Thursday 22 October 2020

Call for access and preservation of vast archive created by Mother and Baby Homes investigation

Last week I read that after six long years, The Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes is due to submit its report to Government. The Commission was set up following widespread claims in 2014 that the bodies of nearly 800 babies and children had been interred in an unrecorded mass grave in a Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, County Galway.

The Commission was charged to not only investigate the home in Tuam but also to explore the records and practices of an additional thirteen Mother and Baby Home as well as four county homes between 1922 and 1998.

With that report now completed, the archives of the commission are, under current legislation, due to be sealed for 30 years, thereby preventing women and children who were residents in the Homes to access information about their own lives and those of their families.

Catriona Crowe, who many Irish genealogists will remember as the National Archives of Ireland's Special Projects Manager responsible for coordinating the digitisation of the 1901 and 1911 Irish Censuses and delivering them online with free access in 2007-2010, has written an opinion piece, published in the Irish Times earlier this week, arguing that the 30-year closure would deny access to survivors and historians for an unreasonable length of time.

It's a well argued feature, and has attracted a good number of comments, mostly in support of her views. Definitely worth a read. Access it here.


If you're interested in the Commission's investigation and want to learn more about what happened in these Homes, see NUI Galway's Tuam Oral History Project (click image, right), which has enabled survivors of the Tuam institution and their families to tell their own life stories, in the way that they want them to be told.

These recordings are now being preserved and maintained in the James Hardiman Library in NUI Galway along with relevant personal documents.