By Rose Barrett
The leak of the report into Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation has been blasted as the “final betrayal” by Dublin survivor Tony Kelly.
Tony, from Kilnamanagh in Tallaght, spent just a few short weeks with his mother after his birth in June 1946 before being sent to St Theresa’s Mother & Baby Home in Blackrock.
He says the shocking tales of abuse, neglect and cruelty published in the report of the Commission of Inquiry brought no surprises.
The report cited up to possibly 9,000 deaths of children across 18 institutions – that’s one in seven, far higher than the infant national mortality rate.
At 74, Tony has many vivid memories of cruelty, both physical and mental, and of sexual abuse by those in authority.
“The report says 9,000 babies died in the care of these institutions – I would have thought it was far higher,” said Tony who experienced a brick wall for decades as he pursued a search for his birth mother, Bridget Kelly.
“I was placed in 10 foster homes and two institutions up to the time I was five and a half years old,” he told Dublin Gazette. “Then I was sent to Swinford, Co Mayo to a foster home where I had a hard life and was treated badly. At 15, I was put to work for Mayo Co Council”.
Tony feels the leak is the ultimate hurt. And the recommendation that only those with a laptop can access the report digitally, is a further insult.
“The survivors of mother and baby homes are now quite elderly and not everyone is IT savvy. What planet is the Minister and his staff on? Even if hard copies were available, we cannot travel outside a 5km radius – we are in the midst of a pandemic.”
Tony added: “I have had several phone calls today from survivors like myself who are very upset and feel totally abandoned by this government.”
Tony’s own search for family was one of pain. He revealed: “I was even told that files had been destroyed in a fire – and that I couldn’t access the files as I had been adopted which I hadn’t been.”
When Tony who now lives in Kilnamangh, Tallaght was eventually given the details of his mother, Bridget Kelly, it was in fact, the wrong woman of that name.
Tony did get to meet siblings from his father’s side, the Quinn family, mainly resident in the UK. But he has not managed to locate his full birth sister, Jane Kelly.
Heartbreak for him too when a well-intentioned man contacted him and advised him to attend the funeral of a woman in Deansgrange, Dublin. Tony attended and noted a woman and man watching him. The man whispered “Go over and talk to him.”
“It turned out I was attending my mother’s funeral but it was 29 years later before I learnt that. The woman I saw was my aunt Jane.”