The discovery of the bodies of nearly eight hundred small children who had been killed through neglect in a- so called “mother and babies home” in Tuam Co. Galway is so horrifying that all but paralyses our ability to think. But it must not do so.
Shock and outrage are not enough. Of course everybody must be outraged- especially those of us who know and love Ireland. But as is so often the case the right response is the intelligent response. We have thinking to do. We need to know ( in so far as we can ) what happened. And in order to know this we will have to ask some very specific questions. As our investigations proceed further questions may emerge, but in the first instance we need to:
- Get access to all the records of the deaths concerned. But in doing so we must be aware that there could be significant privacy issues.
- We need to match the individual remains against the records. (The fear must be that the records underestimate the number of deaths.)
- To do this we may have to identify as many of the individual remains as we can by collecting DNA evidence from them and from any of their surviving relatives who can be identified. This process will of course be expensive and time consuming.
- We must establish in so far as we can whether or not the cause of death reported in the records was accurate. And if not not, we need to find out why the child concerned really did die.
- We need to make similar investigations into all the other “mother and baby” homes which existed within the state.
- We need to consider whether such investigations should be made in Northern Ireland.
- We should also compare the death rate in Irish “mother and baby homes” with that in other similiar institutions elsehwere at the same time. In this connection it is worth noting that we will not be able to establish the death rate at Tuam or anywhere else unless we know how many inmates there were in the various homes concerned. This figure may, of course, have changed considerably over the lifetime of the home.
These investigations will take a long time; and will cost a lot. They will be comparable in scope and expense to the investigations of Bloody Sunday. This is only right. They are equally important- as we will only know how to proceed in this terrible case when WE REALLY KNOW WHAT HAPPENED AND WHO WAS RESPONSIBLE.
The government must move at once