"The basic model was to contain and segregate anything that was deemed morally inferior by society." - Mari Steed, Justice for Magdalenes.On May 25th 2014 the front page of the Daily Mail announced "A mass grave of 800 bodies found". The grave was uncovered on the former grounds of an institution for fallen women and their illegitimate children. The institution was run by Bon Secours nuns and the bodies were infants buried inside a septic tank.
The story was a slow burner. It was not covered by domestic Irish papers nor by state media. The government was silent. But word spread through the internet. By June 4th international news agencies had picked up the story: BBC - "Almost 800 infants buried in unmarked graves"; Al Jazeera - "Irish Catholics under fire over mass grave"; Washington Post - "Bodies of 800 infants, long dead, found in septic tank at former home for unwed mothers".
Ireland's government, once again forced into reluctant action by international outrage, announced a cross-department initiative to examine how best to address details emerging about "mother and baby homes" and the burial of deceased children.
The emerging details are depressingly familiar. Huge shame was attached to unmarried mothers in a Catholic controlled Ireland where citizens were denied their basic reproductive rights and the powerful Catholic Church forced the resignation of a Health Minster for proposing maternity care for all mothers. Unmarried mothers, run out of their family homes and deprived of financial support, were often forced into institutions run by religious orders and treated as indentured servants:
"It was £100 to pay your way out. If you had the baby, you were free to leave in six weeks if you were able to pay. If you weren't, the nuns would put you to work. You might be in the laundry facility there at the home, you might be at the farm, my mother did sewing, etc. There were a number of things the nuns could have you do to earn your keep. We've found women who worked there for as long as five years for the nuns. If their families wouldn't take them, if they had nowhere to go, then yes, very often they would be sent on to a Magdalene laundry." - Mari Steed.Babies were pried away from their mothers arms and sold to suitable Catholic families throughout the US and UK. Infants who remained in Catholic care risked becoming another victim of the abnormally high institutional death rate. Today, survivors still fight to uncover the truth of their heritage by securing access to their own classified birth records.
Ireland was once described as the 'jewel in the Vatican crown' where poor people built some of the finest churches in Europe and helped spread Catholicism throughout the world. Now Ireland is just another warning of the consequences of a state becoming dominated by religion and implementing absurd sexual morality as social policy.
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits.
->How mid-century Ireland dealt with unwed mothers and their children, and why we're talking about it today
->Philip Boucher-Hayes: The evidence
->Tuam mass grave could be one of ‘dozens’.