December 5, 2023

‘Kilkenny County Council was part of that failure’ – local authority apologises for role in Mother and Baby home scandal

Kilkenny County Council has issued a formal apology to the deceased, the survivors and the relatives of former residents at a local Mother and Baby Home.

St Columba’s Hospital, formerly known as Thomastown County Home prior to 1957, was one of four County Homes that featured in the recently published report by the Mothers and Babies Homes Commission. The mass grave – known as ‘Shanks Yard’ – was identified in the report.

St Columba’s was controlled by Kilkenny County Council up until 1970.

At the monthly local authority meeting, Cathaoirleach Andrew McGuinness formally apologised to the victims and survivors on behalf of the council.

Cllr McGuinness said: “As Chairman of Kilkenny County Council and on behalf of the elected members, both current and past, from all parties and none, it is our desire, duty, and obligation, to apologise unreservedly, to the mothers and babies, survivors and deceased and their relatives and families, for the pain and suffering caused by the treatment they received at the Kilkenny County Home while it was under the control of Kilkenny County Council.

“There is no way to undo the wrecking of thousands of lives or to erase the damage done to the reputation of our country. No words can explain the actions or inactions from State or Church, and nothing can undo this horrendous disregard for humanity.”

The leader of Kilkenny Council said “institutions and trusted leaders turned a blind eye” to what was going on in the Mother and Baby Homes.

He added: “It has tarnished the heart and soul of our country and has given us all a sense of shame. We accept that apologies are only words and cannot undo the past, but it is an acknowledgment of our deep regret that this ever happened in our country and indeed our county.

“Specifically, this apology is an acknowledgment that Kilkenny County Council was part of that failure and we, as elected representatives are deeply ashamed of that fact.

“Apologies may not offer closure and in that regard, we fully support survivors and their families in their pursuit of transparency and the upholding of their basic human rights that were so brutally violated,” Cathaoirleach McGuinness concluded.

It was agreed at the meeting to develop a memorial to all those who died at St Columba’s and to commit to supporting measures to provide survivors with access to all archives and records.

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