FAQ — Mother and Baby Homes
No. Babies continued to be murdered by their mother or her family while the mother and baby homes were open. Several mothers were convicted of infanticide and were sentenced to death (all of them commuted). If we ask what benefit would accrue to the women managing the homes, the whole sordid story is revealed as one big conspiracy theory. No only was there no benefit, there were many deterrents and unacceptable risks. First, even though the Irish legal system and juries were extremely forgiving of women, especially mothers who committed infanticide, they were less forgiving of others. Second, if a death sentence was not a deterrent, then religious women risked offending God and excommunication from the church. A sanction which would have the effect of ruining their entire life’s work. Third, all deaths were certified in accordance with the law and a coroner’s inquest held when deaths occurred that were unexpected or unexplained. Fourth, all the infants and children died of diseases which were rampant and killed many more legitimate children. Fifth, no mass murder in history issued death certificates to its victims.
No. It is a total lie, and one repeated by many politicians in parliament and elsewhere. The story arises from an inept interpretation of the medical term ‘marasmus‘ which appeared on many death certificates of infants. Marasmus is a form of malnutrition which arises from the failure of the patient to absorb sufficient nutrients to sustain life. If a doctor certifying a death suspected the death was due to starvation, then he/she would use the term ‘death due to starvation’. Marasmus appears on death certificates belonging to many infants in all of Ireland’s maternity hospitals. If it is an indication of starvation, why was there no commission of investigation established to look at potential cases of murder at these institutions. The answer is simple, marasmus was not starvation and yet, troublingly, no politician has admitted a mistake and apologised. The commission, on this issue, agree based on the advice of a paediatrician.
No and kind of! Women were not abused in mother and baby homes, full stop. However, the commission interpreted some of the living conditions as ‘dire’. The misinterpretations within the report — and there are many — are due to a lack of knowledge of past social conditions and invalid comparisons with the social conditions of today. The poor living conditions of yesteryear are unimaginable to the affluent generations of today. Consequently, they are shocked when they find records of people living in these conditions and write with emotion rather than reason. Properly educated historians are taught to interpret events in their correct context. In this case the appalling living conditions of the poor in other counties, including wealthy countries, would have provided a good historical context, but that was avoided.
No. A total lie. Women had to apply to get into a home, none were forced against their will by the authorities. Moreover, as part of a successful application, women had to promise to stay resident in the home for one or two years to help rear the baby. Breast milk could only be bought by employing wet nurses, and they were in short supply. Even today with the ”breast is best campaigns, many infants die from the world’s biggest killer of infants in history, the babies bottle. Mothers were expected to give their baby the best start in life, but the majority of mothers did not stay resident for the full term as promised.
Many homes have been misnamed in recent years to bolster the conspiracy theories. Many homes were refuges for women and children, and many children resident were not illegitimate, nor were the mothers unmarried. In Tuam, the home was known as ‘the children’s home’, officially St Mary’s Children’s Home. Records show that a small number of mothers and their children, in crisis, were sometimes asked by the courts to reside temporarily at these refuges. This practice has been inflated to incarceration by some commentators, but it is easily exposed as a fantasy. The courts today make similar directions for the protection of vulnerable people. There is nothing unusual about such directions, nor are they a kind of informal incarceration.
Emphatic no. If anything, Ireland was a deeply philogynistic society which sought to protect women. Feminists now view old world philogyny as patriarchal condescension, but more troublingly have created a body of false history to curry pity and promote an agenda of victimhood. In reality, women were treated with a respect which was not afforded to men and boys. For example, women who killed their infants were often let off by judges and juries on the lesser charge of ‘hiding a pregnancy’. When this was not possible either by the mother’s admission of guilt or unambitious evidence – juries had to produce a verdict or murder but nearly always pleaded for mercy. Judges had to impose the mandatory death sentence, but again were benevolent in their comments. Despite the passing of several death sentences, all were commuted, the women released after serving a short sentence. Any man or boy with the same conviction would have faced the hangman. Of that there is no doubt.
Micheál Martin read parts and used his imagination to fill in the gaps. He states that crimes were committed, but nowhere in the report are the women running mother and baby homes accused of crimes. No Garda [police] investigation has taken place because there is no evidence of a crime. The crimes of rape and incest are mentioned, which occurred outside, resulted in pregnancy and admission to a care home.
Yes – only a fraction of the total number of illegitimate births took place in mother and baby homes. Moreover, many children were reared by their grandmother or aunt.
Yes. The commission of investigation were of the opinion that outside of a few medics, no one gave a damn about high infant mortality rates. This is a mistaken view due to a lack of medical knowledge on behalf of the commission of investigation. Had they any knowledge of medicine or science, they would have looked up the current scientific literature.
Science, noting the correlation between poverty and high infant mortality rates — but only in recent decades —has established a causal link between poverty and high rates of infant mortality. Had the commission been aware of such evidence they would not have made so many elementary errors.
Many politicians, even those with responsibility for current child welfare, did not read the report. Astonishing as it may seem, many on the floor of Dáil Éireann blurted out the same false stories which had been in the media, seemingly on the assumption that the commission would confirm the false reports.
Yes! The commission made several blunders due mainly to a lack of knowledge of medicine and current scientific research. Even some of their historical interpretation was amateurish, with presentism running rife. However, the commission did not get everything wrong, but their failures are evident of the issues of poor quality educational standards within Irish academia in general. However, despite putting the wrong spin put on historical evidence, the report contains sufficient detail to be able to spot inconsistencies between their interpretation and the evidence.