The Tuam Oral History Project demonstrates, like previous projects (including the CLANN Project, Justice for Magdalenes Research and Waterford Memories) how a considered, survivor/person centred approach could provide a supported and non-adversarial way for individuals to tell their story. All current interviewees were born in the Tuam institution, which closed in 1961. Some were fostered/boarded out. Some were adopted. In July 2020 we released a three-part podcast series, ‘Other: Stories from the Tuam Mother and Baby Home’ which explores the stories of survivors Teresa O’Sullivan, Peter Mulryan and Christine Carroll, and the impact that the institution had on their lives. Narrated by Actor and Patron of the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre at NUI Galway, Cillian Murphy, the series is an invaluable resource highlighting the importance of personal testimonies.
These testimonies are one small piece of a larger puzzle, but an important one. A tapestry of details emerges: The County Home where their mother was placed, or maybe the Magdalene Asylum. The area where this group was fostered/boarded out, where lots of children were boarded out. The work they did without pay. The thirty years it took to find their mother. The families they have today. The connections and differences in their life stories, the diversity of these histories. All the testimonies are not yet publicly accessible, for varied reasons, but all those whose testimonies have been made available to date have chosen to use their own names. We owe them a huge debt for sharing their history.
Journalists too, such as Mary Raftery, Conall Ó Fátharta and Mike Milotte have written extensively, and in many ways, the public in recent years have empathised. Human Rights arguments continue to focus on the need for transitional justice, for redress, for memorialisation – yet the enormity of these histories remains out of reach. This is, perhaps, due to the fragmented ways in which the State have dealt with those affected. We have heard much since 1996 when Christine Buckley’s documentary, ‘Dear Daughter’ was aired, yet in many ways survivors, activists and allies still have a long way to go. Intergenerational trauma is only beginning to be acknowledged, as is the importance not only of gender, but social class, ethnicity, disability, and race in who was incarcerated and how.