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Catherine Corless admits no 'hard evidence' against Tuam Home, only 'oral evidence'

  • 11-10-2022 10:47pm
    Registered Users Posts: 410 ✭✭

    At a meeting of the Maynooth University Social Sciences Institute on the 6th of October last (2022), Catherine Corless answered a question on the Commission report which exhaustively examined the huge corpus of surviving documentation on the Tuam Home. She said that the Commission of Investigation into the Mother and Baby Homes:

    "...said that there was no evidence of cruelty, there was no evidence that women were incarcerated as such, that they were put in by families, and, eh, what else did they say? It was totally against everything I worked for. Because, it was, we didn't know it at the time, because we don't know these things about government and [how] they act, but of course it was the civil servants that got the bright idea, it was the terms of reference that were set for the Commission of Inquiry.

    It stated that they needed hard evidence. There was no evidence of course because the nuns said they didn't have any. The County Council said they didn't have any. There was no hard evidence to show that there wasn't, em, babies were, and there was children injured and beaten, there was no evidence from a doctor that showed this child was beaten up in the Home. There was no evidence to say that the mother might have been beaten up or incarcerated in an institution, a mental institution, but did happen. There was no paper to say, they went by hard evidence. You needed something in your hand, and therefore they said it didn't happen, that there was a question mark on it. The terms of reference were very much limited before this Commission of Inquiry was set up, and so they had to stick by that.


    I mean we had witness, we had witness evidence. But the witnesses, its only their word, its only the survivor's word against the nuns you see. There is no medical records, there is nothing. So that's what happened there, it [the Commission report] was a disaster."

    Her description that there was no actual evidence against the Home was clarified for her by her host, Dr Jennifer Redmond:

    Redmond: "The fact is that they had lots of evidence, oral evidence."

    Corless: "Yes"

    Redmond: "But they decided that that wasn't worth anything."

    Corless: "They did because it was in the terms of reference, for the Commission of Inquiry to work on. As I said, it was a very smart move on behalf of the civil servants there, they worded it that way. That there had to be actual solid evidence."

    So that's the official word now from Catherine Corless, there is no evidence anywhere establishing any wrong doing by or in this Home, except the oral evidence.

    But there is a lot of problems with this oral evidence, for example:

    1) There is no oral evidence presented by Catherine Corless or anybody else that there was wrong doing with respect to the burials at the Home. Nobody is saying that there was an eye witness, or anything remotely like that, claiming that nuns placed bodies in a septic tank or anything of that nature.

    The only oral evidence relating to the actual burials, that I know of anyway, are accounts from some students of a priest - who died a long time ago - who at one time was chaplain in the Home and described to them some of the burials that took place there, which were very well carried out of course. Also there is oral evidence from families in Tuam that made coffins for the Home, again perfectly correct and proper coffins. There is also some oral evidence of a reburial at the site, where bones thrown up by the development work in the 70s were reburied, carefully and reverently, by workmen at that time. (See the Alive newspaper of a few years ago for more on this). Other than that I know of no oral evidence whatsoever in relation to the burials. Hence the 'oral evidence' does not at all condemn the burial practices at the Home, all along the main allegation, quite the opposite.

    2) In the main, what Catherine Corless is referring to here with respect to 'oral evidence' is the evidence of young children who were in the Home for a few years in their early childhood, and who mostly do not remember very much themselves. Generally, they are just passing on what their mothers told them in later life, that in practice is the 'oral evidence' she is referring to.

    But in many cases these mothers were embarrassed about the real facts, because oftentimes they were happy to leave their children in the care of these nuns and Home and get on with their lives, and that is obviously not the story they wish to state to these children now. Much of this evidence is very unreliable, even Paul Jude Redmond, whose book on adoption is one of the major works in this area, describes how his mother lied to him about the circumstances of his early life when he eventually met up with her.

    3) Despite what she said at that meeting, that the question of redress never came up in talking to former residents, it certainly came up when I spoke to them. The truth is that money has always been in the background in this controversy. Clearly the more hype about the supposed bad conditions in the Home, that could be generated, the more likely it was that the government would set up a scheme which would reward these former residents very handsomely for their outspokenness. That has now come to pass, and of course it raises questions about the authenticity of their testimony, casting a cloud across this 'oral evidence'.

    4) Finally we do indeed have a lot of authentic 'oral evidence' for the Home, as opposed to the above described second hand material, but it doesn't agree at all with Catherine Corless' view of the place. For example:

    "One mother said that she had never seen anything wrong in the Tuam home. She said that Sister Gabriel, Bina Rabbitte and Mary Wade (Nurse) showed great concern for sick and dying children with Bina Rabitte being upset over the sick children. This was proof to her that they were caring people." (p.907)


    "Another mother said that she had been treated well in the Tuam home and while the other girls worked hard in the laundry, they were never subject to ill treatment or abuse." (p.909.)


    "A woman who had been born in the Tuam home in the mid-1930s and who lived there until she was 18 told Tuam Gardaí that half of the children went to the Mercy primary school and half to the Presentation primary school ‘so they wouldn’t fall out with either’. She said that Sister Hortense loved children and helped out with them. She recalled a priest coming to celebrate Mass and that people of trust tended to work in the home. She remembered putting on plays as a child. She remembered being in a play herself in the Presentation Convent and she remembered that the other Sisters would come and people would look at the play and she remembers getting a great sense of well-being and joy out of that, that she was out in the public for that. She remembered them having cows." (p.909.)


    "A former child resident provided an affidavit in which he said that he had lived in the home for 12 years before being boarded out to a family in the early 1950s. He said that there was a stigma attached to the home but he had no problems during his time there. He said that there was a pleasant atmosphere and the food was plentiful and of good quality. There were swings and other rudimentary equipment for children to play on. There were plays organised at Christmas and some locals were invited to attend. They occasionally went to the cinema on a Sunday or to watch Gaelic football matches at Tuam stadium.

    He was an altar boy in the Cathedral and was taught Latin responses for Mass. He went to a holiday home in Westport in the summer. He did not recall any fundraising for the home, nor inspections from anyone from government during his time there. He remembers there being proper toilets, bathrooms and electric light, unlike the home to which he was boarded out. While not aware of any outside nurses being employed, ‘the women who lived and worked in the home were known as ‘paid maids’. He recalled that they slept in dormitories. The children did not have to wear a uniform but wore their own clothes. An elderly doctor used to visit." (p.909.)


    "A former child resident wrote of her memories of the Sisters of Bon Secours in 2002. She described them as ‘the kindest and dearest nuns I had the privleg (sic) of knowing’.

    ‘I am shocked and appalled at the people who falsely accuse the Bon Secours nuns of abusing the children in their care’. She said that she was well fed, clothed and kept warm in the winter by the Sisters. The children learned how to sing and step-dance with the nuns and staged plays at Christmas time. ‘We had a good instructor and entertained priests, nuns and high class people of Tuam. We lacked nothing’.

    She cried when she was boarded out, aged seven but soon grew to love her foster family. Sister Hortense sent a gift every Christmas to her and to other boarded out children. She described Sister Hortense as having ‘a heart of gold’.

    ‘The nuns were supportive and understanding’. Along with four other girls, she helped with the younger children who were cared for and were never mistreated by the Bon Secours Sisters. She never forgot their kindness and visited whenever she was home from the United States." (p.910.)


    [Unlike the above, I am not 100% that this was Tuam:]

    "‘It was the outside world that made things difficult’ said a witness who at 17 years of age, became pregnant and had a daughter in a home. On learning she was in a home, her father was supportive, came to fetch her and bring her home. But the witness herself wanted to stay a bit longer as she needed the help of the nuns, being unable to face the ‘shame’ on the outside. Her father tried to console her, telling her she was ‘to keep the baby and not to worry about it’. Contrary to what the Committee heard from some witnesses, she said that ‘the nuns in the home were ‘very nice’ about her wanting to keep her baby and even gave her ‘some items’ to take with her. On the contrary, though, she reported that on discovering that she was keeping her daughter, her social worker ‘didn’t want anything more to do with her’." (p.2556.)

    (The statements by Catherine Corless on the Commission report can be seen at 37:42-41:28 in the video at this link: .

    All page numbers are to the electronic pdf page number of the final report, available here: .)

    Post edited by Beasty on


  • Subscribers Posts: 39,901 ✭✭✭✭sydthebeat

    So Brian is essentially calling all those women liars.

    No evidence of the cover up ..... Hummmmm

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  • Registered Users Posts: 2,565 ✭✭✭Nermal

    Civil servants doing their best to save €800M. I commend them.

  • Registered Users Posts: 27,564 ✭✭✭✭steddyeddy

    I worked with colleagues involved in detailed forensics. There is of course ways to obtain more evidence but whether that is sufficient for a conviction is another matter. The babies unearthed could be tested for signs of brutality, malnutrition or other forms of abuse neglect.

    As far as circumstantial evidence there is a mass grave in a place where the accused (nuns) operated a mother and baby home.... I'm sure even a lawyer from daddy's firm in D4 could make a case that there is a chance the nuns responsible for taking care of mother and babies are responsible for the lack of care given to mothers and babies.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1 Acollins

    Hate crimes against the church,

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  • Moderators, Category Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators, Social & Fun Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 36,165 CMod ✭✭✭✭ancapailldorcha

    So, you took a snapshot of a 69-minute video and then posted some carefully chosen quotes almost certainly out of context in some desperate attempt to defend such an abominable organisation. Is this supposed to be convincing?

    We sat again for an hour and a half discussing maps and figures and always getting back to that most damnable creation of the perverted ingenuity of man - the County of Tyrone.

    H. H. Asquith

  • Registered Users Posts: 7,786 ✭✭✭Odhinn

  • Registered Users Posts: 25,258 ✭✭✭✭Mrs OBumble

    That's part of the issue: Bessborough is in Cork.

    Where is the evidence of Tuam /Galway based doctors and council inspectors?

    I have absolutely no doubt that young mothers were abused, some had their children illegallly removed, and disabled children were neglected. This certainly is based on the overall weight of evidence, not the strength of individual pieces. And the evidence-by-omission is very telling.

    But I'm not sure if the children were treated any worse than children from poor married families at the time.

  • Registered Users Posts: 16,415 ✭✭✭✭osarusan

    Brian, is this person being referred to here you:

    "He then launched into a description of one section of the sewerage system excavated by the Commission and said “It looks to me like mass concrete dating to the 1970s or 1980’s.” He then posited the idea that Galway County Council must have built this structure and filled it with bones. “But that’s just my opinion.”"

  • Administrators, Social & Fun Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 73,479 Admin ✭✭✭✭✭Beasty

    Posts deleted and thread closed

    OP advised that the next time they try and spam their own website on this site it will be a permanent siteban

This discussion has been closed.