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Connacht Tribune

Tuam residents are left to wonder what still lies undiscovered



Around 80 residents in Tuam are now wondering if they are sitting on the remains of dead children that were buried in the mother and baby home in the town; and they fear that their properties could now be excavated as the next part of this horrific investigation begins.

Homeowners on Athenry Road in Tuam, whose houses were built on the site of the Tuam mother and baby home, are now concerned that they could be living over shallow graves. Some are anxious that the matter be investigated.

The houses at Athenry Road in Tuam were built around during the 1970s when the mother and baby home was long closed. The houses were constructed by Galway County Council at the time.

Following last weekend’s revelation that human remains were discovered at the Tuam home, local residents are now concerned that their properties may have been built over ‘unofficial’ graveyards.

The revelation of the discovery of the children’s remains does not come as a surprise to local residents who either knew or had their suspicions that kids were buried there.

Residents are now of the belief that they are sitting on houses that are graveyards to little children who died in the home. They now want to place memorials there as opposed to having their gardens dug up.

Former resident of the area, Mary Moriarty moved into her house in 1975 and said that the site at the time contained a hospital, church and an old house before they were demolished.

She said that she saw a young boy playing with a skull and stick. She asked to see it and knew it was that of a child of around eleven as it had a full set of teeth. He told her that he had found it in a tank where there were “loads of them”.

Ms Moriarty said that it was outside the graveyard, where the current excavations took place, and she saw bones down there. There was a subsidence in the ground and she went down into the hole.

She saw what she described as “little bundles” wrapped in cloth. She immediately thought they were children, who weren’t baptised, who were put there. “I thought they were still-born babies,” she said.

Ms Moriarty said that Galway County Council had “an awful cheek” to give planning permission to build houses there when they knew there was a structure underneath.

“For me, they should not have built houses on it. There are tombs all over the place”, she maintained. She believes that there are graves underneath the playground which was built on the Bon Secours site as well as underneath the houses. Galway County Council have insisted that this is not the case.

The facility in Tuam was run by the Bon Secours sisters and closed in 1961. It has become the subject of an intense Garda investigation at the moment. The vast majority of nuns who ran the facility are now dead.

But the residents of Athenry Road and Tubberjarlath in Tuam now fear that they may be living on the remains of children’s bodies. However, they do not want their properties excavated as part of an investigation.

“We want to leave things as they are. There is nothing to be gained by further digs,” another resident told The Connacht Tribune.

After the home for mothers and babies closed down in the early 1960s, the grounds were taken over by Galway County Council who later built houses there. It is estimated that there are around 80 houses built on the mother and baby home in Athenry Road in Tuam.

Following the weekend revelations, residents are now concerned that they may be living on properties where children have been buried. But the vast majority do not want their properties unearthed as part of the ongoing inquiry. They want them to be left alone.

Most of the residents in the general Athenry Road area of Tuam were not shocked by the findings of Galway County Council who revealed that they had discovered human remains at the site. For the past 45 years local residents either knew or had their suspicions that there were children buried on the site of the mother and baby home.

Many want the situation exposed while there are others who simply want the situation to be acknowledged and a plaque erected in the memory of those buried there.

Connacht Tribune

Chief Medical Officer has a new string to her bow



The woman who guided Galway and the West through the global pandemic is taking over from Tony Holohan as Ireland’s Chief Medical Officer.

Professor Breda Smyth, HSE West Director of Public Health has been promoted to interim CMO.

The Mayo native takes over the role on July 4 when Dr Holohan resigns after 14 years in the position.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said that Professor Smyth would fill the role, on secondment, on a short-term basis until a new permanent CMO is appointed.

Currently she is a professor for public health medicine at NUI Galway, a consultant in Public Health for HSE West, and has specialised in public health for the past 16 years.

Professor Smyth was a member of NPHET (National Public Health Emergency Team), which advised on Ireland’s response to the pandemic including recommending lockdown restrictions and guidelines.

Professor Smyth said: “I am excited to have the opportunity to work together with colleagues in the Department of Health, and across our health and social care service to build on the considerable work done, both before and during Covid-19, to promote and protect public health and the health and wellbeing of the population of Ireland.

“The pandemic has placed a spotlight on public health, and I look forward to the opportunity to advance the public health agenda through important, cross-government initiatives like Healthy Ireland and Sláintecare to improve the health and wellbeing of the entire population including marginalised groups and continuing to address inequities in health.”

Minister Donnelly said that the process of recruiting a full-time replacement for Dr Holohan has started.

He thanked Professor Smyth for filling the role “on an interim basis until the completion of an open competition for a permanent CMO”.

Minister Donnelly said: “Professor Smith has a unique skill set with the requisite mix of academic, policy and frontline experience having provided leadership, expert and professional guidance of public health nationally and in HSE West over the last number of years. She has contributed significantly to the national response to Covid-19 in her many roles throughout the management of the pandemic.

“Professor Smyth brings this considerable experience, excellent leadership ability and extensive public health skillset to the role and I very much look forward to working with her.”

The new acting CMO also enjoys an extremely successful parallel life as an accomplished musician – a member of a family who have graced stages across the globe…including last weekend’s Galway Folk Festival when she played in Monroe’s.

A native of Straide, she and her siblings Cora, Maria and Sean – a founder member of the band Lunasa – are no strangers to the spotlight. Cora and Sean, like her sister, are also a qualified doctors and Maria, has a PhD in biochemistry.

“Music was very much a part of our lives,” she said in the past. “Our mother, Nancy, was a primary school teacher before we were born, and she brought us to classical music lessons. We played fiddles, tin whistles, bodhrans and piano – we tried out loads of instruments, but we’ve really remained with the fiddle and tin whistle.”

She toured and performed worldwide as a violinist with Michael Flately’s Lord of the Dance and Feet of Flames which included performances at The Ryder Cup and the prestigious Red Cross Ball for the Royal Family in Monaco.

Playing fiddle and tin whistle, she released her debut album ‘Basil and Thyme’ in 2002 and was subsequently nominated as female traditional musician of the year by the ‘Irish Music Magazine’.

She has recorded and performed with many international artists including Paul Brady, Eddie Reader, Sharon Shannon, Gerry Douglas, Luka Bloom, Hazel O’Connor and many more.

Breda Smyth also married into another musical family; her husband is Jimmy Higgins, percussionists with the Stunning and more recently a familiar presence with Christy Moore.

They have two children, Blathnaid and Donal, who is an accomplished soccer player, who left Galway United for a sports scholarship with UCD.

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Connacht Tribune

‘Invisible man’ banned for series of driving offences



A Conamara man who officially ‘didn’t exist’, and who did not obtain a driver’s licence because his birth was never registered, was put off the road for several road traffic offences.

Jason Sullivan (20) of Monas Place, Lough Conneera, Kilkieran pleaded guilty at Derrynea District Court to dangerous driving, drunk driving, and driving without insurance or a licence at Rosmuc on March 27, 2021.

Prosecuting Sergeant Pádraig Clancy gave evidence of the dangerous driving offence which included veering over onto the other side of the road, and driving at speed around bends and corners with Gardaí in pursuit.

At one point, he said, Sullivan’s car lifted off the ground and sparks were flying when it connected again with the surface of the road.

He was detected with 42 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood; the legal limit for experienced drivers is 50 milligrams alcohol per 100 blood, and it is 20 milligrams alcohol per 100 millilitres for learner and other drivers.

Subsequent to that, Sullivan was caught six times driving without insurance or a licence at various dates between March and June of last year.

Defending solicitor Michael McDarby said his client, a seaweed cutter and wind farm worker, pleaded guilty to all offences.

He explained his client’s birth wasn’t registered, which meant “officially he didn’t exist” and he could not get a driver’s licence because he had no birth cert. That was not an excuse, he said, but he has since been regularised.

Asked by Judge Mary Fahy, why his birth hadn’t been registered, Sullivan said: “I don’t know what happened; there was some mistake when I was born”.

Judge Fahy imposed fines totalling €850 plus a mandatory fee of €250 to the Medical Bureau for the blood test, and two-year disqualifications for each of the first four offences in March.

She imposed one-month prison sentences for each of the six subsequent no insurance offences, suspended for two years; driving without a licence on each occasion was taken into account.

“If you drive while disqualified you’ll go to prison,” she warned.

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Connacht Tribune

Extra Dáil seat likely for Galway East constituency



The Galway East constituency looks set to be restored to a four-seater in time for the 2025 General Election under a consultative process currently taking place.

Figures from the last Census suggest Galway is entitled to another seat – and the odds are that will be delivered in the east of the county.

But the redraw could also mean that voters in areas like Claregalway, parts of Oranmore and Headford would now move to Galway East.

At the moment the three Galway East seats are held by poll-topper Sean Canney (Ind), Minister Anne Rabbitte (FF) and Ciaran Cannon (FG) – but with or without a redraw Sinn Fein’s Louis O’Hara would have been in the mix after he was the ‘last man standing’ in 2020 with more than 7,000 first preferences.

The creation of a fourth seat in the constituency, as is now extremely likely, will clearly buoy up his chances of making it to Dáil Eireann.

Veteran councillor and astute political analyst Cllr Jimmy McClearn of Fine Gael told the Connacht Tribune that he did not see the two main parties making any gains in the constituency even if it was restored to a four-seater.

“We may be selecting candidates in the hope of gaining an additional seat but given the figures, the polls and the reality of the situation, I think we will be happy to hold our own,” Cllr McClearn added.

Fine Gael will select sitting TD Ciaran Cannon and while the party will have to run a candidate in North Galway, this is likely to be Cllr Pete Roche from Abbeyknockmoy who polled more than 6,000 first preferences in 2020 but didn’t make much ground after that.

Fianna Fail will have Minister Rabbitte but the expected addition of young Cllr Albert Dolan in Monivea is set to create a lively internal contest.

Tuam’s Donagh Killilea, who polled almost 5,000 first preferences for the party last time out, will be determined to get on the ticket as he too has designs on a seat.

While most party analysts believe that Deputy Canney is still destined to be a poll-topper, they concede that Sinn Fein is destined to make a gain as few believe that the other parties have any chance of making a gain – given their performance in the polls.

Independents such as Cllr James Charity (Corrandulla), Kilconnell publican Cllr Timmy Broderick, Cllr Evelyn Parsons (Ballinasloe) and Cllr Geraldine Donohue (Loughrea) may consider throwing their hats into the ring.

(Photo: the three sitting East Galway TDs after being elected).

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