Content warning: Some viewers may find this film distressing
Six years ago, Catherine Corless, a local historian from County Galway in the Republic of Ireland, discovered that hundreds of babies and young children had died in a home for unmarried pregnant women, run by Roman Catholic nuns in her hometown of Tuam.
Further research revealed that many of the babies had died of malnutrition and other forms of neglect. Most of their bodies had been disposed of, officially unrecorded, in an old septic tank buried in the grounds of the home.
Angry survivors and relatives called for an investigation – for the remains to be exhumed, identified and properly buried, for compensation and immediate government action. Concerned families began to ask questions about other homes run by the Church in Ireland and how many other babies had died in equally mysterious circumstances.
In 2015, in response to publicity and pressure in Dail Eireann, the lower house of the Irish Parliament, the government announced it was setting up an official Commission of Investigation. The body was required to provide answers by 2018. Indeed, some modest interim findings have since been released, but two years since its official publication date, the full report has still not seen the light of day.
This June, partially in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the report was again delayed until October 2020.
In its absence, the suspicion, frustration and anger of relatives have mushroomed. And the once shameful secret of a single small rural town is developing into a broader and more profound national scandal; an affair which goes to the heart of the close relationship between successive Irish governments and the Catholic Church.
In two special episodes of People and Power, from filmmakers Callum Macrae, Mark Williams and Al Jazeera correspondent Laurence Lee, we investigate deeply disturbing allegations that both the Irish state and its religious orders were responsible for a systematic decades-long regime of institutional neglect and exploitation involving the death of thousands of children.
Source: Al Jazeera