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Bishop of Tuam Issues Press Statement on Mother and Baby Home Scandal

The bishop of Tuam has released a statement in which he seeks to distance his diocese from the appalling treatment of the women who were locked up in the notorious Mother and baby Home.

In doing so, he follows in the footsteps of Cardinal Cahal Daly, who also sought to distance himself from any responsiblity for the monstrous behaviour of Father Brendan Smyth, the paedophile whose activities brought down a government and first exposed to the world what was really going on behind the veil of sanctity in Ireland.

Daly, you might recall, pointed out that he had no authority over Brendan Smyth, because the priest was a member of the Norbertine order and was therefore under the control of his religious superior within that order.  This was why, according to Daly, he could not intervene in the priest’s rape of children.  He was powerless to do so.

Oddly enough, this lack of power didn’t prevent Daly’s successor from intervening in the activities of another priest who was also a member of a religious order.  Cardinal Seán Brady who, as a young priest, had sworn abused children to secrecy on pain of damnation, had no hesitation in stepping in when Father Iggy O’Donovan, an Augustinian priest in Drogheda committed a transgression in 2006.

His crime?  Iggy O’Donovan celebrated an ecumenical service with a Protestant clergyman, in a spirit of reconciliation and solidarity.

Thus we had two bishops of Armagh, one of whom could not stop a member of an order from raping children, while another was ready and willing to prevent a member of another order from reaching out to his friends and neighbours.

Bishops, as we have seen, are powerless when it suits them to be powerless, and that’s where Michael Neary comes in.  Michael is Archbishop of Tuam and I’m sure he’s a perfectly decent chap in his own way.  His response to the Ryan report seemed genuine enough and his unreserved apology on behalf of the Catholic church was convincing in its sincerity, but like most of his colleagues apart from Diarmuid Martin, Michael is a slave to Bishopspeak, just like any longstanding official  in any monolithic organisation, and his press release showed all the symptoms of that enslavement.

Michael’s primary purpose in issuing the press release seems to be this:  to distance his diocese as much as he possibly can from the Bon Secours order, in the hope that as little dirt as possible will stick to his predecessors.  That’s why he says as follows:

As the diocese did not have any involvement in the running of the home in Tuam we do not have any material relating to it in our archives.

Michael is being, as a bishop might put it, disingenuous.  The reality is that the Tuam Home would never have been set up in the first place without the express wishes of  Archbishop Gilmartin.

His Grace the Archbishop of Tuam is anxious that the Bon Secours Sisters should go there, Mr Jordan advised a meeting of Galway County Council.

Sadly, no photographs of Dr Gilmartin surfaced, but here’s a picture of his successor, Dr Walsh, who also had absolutely nothing to do with the Bon Secours Nursing Home.

Bishop of Tuam
Via @Limerick1914


There are many ways of exercising control, as we all know.  It is not necessary to manage an institution in order to control it, and anyone who ever had the chance to observe a community of nuns at close quarters will have seen how obsequious and grovelling they were to even the humblest clergyman, never mind a prince of the church.

When Dr Deeny, the Chief Medical Officer, unilaterally closed Bessborough Home because of the number of children it was killing, the Papal Nuncio complained him to DeValera on the order of Bishop Lucey of Cork, even though the home was run by nuns.

The bishops knew everything and the bishops controlled everything.  Let us not forget that this bishop of Tuam was the very same one to whom the entire county library catalogue was submitted for vetting.   Gilmartin selected the books to be burned, and yet, somehow, Michael Neary would have us believe he was a benign, bumbling old Santa Claus figure who had nothing to do with the systemic oppression of women in post-independence Ireland.

Isn’t it time Irish Catholic bishops stopped insulting our intelligence?

Bishop Michael must have written his press release hastily because he seems to have overlooked the fact that the 796 children on Catherine Corless’s list are not buried in a graveyard.  We still don’t know if they were thrown into a septic tank, but the fact remains that their location has not been established.

He also seems not to realise that the women who were incarcerated in the Home did not give up their babies, but were coerced by the nuns, by the local clergy, by their families and by society at large into doing so.  Or more to the point, he knows that full well and he’d prefer if you wouldn’t realise the same thing.

This is a characteristically  cowardly statement, of the sort we have come to expect from Irish bishops.  It attempts to push responsibility onto the nuns and away from his own office, while at the same time looking to gain the high moral ground by offering to seek a dignified re-interment for the remains of the children in what he calls consecrated ground.

The mealy-mouthed arrogance of that sentiment is astonishing.  To think that those children, or their abused mothers, would want to lie in the sort of ground Michael Neary regards as consecrated simply repeats the insult that was visited on them by Neary’s predecessors and by the nuns they controlled from 1924 to 1961.

This prelate needs to go away, meditate and be quiet.



Full statement from Michael Neary

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Book-Burning in 1924 Ireland

The Ireland of 1924 was a bleak place for anyone who didn’t subscribe to a narrow, rigidly Catholic view of the world, as the following newspaper extract shows.

The most conservative revolutionaries ever, as Kevin O’Higgins described himself and his colleagues,  wasted no time in getting down to ultra-orthodox business, stamping out everything that didn’t fit in with their emotionally-dysfunctional  outlook on life, and that included books.  Barely eight years later, of course, in another European country, book-burning would assume an even more sinister place in history, but the ignorance was the same.

The overbearing intolerance behind the acts of intellectual vandalism was no greater in Germany than it had been in Ireland, only two years after achieving freedom for a small elite and selling it to the masses as a great act of  liberation.

Just read this, from the proceedings of Galway County Council in 1925, in case you doubted what sort of country the freedom fighters carved out for the weak, the poor or those with the temerity to think for themselves.  Is this any different to behaviour we’d expect from the Taliban, or any of the other ignorant, oppressive religious extremist groups we like to condemn these days?

Context: this book-burning took place in an Ireland where unmarried mothers were classified as offenders.  It happened the same year the Tuam mothers and babies home was set up, where the Bon Secours nuns used the young women as slaves and penitents, and where 800 children died of malnutrition and neglect in the name of Christianity, because the Irish people were so ashamed of themselves, of their humanity and of their very survival that they treated their own daughters as pariahs and criminals.

The boldfaced text in this extract is mine, for emphasis.  The italics are from the original.

Personally, I find the arrogance, the ignorance and the sheer hypocrisy of this mindset staggering, but unless we face up to the fact that this is the State our freedom fighters carved out for themselves and their cronies, we have no future as a mature independent nation.



Book Burning in Galway 1928Contingent on the co-operation of the Archbishop of Tuam and the clergy of the county generally, as well as the intention of the scheme after the dissolution of the Irish advisory committee of the Carnegie Trust in 1924, it was agreed that the catalogue of the then circulating stock of libraries be submitted to the Archbishop of Tuam. Certain books were strongly objected to and on instructions from the Carnegie Trust the books and all existing copies of catalogues were withdrawn.

They may be classified as:– Treatises on philosophy and religion which were definitely anti-Christian works;

ex professor de obscenus novels of the following type —

(1) Complete frankness in words in dealing with sex matters;

(2) insidious or categorical denunciation of marriage or glorification of the unmarried mother and the mistress;

(3) the glorification of physical passion;

(4) contempt of the proprieties of conventions;

(5) the details and the stressing of morbidity.

The events related took place between December, 1924 and February, 1925, and the books in question never found part of the stock handed over to the County Council when they took over control of the library.

Since the disposal of the books in question was at the express command of the Carnegie Trust at a date prior to the taking over of the scheme by the County Council and thus in pursuit of an agreement to which the Council’s Library Committee was never a party, the Sub-Committee feel that the discussion of this matter is irrelevant, and that no useful purpose can be served in continuing it. By some oversight, several of these books got into circulation, and strong complaints had been made to members of the Committee about them.

Mr James Lee proposed that the report be adopted and Mr Eamonn Corbett seconded. Mr Corbett said that the burning of the books had received a lot of publicity. Mountains had been made out of molehills and the committee had been made a kind of cockshot. Whatever was done was honestly and conscientiously done in the moral interests of the people and they feared no publicity or criticism and had no apology to make.

Mr Peter Kelly said that not one per cent of the Irish people could object to the books that had been burned at the last meeting.  He thought that the kind of books that had been burned were one-and-sixpenny novels “in which things were put slightly bluntly.”  Every book written by Bernard Shaw should not be withdrawn.

The sub-committee’s report was unanimously adopted.



Credit for the research goes to Liam Hogan (the excellent @limerick1914 on Twitter).

Source: Storify