Another entry in Ireland’s squalid, hateful, brutal history – the discovery of a mass grave holding the remains of 796 infants and children in County Galway. Yes that’s right – mass grave, holding 796 infants and children. A crime scene, in short; a massive crime scene; a crime scene reminiscent of the crime scene at Robert Pickton’s pig farm.
According to a report in the Irish Mail on Sunday, a mass grave has been located beside a former home for unmarried mothers and babies in County Galway. The grave is believed to contain the bodies of up to eight hundred babies, buried on the former grounds of the institution known locally as “The Home” in Tuam, north of Galway city, between 1925 and 1961
Run by the Bon Secours nuns, “The Home” housed thousands of unmarried mothers and their “illegitimate” children over those years.
According to Irish Mail on Sunday the causes of death listed for “as many as 796 children” included “malnutrition, measles, convulsions, tuberculosis, gastroenteritis and pneumonia.”
Pause over the corrosive irony of that name – the Bon Secours nuns – the Good Help nuns. The Good Help nuns who took money from the state for “helping” those infants and children, who were so “helped” that they died in large numbers of malnutrition among other things. The Good Help nuns then threw them in a mass grave. That’s some good help all right.
The babies were usually buried without a coffin in a plot that had once housed “a water tank,” the report claims. No memorials were erected, the site was left unmarked and unmourned.
The staggering mortality rate of “The Home” was apparently replicated elsewhere in Ireland.
The Sean Ross Mother and Baby Home, portrayed in the award winning film “Philomena” this year, opened in Roscrea, County Tipperary in 1930. In its first year of operation 60 babies died out of a total of 120, a fifty percent infant mortality rate, more than four times higher than in the general population at the time.
And why? Greed and callous indifference for one, and hateful beliefs for another. The church viewed those children as filthy and degenerate, and treated them according to its sick view of how such people should be treated.
Statistics show a quarter of all babies born outside marriage in the 1930’s in Ireland died before their first birthdays. As observers have remarked elsewhere, these were infant death rates from the 17th century.
In one year alone in the mid 1940’s in the Bessborough Mother and Baby Home in County Cork, out of the 180 babies born 100 died.
Given the shockingly high mortality rates, it is hard not to conclude that the destabilizing threat these children represented to Irish society and its conservative religious ethos may have contributed to their untimely demise.
I wouldn’t even try not to conclude that. I think not concluding that would just defend the mindset behind it and the corrupt theocratic power that made it possible.