The Bar of Ireland honours Catherine Corless, historian who exposed Tuam mass grave

The Bar of Ireland honours Catherine Corless, historian who exposed Tuam mass grave

The Bar of Ireland yesterday presented its annual Human Rights Award to Catherine Corless, the amateur historian who played a pivotal role in exposing the mass grave at a Mother and Baby home in Tuam.

The Galway woman said she was overwhelmed by the public response to her 2014 report on the Bon Secours home, where 796 babies and young children were buried before it closed in 1961.

Ms Corless said: “I’m not used to public speaking. I think this is my third speech total. However, I feel it is important to keep making these addresses so that we might garner the attention needed to see justice done for the survivors of the Tuam home and many other homes like it.”

In her speech, she took aim at the present administration of the Catholic Church in Ireland, who she said have failed to display adequate understanding and support to the survivors of the Tuam home.

In particular, Ms Corless criticised the refusal of Church officials to meet with survivors until after the government’s Commission of Inquiry has published its final report, which is expected to be released some time before the end of the year.

Paul McGarry SC, chair of The Council of The Bar of Ireland, spoke of the “exceptional humanitarian service” that Ms Corless had provided in her determined effort to bring the Tuam mass grave to public attention, saying she “embodies the very essence of a humanitarian”.

Thomas Creedit SC, chair of The Bar’s human rights committee, spoke of the lengths to which Ms Corless had to go to bring the mass grave to public attention, often at personal expense and meeting resistance along the way. Upon the discovery of the human remains, Ms Corless requested the death certificates for all 796 children interned in the unmarked grave at a cost of €4 each.

Mr Creed spoke of the service that Ms Corless had provided for the nation, quoting Amnesty International’s Colm O’Gorman that “confronting and acknowledging the human rights abuses of our past is essential for Ireland to move forward into a brighter future”.

Last year’s winners were the men and women of the Irish Naval Service, who were recognised for their extraordinary efforts to save the lives of refugees attempting to cross the Mediterranean.

Ms Corless was presented with a bronze statue cast by Irish artist Seamas Gill in recognition of her work.

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