Luke Silke and Greg Daly
Former residents of the Tuam Mother and Baby Home have rejected what they see as attempts to use controversy surrounding the home to promote legislation permitting wider access to abortion in Ireland.
One former resident, a prominent campaigner for the full story of Tuam to emerge, told The Irish Catholic that he wanted to challenge media outlets for “using the Tuam story – our story – my story as a platform from which to push for legal abortion”.
The man, whose identity is known to The Irish Catholic and has appeared before the commission investigating the controversy surrounding Tuam, asked only to be identified as Patrick. He said he strongly disagreed with attempts by some pro-choice campaigners to link Tuam with a campaign to repeal the Eighth Amendment. “I disagree with that – that’s beyond a joke now,” he said.
“They now want to offer abortion as a solution to ‘unwanted children’ – sure isn’t that me,” he said. “If abortion was legal back in the day, I probably wouldn’t be here. The people that were born in Tuam – sure we’d be the first ones aborted.”
Insisting that each human life is “a life no matter what, regardless of circumstance”, Patrick said that “legalising abortion would be a huge step back into the dark past where the vulnerable and ‘unwanted’ children were discriminated against”.
Attempts to link the pro-choice cause with Ireland’s historical mistreatment of unmarried mothers have been common at least since Galway Pro-Choice held a vigil in June 2014 for the Tuam mothers and babies. At the Citizens’ Assembly this March, one Tuam woman asked whether the Church had any credibility in making the argument that all human life matters, given what she called its “horrific track record” in caring for the vulnerable in Ireland, “specifically, in the light of the recent discovery of 780 babies’ and infants’ bodies thrown into septic tanks in Tuam”.
A fellow onetime resident of the home, Walter Francis, joined Patrick in saying “We wish to see the Eighth Amendment retained in the Constitution. If abortion was legal back in the day, we mightn’t be here today.”
A granddaughter of a woman who gave birth in the home in the late 1930s, who is also known to The Irish Catholic but asked simply to be known as Ger, said her grandmother, despite living to see stories about the home dominating national headlines in 2014, “always spoke of the positive experience she had while in the home, and had no bad words to say about the nuns who worked there.
“It still baffles me how the media can run the pro-abortion narrative alongside the ‘dumped Tuam babies’ narrative without seeing any contradiction,” she said, adding that the Eighth Amendment guarantees protection to the most vulnerable.
Similar confusion was expressed by Mary Moriarty, who in October 1975 entered the crypt on the home’s former grounds and who helps people raised in the home trace their relatives. Mrs Moriarty, who has also submitted evidence to the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation, said: “I cannot understand why this story is being used as a platform by some from which to campaign for the repealing of the Eighth Amendment”.
Declaring herself to be “totally against abortion”, Mrs Moriarty urged adoption as an alternative, saying “there are people crying out for children”.
Citing her own experience, Mrs Moriarty described how her “niece was told one time that her unborn child wouldn’t survive beyond birth and was advised to have an abortion.
“She didn’t take the abortion anyway and that child is 15-years-old now and he’s as cute as a fox!” she told The Irish Catholic.
Cllr Martin Ward, a former Mayor of Tuam and member of the Children’s Home Graveyard Committee who like Mrs Moriarty has given evidence to the commission, took issue with those who have suggested that the Church had been involved in covering up the deaths and burials of children at the home.
“The media have also, most defiantly, been using the Tuam story to push for legalised abortion, something which many members of the committee disagree with,” he said.
“In the past, the State hugely let down ‘illegitimate’ children,” he said, continuing, “let’s not let this happen again – please save the Eighth amendment”.
The Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation is due to report next February.