Taoiseach’s ‘private’ visit to infamous Tuam grave was shabby, says Corless
TUAM Babies historian Catherine Corless has described the Taoiseach’s under-the-radar visit to the mother and baby home site as ‘shabby’ as survivors have been calling on him to meet them there for years.
Leo Varadkar arrived in Tuam on Friday, September 7, to visit the infamous mass grave but failed to notify the home’s former residents of his arrival.
Ms Corless – the historian whose painstaking research uncovered the death certs of 796 children and sparked an inquiry that unearthed significant quantities of infant bones in a septic tank at the site of former home –told the Irish Mail on Sunday she was ‘disappointed and shocked’ by Mr Varadkar’s actions.
She said she was also surprised at the choice of local TD Seán Canney to show the Taoiseach around the site: ‘If he’d had one of the survivors there, that would have really meant something or if Seán Canney asked one of the survivors along. But it was just between themselves and we don’t know what was discussed. Bit peculiar, the whole thing, a bit shabby.’
Ms Corless only heard about the visit on local radio station Galway Bay FM on Monday, September 10. She said: ‘They were wondering if I’d go on and talk about Leo Varadkar’s visit to Tuam and I asked, “When is he coming down?” They said, “No, he’s been there.” I couldn’t believe it.’ She said she would have wanted him to meet the survivors who have requested a visit by the Taoiseach to hear their stories and to discuss what they want for the future of the site. A ground penetraing radar test of the burial site commissioned by the MoS in 2014 led to a preliminary excavation of the site in 2016 which uncovered a ‘significant amount’ of human remains. Survivors and Ms Corless have called for a full excavation, along with DNA testing of the remains and their reinterment. It’s understood Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone will soon deliver her decision on the future of the site.
Ms Corless is surprised at the Taaoiseach asking Mr Canney to be his guide as: ‘Four years ago when the story broke, Seán had told local papers he felt that money would be better spent on healthcare rather than a commission of inquiry [into Tuam]. Over the years he hasn’t come to us… he hasn’t been to the fore of anything with regards to the mother and baby home in Tuam. I felt sorry for the survivors. It was a bad show, really, to make a flying appearance. It was almost like ticking a box.’
It’s believed that Mr Varadkar wanted to make a private visit so that he could see what the site looked like, and understand the impact it has had. Mr Canney has told Ms Corless that Mr Varadkar wants to set up a meeting with the survivors and Ms Zappone. However, Ms Corless has not been informed of such a meeting: ‘The ideal scenario would be for him to come to Tuam and meet with the survivors. But I don’t know what’s on the agenda because we’ve not been made aware of anything.’
A spokeswoman for the Tuam Home Survivors’ Network said its members hope to be invited to a meeting with the Taoiseach.
Asked about Ms Corless’s comments, a spokesman for the Taoiseach said he had taken the opportunity to make a private visit to the site. He said: ‘The Taoiseach is in close contact with Minister Zappone on all matters relating to Tuam, and he has written to Catherine Corless offering to meet her, together with the minister.’
‘We don’t know what was discussed’
‘a bad show’: Tuam historian Catherine Corless