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29th Aug 2018

Tuam Survivors Network condemn Katherine Zappone for ‘publicity stunt’

Kate Demolder

“A desperate attempt by a Minister completely out of her depth, to try and regain a grain of personal and political credibility.”

The Tuam Home Survivors Network has criticised Katherine Zappone for the letter she delivered to Pope Francis during his visit, claiming that her act was “nothing more than a publicity stunt.”

The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs handed a letter to the Pontiff during his time in Dublin regarding the history of Mother and Baby Homes in Ireland, noting particularly the Tuam site.

The survivor’s network took issue with the preamble to the note, which said: “I am the Minister responsible for the Tuam Mother and Baby Home. Children’s remains were found in a sewage system there.”

In a strongly worded statement, they condemned this as “an absurd statement”, claiming that “Ms Zappone is merely the Minister to which the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes is to report.

“In a different country, such a Commission would be reporting to a Justice Minister.

“What Minister Zappone has been responsible for more than two years, is a dishonest exercise in respect of the Tuam pit, which has prolonged the agony of survivors and those whose relatives may be buried there, by standing in the way of an exhumation,” the statement reads.

The group was responding to the Minister’s request to the Pope that the Catholic Church should “contribute substantially to the cost” of reparation involving the Tuam home site.

This act of restoration should be done “willingly, unconditionally and quickly”, to demonstrate “remorse”, according to a piece Zappone hand-deliveredd to Pope Francis at the weekend.

The Tuam Network consists of survivors, family members and advocates who seek to inform and obtain a factual representation of the period through “solidarity and friendship”.

They posted their response to the letter online, claiming that Zappone’s actions “smacks of a stunt”.

“Neither the previous Attorney General Maire Whelan nor the current incumbent Seamus Woulfe, have fulfilled their obligations to do so. Minister Zappone has sat in Cabinet with both and cannot be unaware of the position.

“Yet in the warmest and driest summer for forty years in which an exhumation of the Tuam children could have been speedily accomplished, she has clung to a position which is both vile and dishonest,” the statement continues.

“In all, her letter to the Pope smacks of a stunt, a desperate attempt by a Minister completely out of her depth, to try and regain a grain of personal and political credibility. It fails miserably.”

Zappone, who is an avid spokesperson for LGBT rights and social justice, recently told RTÉ Radio that, despite Pope Francis claiming that he was unaware of Magdalene Laundries “a clear sense of recognition crossed his face.”

Excavation work which was carried out on the Tuam site by local historian Catherine Corless lead to the discovery of  “significant quantities” of infant bones.

Later, Corless managed to source 796 death certificates for infants buried in a mass grave at the site, with no corresponding medical or burial records for same.

Corless – whose tireless efforts caused the discovery of the mass infant grave – refused an official invitation to meet Pope Francis during his time in Dublin and instead opted to attend a planned protest at the suspected site of the infant mass grave in Tuam.

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