The terrible tale of Tuam

Continuing my usual practice of being late to press has the advantage of letting more details of a story emerge, being very late means that other people still cover the fuller picture before I do but I can cope.

A little while back a tale of terrible cruelty from Ireland’s past emerged involving as always the Catholic church and cruelty to children. Stories about bad things the Catholic church is alleged to have done in the past, much like accusations against aging celebrities, causes even usually calm heads to discard their usual rigor and leap upon the most sensationalist headlines of the churnalistic machine.

Due to the saving grace of cynicism and idleness the fuller story emerged before I said anything. So I shared the more accurate story which was really an awful lot less shocking with the book of face as surely people would be glad to know that terrible things hadn’t actually happened. I will admit that I did take the moment to advise people that they might want to “check their narrative” before leaping upon headlines.

I was somewhat surprised (but only somewhat) that the general reaction was that it was still terrible and we couldn’t possibly believe the more accurate story.

So what if the only witness of the “skeletons in the septic tank” said there was “about 20” skeletons it could still be “50-100 dead kids in an old sewage tank”. Yep the only witness said about 20, but because they saw it a long time ago and were of a young age at the time they are unreliable witnesses so the body count must be far more. No possibility that it could be less or even that it might not even be human skeletons, nope it must be more. All of the children invovled in this manufactured horror had a death certificate so really not much of a cover up, and a bit of research quite quickly revealed that the average death rate for the home wasn’t actually unusual for the time and area concerned, they were in fact doing a bit better than the average.

Nope still doesn’t matter there must be an inquiry into all historical children’s homes, presumably to see if they also correctly recorded deaths for the lower than average death rate. I’m sure the great and good and much concerned will be queuing to jump on that gravy train to ensure that defunct state and Catholic Children’s homes can be thoroughly investigated to reveal the horror of low death rates and proper death certificates.

That cynicism aside I was at a loss to why people still considered it to be horrific and why an inquiry was a good thing. After all better than average survival rate and properly recorded deaths doesn’t sound to bad to me. Ah apparently it was because they children didn’t have “dignity in death”. quite how this is known given that apart from the sensationalist headlines we’ve no data at all. I suspect it’s that ever so evocative phrase “sewage tank” conjuring up scenes from cheap horror films of recently deceased babies thrown by the ankles into bubbling sewage. The idea that an empty concrete vessel but be reused to provide a grave to poor children and they might be laid to rest with tenderness and all the relevant rights doesn’t seem to be a possibility. It was once a sewage tank so the poor babies must have been just thrown in my callous evil Irish Catholic nuns, after all we’ve all seen Angela’s ashes (or the Blues Brothers), we all know that the church is purely a vehicle of evil right?

Much easier to discount the new story and stick to the horrific headlines of top notch churnalism than admit that maybe once again the press has been less than accurate and that there isn’t a story. Nope why check your narrative when it’s so clear that another witch hunt into Ireland’s Catholic past can be unleashed.

Spiked goes into Tuam rather better and looks at the myth of evil Ireland, which seems rather to resemble how much of the British past is recast as unrelentingly evil and all celebrities from the 60’s and 70’s. Finally over at the Telegraph there’s a few more inaccuracies with Tuam listed and gone into more details, including such gems as “The home never left the hands of the County Council”, but hey as is said in Ireland why let the facts get in the way of a good story, let a lone a profitable inquiry.

Update As ever Anna Raccoon has a few words of clarity to say about this, and do read the comments for such relevant information as:
“The Gardai have issued the following statement:

The grounds in Tuam were being surveyed in 2012 and bones were found, 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 between 750 and 800 bodies present.”

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