OUTRAGED crowds are due to gather outside London’s Irish Embassy next week at a vigil for hundreds of babies who died in Ireland’s homes for unmarried mothers.
Organisers said they are expecting a large turnout as the city’s 180,000-strong Irish population gets its first chance to react to the discovery of 800 dead babies at a home in Tuam, Co. Galway.
“Our sense is that people here are very upset about the allegations that have emerged surrounding infant mortality rates in different homes,” said London-based Avril Egan, whose mother was in one of the institutions.
She added that people were particularly “disturbed” by allegations from former residents that nuns refused to give women painkillers during childbirth because they were “sinners”.
News of the planned London vigil comes as revelations about Ireland’s mother and baby homes continue to emerge.
The Irish Independent revealed this morning that the remains of 474 infants who died in the homes and in hospitals were used for research and doctors’ training in Irish universities.
Meanwhile, a little-known Catholic charity defended its role in sending 2,700 women to mother and baby homes after they fled to Britain.
Cúnamh, formerly known as the Catholic Protection and Rescue, worked with British organisations to target thousands of unmarried women who left Ireland after discovering they were pregnant.
But the charity’s current secretary, Julie Kerins, told The Irish Post she did not regret Cúnamh’s role in repatriation, claiming women were well-treated in the homes.
Drawing on interviews with “hundreds” of former residents, she said: “They say it was no different from society in general. They didn’t feel like they were abused or mistreated in any way.”
The London vigil is being organised by the Justice for 800 Tuam Babies group for the evening of next Thursday, July 3. It is due to be held outside the Irish Embassy, in Grosvenor Square, near Buckingham Palace.
Ms Egan, who works in the fashion industry and has no history of activism, said she got involved in the group because of her concerns that Irish ministers would not investigate the scandal fully.
Despite the “welcome” announcement of an investigation into homes across Ireland, the 40-year-old said she feared a repeat of the failings in its inquiry into the Magdalene Laundries.
A UN committee branded the Irish Government’s report on the institutions as “incomplete”, criticising its lack of “many elements of a prompt, independent, and thorough investigation”.
The international body’s committee against torture claimed the report, by former senator Martin McAleese, failed to examine fully allegations of physical abuse, forced labour and arbitrary detention.
Justice for 800 Tuam Babies said it hoped its planned vigil would build support for a “comprehensive” investigation of every mother and baby home in Ireland.
Such an inquiry would and address allegations that children were subjected to drug-testing during their time in the homes and that nuns forced mums to give up their children for adoption, it explained.
For more information on the London vigil, visit https://www.facebook.com/events/602801149838527/