Roman Catholic babies’ mass grave scandal in Ireland


This video says about itself:

“They were babies” – remains found in Irish church home’s sewers confirmed as human

4 March 2017

A significant amount of remains found in the sewers of a former church-run home for unmarried mothers in Ireland have been confirmed as human.

The remains, found in a disused sewer in the town of Tuam in western Ireland, are said to range from newborns to three-year-old toddlers.

The revelation follows decades of rumours and suspicion that hundreds of infants were buried in a mass grave at the site.

A government-ordered commission began test excavations in October 2014.

Read more here.

By Pauline Murphy:

A scandal that lay secret for too long

Saturday 25th March 2017

Why did no-one listen to the early warning voices about the cover-up of mass child graves at Bon Secours in Co Galway, asks PAULINE MURPHY

FOR decades, there had been mumblings about a mass grave bursting with the bones of children on the site of a religious-run mother and baby home in the west of Ireland.

In recent weeks those age-old mumblings were translated into fact.

Over the course of several decades, hundreds of deceased children had been discarded by the Bons Secours religious order in Tuam, Co Galway, and but for the incessant and fearless work of local historian Catherine Corless who uncovered the truth, it would have remained buried.

This 10 March 2017 video from Ireland is called A well deserved standing ovation for Tuam Babies Historian Catherine Corless.

These children, who died from a variety of causes, were the offspring of “fallen women” — a term which is alien to most people in today’s society.

In the Ireland of the past, a woman who had a child “out of of wedlock” was considered a wicked being, someone who brought shame on their family and parish.

The Catholic church, which wielded an iron fist over Irish society, would suggest the best place for these women was a mother and baby home where they could give birth to their “bastard” child.

Once the child was born it was tagged for adoption and more often than not it was given up for adoption to the highest bidder, usually in the US.

While many survived, many more did not, as is the case with the horror story which unfolded in Tuam.

An inquiry will now be set up to dig deeper into the rotten core of these religious-run homes which were scattered across the country.

Now that the church has lost its powerful position in Irish society, we are free to question the dark deeds carried out by religious orders in places such as the Tuam mother and baby home.

We may think that people cowered under the cruel society the church lorded over, but there are a few who did challenge the church and its harsh regime against ordinary Irish people.

The Irish Workers Voice was the newspaper of the Communist Party of Ireland in the 1930s and in its May 4 issue of 1935 it carried a report with the headline: “We demand an open inquiry into the scandal of Artane tragedy.”

It detailed the killing of a teenager by a so-called holy man in the Dublin industrial school of Artane.

The church-run mother and baby homes were set up to cage Irish women who stepped out of line while the purpose of the religious-run industrial schools was to keep “wayward” youngsters and “unwanted” orphans out of Irish society.

The report was based on an interview the father of the dead youngster gave to the left-wing publication.

Fifty-five-year-old Dubliner Patrick Byrne described how he saw the body of his 15-year-old son laid out in the hospital mortuary: “I saw my boy on Holy Thursday when he was lying dead at the Mater hospital. I lifted the shroud and his ribs and whole side were black and blue and his jaw was discloured.”

John Byrne had been playing football in the yard of the Artane industrial school when the ball accidentally hit the master, Brother Cornelius Lynch, who then turned on young Byrne and gave him an merciless beating.

The boy lingered for days after his beating at the hands of the schoolmaster before succumbing to death.

A hasty inquest was carried out by the school medical officer Dr Murphy who concluded that the cause of the youth’s death could not be determined.

Other boys in the schoolyard had witnessed the master beat the life out of their friend and John’s father was convinced his son had indeed died due to the harsh treatment he received at Artane, but nothing was ever done about it.

In the same report in the Irish Workers Voice newspaper, the father of the dead boy stated that his son’s body son was taken away by the church authorities and buried.

The grieving father never saw his son in his coffin and remarked to the newspaper: “There is something terrible and strange about it all, I’m not even sure if I buried my own son.”

The same report states that the death of John Byrne was not the first in the religious-run school that occurred under suspicious circumstances.

The report ended with the call for an inquiry: “No whitewashing but a free and full inquiry to reveal the facts.”

Those who challenged the church in such ways like this report in a left-wing publication were considered enemies of the state, they were seen as a threat to the power held by the church in a society crippled by conservative hands.

Now we look back and consider that these “subversives” were not the enemy, they were the brave few who did speak out against the authoritarian role of the church in Ireland.

In today’s Irish society we should take inspiration from them because the Catholic church chained the soul of this country, now it’s up to this generation to break the last few links of those rusty chains.

Irish Roman Catholic babies’ mass grave discovery


This video from Ireland says about itself:

Tuam babies: Excavation of children’s burial ground to go ahead

3 March 2017

Memorial: site of the mass grave in Tuam; there are many other burial grounds in Ireland. Photo: Niall Carson.

A test excavation is set to take place at the site of a children’s burial ground in Tuam, Co Galway.The excavation was announced today by the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation which is currently probing how unmarried mothers and their babies were treated between 1922 and 1998 at 18 State-linked religious institutions.

Excavation work will begin from tomorrow and last for approximately five weeks, it said. A sample of the site will be excavated by a team of specialist archaelogists lead by a Forensic Archaelogist. Works are taking place with the full co-operation of An Garda Sochna, the Commission stated.

It said the purpose of the excavation is to resolve a number of queries that the Mother and Baby Homes Commission has in relation to the interment of human remains at this location. This excavation will focus on timeline and stratigraphy. A fraction of the site will be excavated through test trenches, the location of which have been informed by a Geophysical Survey carried out at the site in October 2015, it said.

An excavation team has been engaged by the Commission under the conditions of confidentiality and will not answer any queries on this work or any other aspects of the Commission’s work. Residents and local groups are being informed of the impact of the planned excavation with assistance from Tuam Garda Station.

The Commission is grateful to the Garda and Galway County Council, the owners of the site, for their assistance. Neither is in a position to answer questions on this or any other aspects of the Commission’s work, it added.

Speaking at the site today, Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone said the work carried out by Catherine Corless on the Tuam home had been significant is setting up the inquiry. She said she had met the Commission on a number of occasions and had received an interim report into the matter. I have met the Commission a couple of times now and I do believe they have taken a very very serious approach to their work, she said.

Referencing the large number of people who have come forward to give evidence, Ms Zappone said: I do feel in terms of the job they were given its much bigger than they had anticipated but in terms of my meetings with them they are the people who bring the experience with them in order to do the best job possible, she said. Minister Zappone said the Commission had clearly explained it was on target to deliver the final report by February 2018.

Next time right-wing Roman Catholics attack women’s reproductive rights, claiming to be ‘pro-life’

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Mass grave of children discovered at former Irish home

Today, 16:12

In Ireland, forensic investigators have found ‘a large amount’ of remains of infants on the site of a former Roman Catholic home for unwed mothers.

The government in Dublin ordered three years ago to investigate the soil around the former home in the western Irish city Tuam, after a historian had found evidence of a mass grave. She investigated the birth and death records. A remarkable number of very young children in the home died between 1925 and 1961; probably about 800 children.

The remains found are of fetuses from 35 weeks old to three-year-olds, possibly victims of neglect. They were in twenty subterranean rooms of the home which at that time was run by nuns of the Order of Bon Secours.

The official slogan of that religious order is ‘Good Help to Those in Need’. It seems to have been mostly helping babies to early deaths.

Shame

Irish girls and women who got pregnant while unmarried were sent then to such homes to give birth there. In strict Catholic Ireland it was a disgrace to the woman and her family if she had become pregnant outside of marriage. Biological fathers may also have been better off with the mothers out of sight.

In the thirties, forties and fifties of the last century, the mortality rate among children of unwed mothers was more than five times as high as among children of married parents. On average one in four children born outside marriage died.

Archbishop

At the first indications of the mass grave in 2014, the Archbishop of Dublin said that “if something happened” in Tuam, then that was also likely to apply to a number of other mother-and-child homes from that era. The committee which was set up by the government is also investigating seventeen other institutions run by the Catholic Church.

The Irish Roman Catholic Church had to deal in recent years with a long series of scandals involving child abuse and neglect in the past.

The Irish Minister for Youth Affairs Zappone has called the news about the mass grave “sad and disturbing”. The inquiry will consult with local authorities what to do with the remains.

White loon in Ireland


Two great northern divers in Ireland, 'normal' winter plumage and leucistic, photo by Dermot Breen

From Dermot Breen’s blog in Ireland, with more photos there:

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Great White Diver

I was down around the Kilkieran way today. A fish farm just off Ardmore Pier has started up in the last year and has received a gathering of gulls, mostly Black-headed Gulls. It’s becoming a bit a struggle to find any location in the county in recent years that att[racts] more than a dozen large gulls. Nimmo’s Pier, Rossaveel Harbour and a lot of the previously productive Connemara fish farms are a shadow of what they once were. I probably saw less than 30 large gulls in all at Ardmore today which included a very brief flyover first-winter white-winged gull. I also had a white colour ringed adult Mediterranean Gull also here (too far to read).

While looking through the gulls I noticed a few Great northern Divers feeding quite close to the fish cages. I was pleasantly surprised to come across a leucistic Great northern Diver. It looked also like a pure albino from a distance but the wings were less than white especially the primaries. You could also make out the ghost image of the colour patterning on the head and neck at certain angles. The bird had a bit of a habit of opening it’s bill almost as if it was gasping especially just prior to diving. I’m not sure if this is a great sign of good health unfortunately? While doing a quick search online for leucistic Great northerns I came across a bird seen on Skye island, Scotland over the winter of 2015/2016 which looks very similar to today’s bird – note the darker primaries along with the pale greater and median coverts contrasting with the darker lesser coverts and secondaries.

This isn’t the first leucistic Great northern Diver I’ve seen as I had one bird up in Renvyle back in 2011. I’ve added two record pictures below. This appeared very similar to a bird that has wintered on and off in the Black Head area of county Clare and may well have been the same individual (note the brown foreheads of both birds).

Irish stone age discovery


This video series is called Irish archaeology and early history.

From Science News:

Stone adze points to ancient burial rituals in Ireland

Ceremonial tool found with cremated remains in island’s earliest known gravesite

By Bruce Bower

4:33pm, November 9, 2016

A stone chopping tool found in Ireland’s earliest known human burial offers a rare peek at hunter-gatherers’ beliefs about death more than 9,000 years ago, researchers say.

The curved-edge implement, known as an adze, was made to be used at a ceremony in which an adult’s largely cremated remains were interred in a pit, says a team led by archaeologist Aimée Little of the University of York in England. Previous radiocarbon dating of burned wood and a bone fragment from the pit, at a site called Hermitage near the River Shannon, places the material at between 9,546 and 9,336 years old.

A new microscopic analysis revealed a small number of wear marks on the sharpened edge of the still highly polished adze, which was probably attached to a wooden handle, the researchers report online October 20 in the Cambridge Archaeological Journal. Little’s group suspects someone wielded the 19.4-centimeter-long adze to chop wood for a funeral pyre or to fell a tree for a grave marker. A hole dug into the bottom of the riverside pit once held a tall wooden post indicating that a person lay buried there, the scientists suspect.

Once the adze fulfilled its ritual duties, a hard stone was ground across the tool’s sharp edge to render it dull and useless, further microscopic study suggests. The researchers regard this act as a symbolic killing of the adze. The dulled tool blade was then placed in the pit, next to the post grave marker, perhaps to accompany the cremated individual to the afterlife.

“By 9,000 years ago, people in Ireland were making very high quality artifacts specifically to be placed in graves, giving us a tantalizing glimpse of ancient belief systems concerning death and the afterlife,” Little says. Her conclusion challenges a popular assumption among researchers that stone tools found in ancient hunter-gatherers’ graves belonged to the deceased while they were still alive. In that scenario, tools and other grave items played no role in burial activities and rituals.

Archaeologist Erik Brinch Petersen of the University of Copenhagen is skeptical. No other European stone adzes or axes from around 10,000 to 6,000 years ago display blunted edges, Petersen says. That makes it difficult to say how such an unusual artifact was used or whether it was intended to accompany a cremated person to the afterlife. In addition, researchers have found only a few European cremations from the same time period.

Since there was no practical reason to turn an effective tool into a chunk of stone that couldn’t cut, Little responds, intentionally dulling the adze’s edge was likely a ritual act. Whatever the meaning, people in Ireland made polished stone tools several thousand years before such implements achieved widespread use in Europe with the arrival of agriculture, Little says.

Excavations in 2001 revealed the Hermitage burial pit. Two small stone tools lay near the polished adze. A couple more burial pits turned up nearby. One contained cremated remains of an adult human from around 9,000 years ago; the other held roughly 8,600-year-old cremated remnants too fragmentary to enable a species identification.

“Hermitage was a special place known about and returned to over hundreds of years,” Little says.

African Irish photographer’s exhibition


This video from England says about itself:

A Short Film on the London Irish Centre

Shot in Camden, north London, on 6th of February 2008.

Filmed & Edited by Eoin O’Donnell.

By Angela Cobbinah in London, England:

Black, Irish and proud

Saturday 22nd October 2016

LORRAINE MAHER tells Angela Cobbinah what inspired her to mount the ground-breaking #iamirish photography exhibition at the Irish Centre in London

WHEN she was growing up in County Tipperary in the 1960s, Lorraine Maher met no other black people and on the few occasions they came into her midst she would avoid them.

“I didn’t want to draw attention to myself in any way,” she says.

“I grew up in a beautiful town full of beautiful people but there was racism all around me. This was the age of the golliwog and the ‘black baby box’ to collect money for starving African babies.

“I knew I was different but my blackness was never spoken about and I spent my childhood just wanting to hide away and not be noticed.”

It did not help that her mother had handed her over to her grandmother to be brought up while she lived nearby with her new family.

“In those days it would have been very hard for my mother to have not only had an illegitimate child but a black one too,” Lorraine acknowledges.

“However, I had a very difficult upbringing and I am living with the effects of that.”

There were children like herself scattered all over Ireland, many fathered by African doctors who were based there in the 1950s and ’60s as a result of bilateral work and study programmes. The unluckiest ended up in the dreaded “industrial schools”, children’s homes run by the Catholic Church where abuse was said to be widespread.

Not surprisingly, Lorraine left Ireland as soon as she could, heading for the bright lights of London aged 17. It proved to be a liberation. “I arrived at a place where I met people of all colours and where no-one questioned my identity,” she says.

“At last I felt I belonged. I dropped my Irish accent and I started seeing myself as a black woman.”

But as time went on, she realised she was still very much Irish. “It is the culture I was brought up in and it is important to me. These days I say I am black, I am Irish and I am proud.”

It is this often painful journey to self-realisation that laid the seeds of the #iamirish exhibition she has curated for the London Irish Centre, tellingly its first ever contribution to Black History Month. Opened last week by Ruaidri Dowling on behalf of the Irish embassy, it is a display of stunning portraits by photographer Tracey Anderson that aims to question the concept of what it looks like to be Irish.

“It is a celebration of Ireland’s diversity,” explains Lorraine, who works as an education manager at the Clean Break Theatre Company and has four children.

“The photos are accompanied by family crests, linked to Irish surnames, to dispel the idea that if you are from a non-white community you are automatically an immigrant. I myself can trace my ancestry back thousands of years.”

The Ireland of today is very different to the one she grew up in, she agrees. The economic boom of the 1980s and ’90s brought in migrants from all over the world transforming the country’s monocultural view of itself and when Muhammad Ali visited Ennis in County Clare in 2009 where his great great-grandfather hailed from he was given a huge welcome.

But according to Lorraine: “Ireland may look very different but it is not as blended as it looks.”

The contradictions were brought home to her by two events earlier this year, which spurred her into organising the exhibition.

The first was the mayor of Ennis’s announcement that he was going to attend Ali’s funeral and the second was news the following day that two African students had been refused entry into a Dublin bar.

“I felt I really had to do something to bring the two communities together.”

The exhibition consists of images of people aged from one to 70-plus but all are anonymous. Despite that, it is full of warmth and optimism.

Bar a few Facebook trolls, the response has been extremely positive, says Lorraine, touching as it does the hitherto hidden lives of children like herself and the generations who have followed.

#iamirish runs at London Irish Centre, Camden Square, London NW1 until October 31. There will be an accompanying workshop and a panel discussion during the month. Details: londonirishcentre.org.