RTÉ One Sunday 12 April 10.35pm
Local historian, Catherine Corless found herself catapulted into the public eye, when news that there were possibly as many as 800 babies buried in an unmarked mass grave in Tuam, Co Galway, hit the headlines last summer. That discovery turned her into a media celebrity overnight but also led to her meeting and helping many men and women born in the Tuam Home anxious to trace their roots and finally be free of the shame Irish society had made them feel about their birth.
PJ Haverty and Anne Kelly Silke were both born in the Tuam Mother and Baby home. Both were "boarded out " as young children. PJ was fortunate to find a loving home, but Anne, more typically, was moved from one home to another, more often treated as an unpaid servant than as a family member. Her childhood was one of beatings, deprivation and loneliness. As they grew up, both experienced prejudice for being a "Home Baby" and even found it hard to find a partner locally.
UCD historian, Lyndsey Earner Byrne, author of Mother and Child: Maternity and Child Welfare in Ireland, 1920s-1960s insists that these facts were known to official Ireland since the 1920s, when the Registrar general annually reported that the infant mortality rate in Mother and Baby homes was 3 to 5 times higher than in the Irish family.
Catherine's research proved what locals had long believed, children who died in the Home had been unofficially buried in its grounds. In the 1970s local residents tended a small grotto in the middle of a housing estate where babies were believed to be buried. Through tenacious research, Catherine has given each of these 796 children a name and told their story to the world.
Throughout her childhood, Catherine Corless had noticed sadness in her own mother who was also secretive about her childhood. After her death, Catherine discovered that her mother had been born in a mother and baby home in Northern Ireland and fostered out to various families throughout her childhood. She is saddened that her kind loving mother was made to feel ashamed and driven to secrecy throughout her life.
She hopes that the public enquiry will restore their dignity and self respect and give them the sense of validation they so richly deserve.
For those who may have been affected by tonight's programme Connect Counselling have a free phone line open till Midnight tonight
The numbers are ROI 1800 477 477 and NI 00 800 477 477 77
Further information at Connect's new website at www.connectcounselling.ie. Connect is funded by the HSE