*Lauretta Callaghan O’Dea. Photograph: Natasha Barton

A KILRUSH WOMAN has expressed her disgust at the decision to scrap a promised independent review of testimony given by survivors of the Mother and Baby homes.

Last June, Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman (GP) announced plans to bring proposals to Cabinet to appoint an international human rights expert to re-examine the written testimony given to the Mother and Baby Homes Commission, and report back this year.

This followed concerns raised by women who lived in the institutions and academics over how testimony provided to the confidential committee was handled. A member of the commission of investigation had admitted these personal stories had been discounted because they were provided in private and not under oath.

According to a spokesperson for Minister O’Gorman, he believes a new initiative “to support survivors to tell their personal story, so that it can be formally recorded and accepted as part of the official record, provides the best opportunity for responding to the concerns of survivors in a meaningful way”.

Lauretta Callaghan O’Dea entered the doors of the Mother and Baby home in Dunboyne, Co Meath in 1987 when she was twenty years old and six months pregnant. The Kilrush woman who shared her story for the first time in an interview with The Clare Echo last year, recalled that she had “nowhere to go”.

One year on from that interview, Lauretta spoke of her disgust at the Government’s decision. “I’ll tell you what, it’s absolutely appalling, no woman once she has given her first statement, she should be believed and not have to relive her nightmare a second or third time, it was enough to go through those institutions, they shouldn’t have to relive that pain and trauma for a second time. Every woman in this country has a right to a voice, no woman should be held back because of other’s opinions”.

She said the move was one of “betrayal” and questioned if the Minister truly understood the matter. “Has he, Roderic O’Gorman gone through these institutions and walked through the halls. Has he imagined the pain from the institutions, he has met the women but has he imagined the pain. It’s okay for him to stand on a pedestal and speak but there’s no way he can empathise with what these women have gone through.

“They had a right to be heard because they were hurting. Each and every woman that went through those homes are angry, they feel angry and let down by the State. I don’t think any of these women will ever have any faith in the State or the Government, they won’t believe a word from their mouths, it’s all innuendo, let their words mean something. Put it out there and say they were treated badly, we deserve to be recognised as strong independent women, they should be the ones holding their heads in shame and not us”.

Lauretta who successfully fought to hold onto her son after staying at the Meath institution felt the scrapping of the independent review reignited the anger in a lot of women. “I don’t think they should have to swear by oath, these women did not lie about anything, I can’t begin to fathom what some of these women went through. What right has the Government to put these women through all of this again. I don’t want to be seen as a victim, I do want to be recognised as a woman who was in one of these institutions and not frowned down on because I spoke about it, that’s the feeling I get”.

Since sharing her story, Lauretta said people were very sympathetic towards her and acknowledged their support but admitted that her motives in speaking out were questioned by others. She hailed the consistent work undertaken on the subject by historian Catherine Corless. “There’s a lot of women who won’t speak out and that’s very sad, they’re afraid of what’s going to be said. The women of today their voices matter, don’t be afraid to speak out, you’re only human, so many women have told me their stories in confidence, I keep them and some of them weren’t very nice. We’ve so many people with the weight of the world on their shoulders, women that have passed away need to be remembered and the women of today need to have a voice for them”.

Family remains the most important thing for Lauretta. “I have all the respect I need from my two sons, my daughter and my grand-daughter, I don’t need any false respect from the Government, they are the ones with the guilty conscience”.

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Subscribe for just €3 per month

If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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