A woman who was interned at Bessborough Mother and Baby Home in the late 1960s and was separated from her son for over 50 years has said that more needs to be done to help surviving mothers and a Garda investigation should be established if criminal activity is determined by excavations.
Joan McDermott of Irish First Mothers, originally from Mitchelstown, said the Government needs to provide redress for mothers, set up a specific department to help children and mothers with reunification and consider a criminal investigation into what she calls a “mass genocide” of children at Mother and Baby Homes.
While Ms McDermott welcomed the decision by Childen's Minister Katherine Zappone this week to appoint a team of international experts in DNA testing – who will use who remote sensing to to determine whether a full excavation and potential identification of more than 800 remains is possible - to advise on the Mother and Baby home burial site in Tuam, Galway, she believes it is not far reaching enough.
“There was no mention of the mothers...Why didn't Minister Zappone make any reference to support, counselling and putting something in situ for the mothers," she said.
“I feel it was a bit disingenuous...I personally have seen the damage and the impact it has had on people's lives. They suffer in silence. Surely they need closure and some acknowledgement. Redress of would be of great benefit to people. As Minister Zappone said yesterday, people are getting older,” she added.
Ms McDermott said she is disappointed that the issue of what happened at Mother and Baby Homes is being treated as a series of historic events and wants any evidence of criminal activity to be pursued by the Gardaí.
“Once the excavations have been established and DNA has been established, whether you like it or not, this was a mass genocide and killing of babies. I personally feel that they should be calling for a police investigation into this. It is not a historical issue,” she said.
“I'm working with one particular woman whose baby was born in 1983. That baby disappeared after she came back from running an errand. She was told her baby had died but there's no death cert. She doesn't know where the baby is supposed to be buried," she added.
Ms McDermott was denied access to some of her records when she began looking for her son before she eventually regained contact with him four years ago. She believes a dedicated Government department should be established that would assist mothers and their children with the reunification process, operating separately from Child and Family Agency Tusla.
“Minister Zappone said she was working very closely with Tusla in order to hasten up the process of reuniting mothers with their children by allowing them access to their records. However, the difficulty for mothers and children is the lack of resources. A lot of the survivors have been autonomous in the reunions, it wasn't the Government that helped them.
“We need specialised social workers in their own department dealing solely with this issue alone. They say there aren't sufficient resources. I think Tusla has failed because in any individual case it's entirely up to the social worker's discretion to give you as much, or as little information, as they see appropriate. Have I not got the right to my own legal documents? I should have,” she added.
Minister Zappone said on Thursday that extending excavations of Mother and Baby Homes beyond Tuam was a matter for the Commission of Investigation.