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Ireland's stolen children

October 23, 2023

Getting pregnant out of wedlock was long seen as a disgrace in Catholic Ireland. By 1998, more than 50,000 women had had their babies taken away and given up for adoption. Many of these children are now trying to trace their birth mothers.


They are also fighting for their plight to be recognized at last. Contraception and abortion were long banned, sex before marriage taboo, and sex education was practically non-existent. If a woman, nevertheless, fell pregnant, she was generally treated as the "guilty” party even if she had been raped. Whoever was unable or unwilling to have an illegal abortion abroad had no further say over the matter. The priest was informed and he decided whether the woman would be thrown out on the street, or sent to one of the 18 Catholic mother and baby homes. Paul Redmond was born in one of those homes. He describes himself and others in a similar situation as "survivors” of a scandal that is still rocking Ireland. The 59-year-old keeps on returning to the place where he was born, which now lies empty. He says that many babies were left lying in their beds there and their nappies were rarely changed. Children with a disability or another skin color were particularly neglected, according to Redmond. The consequences of this neglect were terrible. In the town of Tuam in western Ireland, local historian Catherine Corless discovered that the bodies of almost 800 babies and children had been concealed in a mass grave on the site of the former home. She prompted a national investigation into the scandal and went on to campaign for the exhumation of the infants’ remains. That is also something close to Anna Corrigan’s heart. She discovered that she had two brothers who were born in the home in Tuam. A death certificate exists for her brother John, but it’s unclear what happened to William. Exhumation and DNA tests could bring clarity. Anna is still searching for clues. She hasn’t given up hope that her brother William might still be alive.

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