images in art galleries where they were sold. Totally unethical and outrageous, yet somehow was allowed to happen.     

Could this have happened to some of the mothers from the home?
The findings from the homes (nationwide) so far have been of the most sordid and dark kind. If the babies were traded and seen as a commodity then why not the mothers?  Anything's possible. 

These are not allegations but questions.
The vaccine inquiry was halted by the Supreme Court in 2002. Why was that?

Can we really trust the judicial inquiry's procedures and will all of the findings actually be revealed?

We don't know. 
In the mean time, there are questions over the remains of those women, as Catherine Corless has suggested, a dig at the site will yield the best results..‪#‎Tuamspiritbabies‬