Irish News

Tuam sisters’ silence due to terms of commission

The religious sisters at the centre of controversy surrounding the Tuam Mother and Baby Home feel unable to comment on the issue due to legal constraints, The Irish Catholic understands.

Recent revelations about the excavation of a general grave at St Mary’s Mother and Baby Home have been commented on both by Archbishop Michael Neary of Tuam and Dublin’s Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, the latter saying that: “Everything must be done to enable the truth to emerge.”

The home was run by the Bon Secours sisters, and the order has been sharply criticised by media commentators for not issuing a response to the interim report of the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation.

In his second homily addressing the subject, Dr Neary said he hoped the commission’s report will enable the truth to surface in a clear and objective manner, “no matter how unpalatable it may be to those on whichever side of the present discussion”. 

The sisters, who ran the Tuam home between 1925 and 1961, have refused to comment on the matter, save to say that the order fully supports the work of the commission and is committed to working with it. In 2014, a spokesperson for the order denied that there was a mass grave at the home.

Disclose

According to a source close to the order, the sisters’ silence is due to its compliance with the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004, Section 11 (3) of which provides that “a person (including a member of the Commission) shall not disclose or publish any evidence given or the contents of any document produced by a witness while giving evidence in private” except under certain limited and specified circumstances.

It is an offence to disclose any evidence given in private, other than in accord with the specified circumstances.

The source also questioned the propriety of the commission having released a statement about test excavations at the home, rather than withholding such information until the commission had completed its work.

The commission, which is chaired by Judge Yvonne Murphy, was established in February 2015, and is tasked with investigating and reporting to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs about such matters as the circumstances under which women entered 14 mother and baby homes and four county homes, their living conditions, mortality rates and post-mortem practices.