World news – “Uncomfortable women and children” were best kept “out of sight” in mother and baby homes





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So we are reminded once again: Of course, before television came in Ireland, there was sex. However, there is strong evidence that for decades we haven’t talked much at all about this essential facet of human existence.

Take two almost unrelated vignettes that emerged from the 3,000-page maternity and baby homes investigative report.

In the first case we were informed that the then junior minister of social affairs, Frank Cluskey, passed laws in 1973 that grant unmarried mothers an allowance for the first time.

But absolutely no one else in the Dáil Chamber contributed to the discussion, and after that there was no more comment in the local or national media.

In a steely tone, the author of the report notes that the silence showed that Irish society as a whole was unsure whether this new allowance was good or bad.

Our second vignette relates to the 1940s , a period during World War II or the Irish Emergency when government inspectors raised serious concerns about the outrageously high number of so-called “illegitimate” children dying in these homes.

The author of the report frequently cites the added difficulties of providing food, fuel and clothing in times of scarcity – but goes on to argue that this did not tell the full story.

The report notes that A similar problem was reported during the war in Birmingham coping with the ravages of a German lightning bolt – with excessively high death rates among children of unmarried mothers in care.

The Birmingham health authorities set targets for reducing child deaths that were soon to be met, with community averages generally below child mortality rates.

In Ireland, the authorities preferred that these uncomfortable and ill-fitting children remain “hidden and not discussed”.

At this point one may wonder how we got to the position we were in from the founding of the state in 1922 to the last of these unfortunate ones Cases totaling 56,000 mothers and 57,000 children in various uncomfortable detention centers in these places had places were closed in 1998.

We know that « the unions » or workhouses were the last resort for abandoned unmarried mothers and their children for much of the 19th century.

At the beginning of the new century a Vice-Royal Commission was set up to which should report on how these issues of poverty and public order could be promoted more effectively.

This group’s report from 1907 gave rise to the idea of ​​the mother and baby home.

The details would be very different – but the basic model was that religious organizations of one type or another would build these houses, usually with funding from the local authorities.

When the new Irish state in 1922 amid a multitude of As immediate and existential problems arose, including a raging civil war, this system only slipped under the aegis of the new Dublin government.

We learn that there is no evidence of ministerial discussion of these mother and baby problems – not just for much of the early years, but very likely for several more decades.

For much of that time, that was Business done by the local councils in charge of the Department of Local Government and Health Care.

At least part of the justification for the Dublin government’s long silence was that this system was largely a fiefdom of the local government, at least in name.

Even after the establishment of a separate health and social affairs department in 1947 and the gradual separation of health care from local councils, the lives of those living and working in maternity and baby homes took a huge toll slowly to change.

In some cases the nuns who ran these houses were councilors and received a salary with a bounty paid for each mother and child.

The local Catholic bishop and his administrators had significant influence – the Nuns who ran these facilities were required to seek permission from the bishop to settle.

However, there is little evidence that the bishops conduct day-to-day management and there are instances where the influence has been exaggerated. </ The report notes that a Bishop of Cork spoke of intervening in the Bessborough case, but little documentary evidence was found in the archives.

In another case, there is evidence that the Galway district chief was very concerned about the Archbishop of Tuam’s views on the location of a mother and child home.

The archbishop insisted that the location be remote , should be isolated and well fenced in to avoid male callers who might “upset” the inmates.

In this and other matters, the bishops have had significant influence over decades of the state’s history.

The report, however, is reasonable noted that neither the church nor the state have required young mothers in need to go to these homes.

The lack of options was because the father of their child and / or their own family either could not or would not offer them any other means of protection or subsistence.

The reasons for the lack of other options are profound personal and relate to lack of money and large families.

In simpler terms, this refers to the lack of space for a newborn and the social values ​​that made pregnancy out of wedlock a deep shame for both the young woman and her extended family.

The importance of the family farm or business and the need to enter into a « respectable marriage » were far more important.

Likewise, the author again reasonably argues that neither church nor state established these societal values ​​that seem arcane and brutal these days.

The Catholic Church promoted sexual puritanism while the new government passed contraception, divorce and abortion laws while censoring publications and films.

The main report concludes that daily life in these places  » Fundamental “and was appropriately compared to the material living standards of many less affluent people in the general public.

There was also no evidence of violent abuse in the appalling stories of many industrial schools that came to light in similar reports.

But there was a deep lack of love and care – and at times a malicious lack of compassion.

Stories about how to mock a frightened young woman in the middle of childbirth for paying for her promiscuity are truly appalling – and the past decades cannot erase their pain.

The deaths of 9,000 children – more than j Every sixth to have ever lived in these places – is compounded by the lack of care in records, including health and funeral records.




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