IRISH ACADEMY Award winner Brenda Fricker has delivered a moving tribute to the victims and survivors of Ireland’s Mother and Baby Homes.
Fricker, who won an Oscar for My Left Foot but is also known for her role in Home Alone 2, appeared during a special episode of The Late Late Show.
The Irish actress performed a recital of the poem Voice by Majella Kelly, which was inspired by the trauma suffered by the women and children who came through Ireland’s Mother and Baby Homes.
It followed the publication of a damning government report which found around 9,000 children died across just 18 of these homes.
These homes operated from 1922 to 1998 and left an indelible mark on the lives of all of those who passed through them.
While further action is expected following the revelations carried within the investigation’s findings, Fricker’s recital was an opportunity to pay tribute to those impacted by homes of this kind:
“To go into the home, was to be given your voice on the spoon and told, swallow it,’ Brenda recited. ‘When they shaved our heads, our voices recoiled on our tongues like dead nettles in empty cups. When they took our names away, the tiny venomous hairs of shame bore untold holes in our throats.”
“When they insisted on silence on the birthing table, just to remind us we had sinned, the itchy hives of guilt distended red and angry in our bellies. And when she said, ‘The child of your sin’ is dead, my heart was an extinguished fireplace. But when I opened my mouth to cry out, I spoke only in a thin, grey, wisp of smoke.”
— The Late Late Show (@RTELateLateShow) January 15, 2021
Her reading was followed by a special animation that touched on the trauma suffered by the victims and survivors.
Among them was Noelle Brown, who herself was born in the Bessborough mother and baby home in 1966 and spoke to Late Late Show host Ryan Tubridy about how the animation was “very triggering” at the end of a “very, very long and hard week” for her and anyone else affected.
“It’s very beautiful and very on the nose. It says it all really,” she said.
“I think the more we see it, the more we understand it, acknowledge it, and stop pushing everything away and pretending that everything is OK.”
“Everything is coming to the surface this week and that’s a positive thing. It’s extremely painful for survivors, so painful, and I’ll say if anyone out there knows someone who’s affected by this issue, contact them and reach out because it’s a very difficult and lonely time for a lot of people.”
The report estimates that some 56,000 unmarried mothers and 57,000 children passed these mother and baby homes.
It adds that a further 25,000 women and thousands more children are also likely to have lived in county home which were not examined by the commission.