A few days ago, several of us responded to a WAPost article about a home for unwed mother, infants, and small children. We assumed that the WAPost article was accurate, that it had been fact checked. We were wrong.

I later updated my post with a link to a post by Caroline Farrow which offered some much needed historicity and clarification.

Today, David Quinn has this column the Independent, an Irish newspaper. David’s piece adds some important facts and some thoughtful reflections.

Fact – The facts are currently unclear and some are wholly unsubstantiated:

We have to determine how they died and where they are buried. Notably, the gardai told RTE’s Philip Boucher-Hayes concerning the burials at the home itself, a former workhouse: “They are historical burials going back to Famine times, there is no suggestion of any impropriety and there is no garda investigation. Also there is no confirmation from any source that there are there are between 750 and 800 bodies present.

Fact – Things in Ireland were bad overall:

The institutions were partly a response to extreme poverty. Destitute people often ended up in institutions as an alternative to being on the street. Go to a Third World country today and you will find the streets of their towns and cities teeming with children many of whom belong to the sort of gangs depicted by Dickens in ‘Oliver Twist’.

Keep those countries in mind and you have a vision of how extreme poverty was in Ireland until fairly recently. In real terms, the Irish economy in 1936 was only one twelfth the size it was in 2007. That means many people were as poor then as some of the worst-off people in some of the worst-off African countries today.

The mortality rates and life expectancy for Irish people were also at Third World levels.

On average in the 1920s, almost 6,500 children aged up to four died annually. In 2010, 316 children in that age group died, a decrease of 95pc. And the population of Ireland was much smaller in the 1920s than it is today.


[A]t bottom there was still something completely unacceptable about many of these places which is that for all of their ostensible Christianity, they were rarely Christian… .

I think it was because Christianity in Ireland had by then hardened into something that was all too often more about punishment than mercy and forgiveness. To that extent Christianity in Ireland had become, in the strict meaning of the term, anti-Christ, and the church is still living this down.

Do read his entire column here.

Meanwhile, sounds like there will be some sort of investigation to get to the – ahem! – truth of the matter. One hopes.

If you want to drop the WAPost a line about its reporting (the piece is clearly labeled as a “news” in the URL), try foreign@washpost.com or corrections@washpost.com. The ombudsman can be reached at this number: 202-334-7582.

UPDATE: “Still Trying to Get at the Truth of the Tuam Home Story”