Saturday morning my Mam rings. I can hear the dismay in her voice straightaway.
I breathe in.
The results of that weird and cumbersome and insulting Consultation process by Galway County Council for the Minister, in connection with the strange proposal by the multidisciplinary Expert Technical Group for the Commission of Investigation into the Mother and Baby Homes (are you with me so far?) (I don’t blame you if you’re not but bear with) was published on Friday (I breathe in again). The whole consultation process had been an elaborate and confusing waste of time and money and energy from the start and the report confirms it.
Mam says Teresa Mannion met her and some of the survivors at the Tuam site on Friday and that there was a little piece about it on the News. She’s says they spoke so well.
I noticed Teresa’s photo of them here
And then I see the Saturday Irish Times headline that Tuam residents are *divided* and my eyes roll so far back in my head I can see inside time itself: because they are NOT divided, and suddenly this whole process seems like big old ruse to fob hard decisions on NIMBYistic* controversy that’s far more limited than we ever thought it would be and is far from outspoken, DESPITE the best efforts of this consultation process to puff it up.
*NIMBY: Not In My Back Yard
You can take a look at the Report at the following link: go on please, I dare you.
I wrote a series of Tweets in response this morning, and someone collated them for me https://twitter.com/dec23k/status/1015959033176645632?s=. I absorb them in this blog post here.
Do continue to bear with and read on.
At best, this report is, as my mother calls it, “fluff”. It is also a sinister and elaborate exercise in amplifying a line of dissent. Sorry now if I have no time for any NIMBYism here. This is a CRIME SCENE we are talking about.
The whole idea of this consultation was an insult, and its process and findings are a sham. Ironically, that word #Sham is slang for a person from #Tuam, the very people this report purports to speak for. But it doesn’t. Locals are not so polarized as this report would insist.
It looked like the consultation process dug deep to find resistance to full excavation, which they seemed to think would be from people closest the site. They seemed to hyper focus on Dublin Road Estate, who have houses backing onto the estate or across the way from those houses.
In the consultation process, the turnout for the Local Residents closed session seemed not to be enough: they ran a SECOND day. Which had lower turnout. Then they went door to door in Dublin Road estate. They went to great lengths to get comment from people on this estate #WHY?
Why did they do this? Why were local residents even isolated as a target group in this? Yes it’s a curiosity at best in their neighbourhood. It’s also surely weird to have this type of focus on their area but it’s on a seldom-used, out-of-the-way PUBLIC space.
Mam attended the “Dialogue with Former Residents and Relatives of Former Residents of Tuam Mother and Baby Home and Supporters” meeting. All 29 in attendance voted for full excavation of the total available area. The attendees at this meeting gave their vote one-by-one. The facilitator stopped them half way through to suggest that not everyone had to vote the same: as if to skew or invalidate the unanimity!
Curiously the report enumerates the attendance for the survivors and supporters closed session (there were 29) but doesn’t enumerate attendance for the local residents closed sessionS (read: there were significantly less than 29).
At one of the sessions a resident from Dublin Road estate said that they shouldn’t even be asked about this, that it should be all up to the people who have family there and the survivors
My impression is that yes there are a handful of dissenters. And yes, some make themselves plain to my mother. It’s not pleasant for her I guess but she handles it with grace; and truth be told, before all this came out in 2014, we feared local criticism would be much worse: in June 2014, for a couple of weeks after the story broke my mother was afraid to go into SuperValu in Tuam. But what she wasn’t prepared for when she finally did slip in was the overwhelm of local support that she got, and still gets.
And in November 2016 we wondered if the candlelit vigil organised by artist Sadie Cramer at the site would meet resistance. But people turned up in droves in the cold and dark, and what’s more, locals lined the lane way in with candles. That teared me up! And what of the local residents who held a gathering at the site in March 2017, with candles and poetry and music and a big bouquet of flowers for my Mam, which she laid on the burial site. There was a minimum 50 local residents in support there.
My impression is that there are
1. A few local residents who would NIMBY
2. A LOT who care
3. Like anything else in life, a lot who are not involved in the politics or the activism of the story either way and who are going about their own lives not thinking about it at ALL.
Excavation here is not a new idea or experience for local residents. Don’t forget, there has already been a test excavation by archaeologists at the site, the results of which announced in March 2017 that there was a ‘significant’ number of human remains in evidence.
This report then has sought to amplify **the few ** – so that Patsy McGarry’s article could be published in the Irish Times yesterday with a DRIVELOUS and misrepresentative headline, based on a DRIVELOUS and misrepresentative report: “Division in Tuam between residents and mother and baby home relatives
Many locals want only a memorial, while families favour total forensic excavation”
I’m sure “many locals” in Tuam would scratch their heads at that. It is after all the findings of an engineered consultation. This process has sought to fit a an insidious official narrative of downplaying the blindingly obvious need for IMMEDIATE full excavation – just as an example, the insistence that the remains would be commingled or somehow disintegrated. Even if they were, the excellence of the archaeological approach would go far to dissemble them.
Further – and I warn that this following is gruesome: we have reason to believe that there are complete bodies – in archaeological terms this is “articulated” bodies. Further, we also have reason to believe that there is flesh on bones and that there are bodies with leathery preservation.
My thoughts turn to my fellow archaeologists – I don’t know them – and I commend their bravery at undertaking a dig like this. I wonder if they had trauma training or decompression support for what they saw. It should absolutely be a factor for when full excavation does go ahead.
I’ve dug human remains myself. It can be weird and disconcerting but you get caught up in the work of the day and get on with it. There’s a moment of pause and respect when it comes time to “lift” them. And it’s always more emotional if it’s a child.
Of course Tuam is very different.
I personally wouldn’t be able to undertake an excavation like at Tuam. Because it’s not a proper archaeological site, for one thing – it’s too new. Of course there had to be preservation. Of course it would be gruesome. I commend them for going in there.
Where is the full picture of what my fellow archaeologists actually saw in Tuam? Which babies or children did they see? Were there any of the women in evidence? Where is their original archaeological report as submitted to the Commission of Investigation?
Why are we having at best a FLUFF and at worst a misleading consultation process to muse over what to do with the concealed dead in Tuam?
There was only ever one thing to do!
Excavate the site and DNA test the remains.
Why please downplay a situation where babies and children up to about the age of 3 mostly, with more up to the age of 9, and at least SIX WOMEN are either missing cos they are trafficked or because they are dead and concealed in a sewage tank?
WHY this elaborate and roundabout exercise in amplifying the most offensive “option” which is to suggest that they be left there?
Never mind that the consultation process doesn’t mention the #women at ALL
– NINE women died in the Tuam Home
– A tenth died in hospital
-We know the burial spots of four.
What happened to these ten women?
Where are the other missing SIX women? We HAVE to excavate the area – 1.4 hectares of Galway county council property currently left as a small public ground; left that way because Galway County Council knew officially in the 1970s that there were people interred here, which is why the estate was designed to avoid building here in the first place: look at the aerial maps. The location of the dead is a weirdly-shaped open area at the BACK of people’s houses.
I’m personally trying to stop calling it a “grave” or a “burial ground” myself. These children and women were never properly even buried here. The dead in the chambers here were carried in through tunnels and placed here for concealment.
That’s not burial.
These people are not resting in peace.
Please help to call out eye-wateringly obvious time-wasting exercises like consultation processes and tick-box menus of options that delay excavating this site. It’s time to find out if the women who died Tuam are lying here too and to get them out, along with every child, without delay.