SALI reflects on the issues raised by the Tuam Documentary & UN Letter on the Burials Bill

The recent Tuam Mother & Baby Home documentary has presented shocking evidence

The UN has also called into question the Irish government's Burials Bill; the SALI members reflect on the issues

Members of the Separation, Appropriation & Loss Initiative (SALI), reflect on the issues raised by ‘The Missing Children’ Documentary & the UN Letter on the Burials Bill.

On Sunday (UK) and Tuesday (ROI), the full horrors of the Tuam Mother and Baby Home was laid bare before the Irish people and the diaspora. A documentary, ‘The Missing Children’, (in the UK), revealed a story that not only transcends borders but exposed the soft-underbelly of practices that delivered multiple breaches of human rights.

Experiences recalled the separation of Mother’s and Children, hard work, cold, hunger, loneliness, poor diet, failing healthcare, questionable adoption practices and death, all demonstrating the failure of charitable purpose and the delivery of State and Religious dogma

There are many issues arising from this latest exposé, not least of which is why successive Irish governments have failed to deal with these historic issues, and deliver a clear and unequivocal Justice to the victims and survivors of Tuam and other Institutions.

One key area requiring immediate action concerns the inappropriate burials of some 796 Children at the site of the former Institution in Tuam; similar issues exist at many sites throughout the island of Ireland.

The members of SALI believe that exhumation of the entire Tuam site (and indeed other sites), must be commenced without further delay. Further, they call for:

  • The full engagement of the Coroner,
  • The separation of all human remains into individual bodies,
  • An inquest opened to determine the cause of each individual’s death,
  • To establish that goal, there must be a post-mortem of each individual body,
  • Where any suspicious criminal or other circumstances are determined, either from a post-mortem or from any other factor, then those suspicions must be reported to the An Garda Síochána,
  • A full investigation thereafter by the Garda, utilising existing powers to access documentation to aid their enquiries,
  • At the conclusion of those enquiries, the Garda should take all necessary steps to secure the charging of individuals or corporate or association bodies or other entities, where criminal offences offend the individual rights, public interest and existing law,
  • Each individual body should be subjected to DNA testing and matched against all available databases - the same facility should be extended to all surviving families,
  • On the question of re-interment, this should be solely based on surviving family wishes and where no family is identified, provisions for re-interment should be created in Consultation with Survivor groups,
  • Finally, the Irish government should create a legal provision to obligate a recoupment of the full costs for this important work.

These requirements are already contained with the draft Burials Bill prepared by the members of SALI. Their draft Bill has been mirrored for use in Northern Ireland as they believe that the issues highlighted by the documentary, represent an all-Ireland problem and requires an all-Ireland solution.

Whilst the SALI Burials Bill demonstrates the potential that already exists in Law, SALI members have also prepared a ‘compare and contrast’ document, which reveals further, the problems with the Irish government’s Bill. The SALI members believe that the government provisions have the potential to cause further problems and heartache for the survivors of Tuam and other Institutions.

The concerns expressed by SALI through their own draft Burials Bill, are now clearly echoed within a letter, sent by 8 United Nations bodies, who are concerned that the Irish government’s Burials Bill will ‘negatively impact’ on Victim & Survivor Rights.

The potential for difficulties, created by Irish government’s proposed legislation is also seen too keenly within the proposed Information & Tracing Bill and the debate surrounding that important initiative.

The individual members of SALI comment as follows:

Breeda Murphy states:

“It is not often I am lost for words yet Tuesday night’s documentary rendered me speechless.  It provides substance to challenge Government’s well worn narrative that fathers and families were to blame while absolving everyone else. Such opinion completely discounts the overarching control of the Catholic hierarchy and its influence on public policy and in particular on women’s reproductive health and wellbeing. It further ignores the unholy alliance created by the State which rendered citizenship powerless against the might of those institutions. Change is much needed in Ireland if we are to achieve justice; by that I mean recognition of wrong-doing; criminality; illegality is crucial, yet is overlooked. The ‘repatriation’ best described as kidnapping of almost 2,500 girls and women from UK to Ireland warrants greater scrutiny to place responsibility correctly at the feet of senior diplomatic personnel, in both jurisdictions, ensuring that the dictation by Church officials, took priority above and beyond the welfare of citizenship”.

Eunan Duffy states:

“Experiences as so sadly, powerfully and profoundly portrayed, evidence undeniable, tell the world and its bystanders, of the stark reality of ongoing trauma of early-life separation, cruelly exacted upon mothers and children, manifested in perpetual grief and loss, sometimes never resolved by reunion. Missing/lost/disappeared mothers and children under systemic and systematic depravity, is designed to forever detach identity and erase any trace of living. Cross-jurisdictional trafficking of persons, forced & illegal adoptions, premature death and unknown fates that include no knowledge nor consent of deceased bodies, to be covertly confiscated for anatomical research purposes, the mass graves, undignified and unceremonious burials, all add up to egregious crimes against humanity on an industrial and international scale. How long are people expected to suffer? If you have the power to change the course of lives and honour the dead, account for injustice, uncover truth, address agony and pain, and you don't...then your fingerprints might as well be all over the crime scene. Forensic investigations of former carceral sites and of located and discovered human remains, sharing of and access to information and Inter-State investigations are the only path to truth and justice. Our war against injustice goes on”

Frank Brehany states:

“I was deeply moved by the documentary, but also deeply motivated to constructively challenge the Irish government’s apparent instinct towards minimal solutions or quick fixes. This programme once again reveals how public opinion, along with survivor experiences, will no longer tolerate obfuscation and delay on the fundamental failures delivered on the rights of Irish Citizens. The age of deference is over, it is time to deliver solutions that provide resolution and full Justice to this shameful chapter in Irish history”.


Notes to editors:

A previous SALI report can be found here.

The following provides a brief bio on each of the SALI report Authors:

Breeda Murphy:

Breeda is committed to issues of Social Justice and in particular societal structure and how power is controlled to deny certain groups of people their rightful place in society. She has extensively researched the ‘Forgotten Irish’, those who left Irish shores and who supported those they had left behind. Over 6 years ago, she began working with the Survivors of the Tuam Mother and Baby Home and noted how government largely ignored Survivors valuable testimony. Breeda has worked with many on the island of Ireland, eager to ensure that the survivor narrative, speaking truth to power, rises above the din of conjecture in State commissioned publications. Breeda collaborates with many campaigners and activists and is also the PRO of the Tuam Mother and Baby Home Alliance.

Eunan Duffy:

Eunan is an Adoptee, Activist and Advocate. He was adopted from the Marianvale Mother & Baby/Magdalen Institution in Newry, County Down. He only became aware of his adoption circumstances in 2016; this life-changing revelation had a profound impact on Eunan and his family. He subsequently discovered that the Institution in question was renowned for a catalogue of Human Rights abuses and crimes. In seeking to establish his origins, identity and heritage, he discovered that the system is designed to obstruct and discourage the discovery of family roots and medical genesis. Eunan has assisted other families in their quest for identity whilst providing valuable commentary on State and Religious abdication of responsibilities.  Eunan collaborates with and is befriended with many campaigners and activists, along with those affected in different parts of the world. Eunan also works with Civil Society Organisations.

Frank Brehany:

Frank is a Consumer Campaigner and Media Commentator. For the last 11 years, he has been investigating his own family ‘secret’ and discovered that his Father had been born out of wedlock and that his Grandmother had been incarcerated for 42 years within the Magdalen Laundry system. Frank’s Father spent the first 5 years of his life within the Tuam Mother and Baby Home, being subsequently boarded out to a good family. Frank’s journey has provided much joy and many tears, but it is the striking irritation from religious orders and the inability of government to answer simple correspondence that presents another side to his investigations, that the establishment in Irish Society is fearful of answering to the injustices of the past. Frank considers that the the Children of the Scaradh are now coming home! Frank works collaboratively with many campaigners and activists in this ‘Magdalen’ story.

Media Interview Availability:

Breeda, Eunan & Frank are available for interview. Please contact Frank Brehany via or via his Twitter handle: @ConsumerFrank, setting out your needs and requirements.