Will my questions ever be answered? Survivor (75) criticises lack of follow-up for Mother And Bay Homes’ victims
By Rose Barrett
Angry, bewildered, confused and devastated – these are the emotions of Tallaght man, Tony Kelly, who feels that months after the findings of the Commission of Investigation into the Mother and Baby Homes in Ireland, nothing is being done to help the victims.
Born in 1946, Mr Kelly is a survivor of the ‘homes’, which in many cases failed to provide tender care either to the women in labour or their offspring.
“I was placed in nine foster or state homes before I was six years of age,” said Mr Kelly who was finally fostered long-term to a family in Co Mayo. “I remember the father, a farmer being quite kindly; he was good to me but I experienced brutal physical and sexual abuse from other family members. I was simply acquired to assist in working around the farm, and was later put to work on Mayo County Council, aged 15!”
While he welcomed the publication of Judge Yvonne Murphy’s final commission report on January 12 this year, he became angry over the ensuing weeks that the true experiences of so many survivors from the ‘homes’ were not recorded in full within the report.
A man who spent decades in pursuit of finding his birth mother, Mr Kelly had attended her funeral without knowing the deceased was his mother. He speaks emotionally of his search for his mother named Bridget Kelly; initially he was told records from the time of his birth had been destroyed in a fire, he was then given an erroneous birth certificate after which he pursued and bonded with the family of a woman also named Bridget Kelly.
In time, he discovered the mistake but sadly, his birth mother had died in the interim and he has no bond with his maternal siblings or family. Happily, Mr Kelly did trace siblings from his father’s side, the Quinn family, in recent years, and they have embraced him into the family fold.
For Mr Kelly, the ‘Final Report’ of the Commission of Investigation was merely the starting point.
“I acquired detailed memos from 2012, instigated by Dr Declan McKeown, then Consultant Public Health Physician and Medical Epidemiologist, HSE Health Intelligence,” said Mr Kelly.
On October 12, 2012, Dr McKeown held a teleconference with Dr Davida Delaharpe, Assistant National Director HSE Health Intelligence and Mr Phil Garland, Assistant National Director, HSE Children & Family Services. This followed the finding of a large archive of photographs, documentation and correspondence relating to the adoption of children from mother and baby homes.
Concerned that communications could indicate evidence of “trafficking babies…..facilitated by doctors, social workers, etc,” Dr McKeown’s memo stated: “This may prove to be a scandal that dwarfs other, more recent issues with the Church and state,” ….”around adoption of babies, with or without the will of the mother.”
Dr McKeown noted this “must be sent to the Minister asap, with a view to an inter-department committee and a fully-fledged, fully resourced forensic investigation and State Inquiry.”
A Briefing Paper was prepared later that day and a third Confidential Draft was prepared on October 17 with an extensive report forwarded to Denis O’Sullivan, Principal Officer, Dept of Children & Youth Affairs, in November 2012.
This comprehensive document on Bessboro Mother/Baby Home prepared by Lesley Honan-Loucks referred to “clandestine” adoption arrangements, both foreign and domestic” …”and a damning destructive partnership of collusion, corruption and abuse between Church and State”.
“I made an official complaint to Noirín O’Sullivan, Garda Commissioner in November 2016 re these HSE reports,” said Tony Kelly “and also emailed the files – 1,000 in total – to Judge Yvonne Murphy, and to Minister Katherine Zappone,” said Mr Kelly who asked why there was no state inquiry and why were these files not given enough consideration in Judge Murphy’s final report.
In February, 2017, Lisa Hughes, PA to Minister Katherine Zappone replied to Mr Kelly stating the “HSE advised that these wider concerns would be examined separately by the HSE.” She further stated the department “was not aware of any subsequent reports supplied by the HSE in this regard.”
“Was she unaware of Loucks/McKeown weighted report forwarded in November 2012 to Dennis O’Sullivan?” asks Mr Kelly.
However, The Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (DCEDIY) stated that previous Ministers responded comprehensively to the issues raised by Mr Kelly and several responses were provided on the record of the Dáil.
It further noted: “The important concerns raised by a preliminary review of files by the HSE were examined within the scope of the independent statutory Commission of Investigation…all relevant files were made available to the Commission and the substantive concerns were fully investigated within the terms of reference of the Commission.
“Contrary to Mr Kelly’s assertions, these files have never been withheld from any investigation… and this has been communicated to Mr Kelly on numerous occasions.”
Within the final report by Judge Murphy, the Department spokesperson noted specific chapters on Tuam and Bessborough were included re infant mortality and the placement of children with consideration to the HSE data Mr Kelly refers to.
“The Commission heard direct evidence from a number of the staff involved in compiling the HSE report. In the case of the Bessborough report, this Commission stated: ‘The report was compiled by a person who was seeing these records for the first time and had very little time to do any analysis so it is not surprising that unwarranted conclusions were reached’.”
The Commission’s questioned that “this incomplete document came into the public domain and that the allegations were accepted as fact by so many people”.
However, in response, Mr Kelly persists: “They are referring to the draft memos but what about the comprehensive report sent in November 2012 to Dennis O’Sullivan?”
“In Judge Yvonne Murphy’s conclusion in the Mother & Baby report, she stated there was little evidence of “forced adoption” from 1922-1998. That clearly was debated in the following months when national media found evidence to the contrary.
“The HSE documents I refer to cite examples of ‘trafficking’ of babies for adoption, the procurement of monies from the adoptive parents and the poor birth mothers.”
Again, he asked: “Was there an internal inquiry within the HSE following Dr McKeown et al briefings and extensive report in 2012? Why did a high ranking HSE official like Phil Garland contact me in 2016 with these files which contradict what the Department says above?
“He felt so strongly that on November 8, 2016, he further wrote to the then Taoiseach, Enda Kenny and all high-ranking senior government officials of the day, citing “there was undeniable evidence of cases of forced adoption within the Mother and Baby Homes, that had been uncovered as a result of the Magdalen Inquiry.
“In fact, on June 27, 2014, Garland had written to Minister for Children, Charlie Flanagan and to Minister for Health, James Reilly on July 16, 2014 stressing “the evidence of systematic forced adoption with the cultural environment described” in the Ryan Commission (abuse), Magdalen Inquiry, Mother and Baby Homes and Adoptions, areas he felt were inseparable and inter-connected.”
Since 2012, Mr Kelly has legally acquired over 4,200 Mother and Baby Homes and adoption files. He firmly believes these files have not been given weighted consideration within the Commission of Investigation of Mother and Baby Homes.
The HSE and Garda Commissioner were contacted re Mr Kelly’s claims but declined to comment.
PHOTOS – Aishling Conway