Survivors of the Tuam Mother and Baby Home just want to be treated with dignity and respect in their dealings with the authorities, according to local historian Catherine Corless.
Ms Corless and a group of up to 35 survivors emphasised this sentiment when they met with two Government Ministers at the Corralea Court Hotel in Tuam for over two and a half hours last Friday.
Ms Corless, whose tireless research brought to light the mass grave at the institution of unmarried mothers, said the meeting with Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone, Local Government Minister Simon Coveney, and CEO of Galway County Council, Kevin Kelly, “went very well”.
“The survivors met together first beforehand and so were well organised. They asked tough questions but it was very dignified. It was a very good meeting,” she said.
It was organised after Ms Corless met with Minister Zappone in Dublin some weeks ago.
“She asked me what is it the survivors are looking for. Compensation was never mentioned. I haven’t met one survivor who has mentioned compensation. What they are looking for is acknowledgment, an apology, and to be kept informed,” said Ms Corless.
She explained that survivors feel that an injustice continues to be meted out to them because they continue to be treated shabbily.
Ms Corless said there was “disappointment” that neither minister nor Mr Kelly had answers in relation to the coroner’s findings.
Some of the survivors want to rebury their loved ones elsewhere. In order to do this, they need to know whether they have DNA results of the deceased.
“They want to know whether it is possible to remove them individually . . . it was a disappointment that they didn’t get answers on that.”
Ms Corless said another key issue of concern is the stumbling blocks being put in place of survivors who are trying to access records and information.
“The Church and the Bon Secours won’t give it to them and Tusla (State’s child and family agency) is making them use FOI (Freedom of Information) and to hire solicitors to get records about their lives. That’s still a reflection of how they are being ill-treated all these years later. It is an insult to them and they feel let down again,” she said.
Survivors were angry, too, that the County Council had decreed that the site should be declared a monument and a peace garden be erected as a remembrance.
This was done without consultation with survivors, she said.
“That’s just another example of how they were treated by the County Council. That shouldn’t be a peace garden – it’s a tank. That’s an insult,” she said.
Overall, however, Ms Corless said Ministers Zappone and Coveney, and Mr Kelly were “very sincere” and gave “no empty promises”.
They did “promise sincerely” that access to records would be made easier for survivors.
Minister Zappone also pledged that any updates would be sent to Anna Corrigan of the Tuam Babies Family Group so that survivors could hear about any developments first, rather than reading about it in media.