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Council issue formal apology for involvement in County Clare Nursery

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An apology has been issued by Clare County Council for its role in the operation of the county’s only Mother and Baby Home, 89 years on from its closure.

Published last month, the final report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes detailed decades of harm caused to tens of thousands women and children at 14 mother and baby homes and four county homes across Ireland between 1922 and 1998.

In Clare, “appalling” rates of infant mortality were brought to light. The County Clare Nursery was owned and financed by Clare County Council and was run by the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy between 1922 and 1928 and by directly employed lay staff from 1928 to 1932. It closed in March 1932.

Figures from the Central Statistics Office note that 168 ‘illegitimate infants’ died at the institution from 1923 to 1932. The Commission noted that Clare’s death rate is “very high when compared with the numbers in the baptismal record.

On Monday, Clare County Council issued an apology for its involvement in the Kilrush based County Clare Nursery. Mayor of Clare, Cllr Mary Howard (FG) read a statement on behalf of the local authority which acknowledged “the distressing findings contained in the Report”.

She added, “the Report lays bare the failure of the State and society to provide support and protection to vulnerable women and children at a time of need. Having read and carefully considered the Report findings, Clare County Council offers its sincere apology for its role in this dark chapter in our nation’s history”.

Acknowledgement was also issued of Chapter 16 which focused specifically on the Clare Mother and Baby Home that the County Council owned and financed for a decade. “It is with profound regret that Clare County Council acknowledges its role in the failure to meet the care needs of women and children resident in the County Nursery during its decade of operation”.

A formal apology was issued to former residents of the institutions by the Taoiseach Micheál Martin (FF) last month on behalf of the State. Cllr Howard noted that the Government now intends to give “detailed consideration” to the report over the coming months with a view to developing a comprehensive action plan spanning eight themes including a survivor-centred approach, apology, access to personal information, archiving and databases, education and research, memorialisation, restorative recognition and dignified burial.

Cllr Howard added, “Clare County Council will actively participate with Government in furthering the development of the Government Action Plan as it relates to local government. Clare County Council is committed to supporting local measures that form part of the suite of follow-up actions, and has already commenced work in relation to memorialisation and access to archives and records”.

Elected representatives of the West Clare Municipal District led by Cllr Shane Talty (FF) issued the call at their January sitting for the County Council to release a formal apology. The actions in the County Clare Nursery were described by Cllr Ian Lynch (IND) as “shocking to the core” while Cllr Joe Garrihy (FG) stressed the need for victims to be supported and listened to.

Páraic McMahon is Head of News & Sport with The Clare Echo. The Newmarket-on-Fergus native also writes for national papers including The Irish Examiner, The Irish Independent and The Irish Times along with doing work for RTÉ, Today FM, TheJournal.ie and The42.ie. A graduate of Mary Immaculate College, Páraic was previously employed by The Clare Herald and Clare FM. If you have a story, tip or some feedback for him then send an email to - paraic@clareecho.ie

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