Sadness & despair at events in Tuam

By Barry Lord

The horrific discovery of the bones of nearly 800 babies aged between 35 foetal weeks and 2 to 3 years, on the grounds of a former mother and baby home in Tuam, Co Galway should have brought the country to a standstill.

Yet the sense of outrage has felt slightly muted.  There will be myriad reasons for this.

Newspapers, despite their coverage, will be understandably reluctant to point the finger of blame simply because although many may have decided who the culprit, or culprits, for this grotesque and callous act of human disposal are, there is no-one standing in the dock at this time and there will be no shortage of sharp elbowed, legal eagles engaged and lying in wait to pounce on any misdirected allegation.

People in my local community, many of whom would have been children themselves during the period this macabre story was unfolding have shown equal restraint in their condemnation.


This too is understandable. For them, the church still holds a place in their hearts and the idea that a branch of this sacred institution may have played a part in such an appalling tale must be a cause of inner torment.

The other reason, and I sincerely hope this is not the case, could be that given our recent history, we are now so inured to scandal and cruelty that we are capable of absorbing it and moving on with the rest of our day.

I can only underline once more that I hope I am mistaken.

We all react to tragedy in different ways and as the revelations continue to emerge, my own feelings are of sadness and despair because once again, the image that I’ve always had of my country, one built on solid family values and fundamental decency has been rocked by the sins of the past.

I despair for my grandparents’ generation. Like most of their friends and neighbours, they regularly attended mass, prayed for the sick and the dying and respected the role of the church in their community.

In their quiet prayers, they would have felt assured in the knowledge that their countrymen and women would not have been capable of the kind of inhumane behaviour which this house in Co Galway is reported to have borne witness to.

So I am relieved that my grandparents never learned about the case in Tuam, or for that matter the physical and sexual abuse of children by priests, the sustained exploitation of young women in the Magdalene laundries and the black market selling of babies to American families.

Equally, I think of the younger Irish generation. As the debate continues about repealing the 8th Amendment, how hollow will the Church’s views on the sanctity of human life sound to them now they’ve learned how the bodies of children, whose only ‘crime’ was to be born out of wedlock, were regarded as unfit for a dignified burial and somehow ended up in a sewage structure.

In other words, human life reduced to human waste?

Those who survived the experience tell of a type of segregation between the kids in the care of the Bon Secours Sisters and the neighbourhood children.

Those labelled the ‘children of sin’ were not allowed the simple pleasure of playing with other children their age.

They were regarded as subhuman, not good enough or entitled to the life they were given, but seemingly good enough to serve as slave labourers.

It’s enough to boil the blood.

I visited a friend of mine over the weekend who had just welcomed her fourth child into the family. She had given birth three times while out of wedlock.

I couldn’t help but wonder if in light of this weekend’s revelations, she felt fortunate to be living in 2017. Her parents were not sufficiently ‘shamed’ into banishing her and so she and her children could thankfully live and grow in more civilised times.

I wanted to know if she did indeed feel that way. But it didn’t seem the time or place to ask.

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