Tuam babies in sceptic tank story is one of state church co-operation into our collective present


The mass grave in Tuam isn't simply a story of a handful of evil nuns acting out of sight and discovered 80 years too late. It's the story of the long and protracted relationship between the Irish state and the Catholic church as illustrated by these two photos from the 1930s and 1950s.

The first is one of many scenes from the 1932 Eucharistic Congress, a few short years after the Tuam home went into operation. The congress saw the Irish state lay on an enormous pageant to cement its relationship with the church as part of the process of recasting its control over the population through the promotion of a regressive religious ideology that marginalised independent women, queers and anyone else who didn't toe the line.

The second from the 1950s shows Garda marching women from the Magdalene laundries down Glouster street in Dublin. Investigative journalist Philip Boucher Hayes blogged today about how the Garda seem to have little interest in investigating what happened at Tuam. He writes that in response to his questions "there has been complete silence from Garda HQ today."

This is of little surprise, the Garda were not separate to what happened in the homes and laundries but a fundamental part of supervising the society in which they existed. Women who escaped from the laundries were frequently captured and returned by Garda, despite not having broken any law.

The nuns who ran the Tuam home were the Bon Secours, today Bon Secours remains the largest provider of health care in Ireland, they remain in control of several hospitals. Profits were up 80% for Bon Secours in 2010 reaching €9.7 million.

The horrors of Tuam and the other homes are not part of some distant disconnected past but part of our collective present. A present in which the majority of hospitals and schools continue to controlled by religious institutions. A present where community halls and other spaces all over the country continue to be under the control of the church. It's long since past the time we took all of that back and bring to an end the long dark night of church control.

published on WSM Facebook June 2014