Ever since Tuam, the overnight sensation that took 40 years to break, broke there have been calls for investigations and enquiries. Making me wonder, to what end? I’m not suggesting we leave the past in the past. Far from it. I just want to know what it is we want here?
Do we want an investigation to merely compile a list of all those survivors (and their descendants?) who must get compensation? Would we be looking for reasons why our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents appeared to hate sex so much? Or was it women they hated? Do we hope to discover even more incidents of Roman Catholic amorality? Will we finally know how little the State cares for the poor? Are we looking for reassurance that we are better people now than we were then? Do we think if we just know everything that happened, we can be certain to not repeat those mistakes? Or is it merely a macabre need to know all about those particular baby bones in Tuam.
I’ll be honest, my interest is mostly Discovery Chanel, Police Procedural, Mystery Novel reading, morbid curiosity. I want a forensic pathologist or perhaps a forensic anthropologist (I don’t know what the difference is) to lead a team of experts, who will carefully retrieve, catalogue and investigate each of the bones in whatever that is in Tuam. Then I want them to work with archivists to create a broad picture of what happened in that unhappy place and put together a data base of every single person who went through the doors of that particular institution.
After that, the sociologists, historians, apologists, politicians, lawyers, bloggers and talk-show hosts can begin the task of generating interpretations and consequences. What will most likely happen (and what in fact is happening, and I say this as a wannabe columnist) is the commentary will come before the science. So much heat and noise, that we’ll have no energy, interest or resources to do the actual forensic work. For example, has a single bone been examined by a scientist? Not that I’m aware of.
I’m as guilty of this as everyone else. I’ve written one blog post on Tuam and have written 3000 words of another blogpost on the same topic and yet no one with a white coat, white wellingtons and little trowel and brush is slowly unearthing those bones.
Must everything we do in this country be half-arsed? What is the point of a Departmental paper search, or a Judicial Review or even a list of death certificates? There is a pit of possibly human remains that may date from as recently as 60 years ago and the response has been bureaucracy. No, a parody of bureaucracy.
I love pointing the finger at Roman Catholic cruelty. I get a kick out of pointing out the inherent nastiness of conservatism. I enjoy seeing wronged people given justice. I think history is vital to understanding the present. I think sociology has a lot to teach us. And I love the sound of my own voice.
But just this once, can our dim-witted State send in a few bloody experts to actually see what, and possibly who, is buried in Tuam. If not the State itself, let it invite the Discovery Channel or Time Team or the archeology Department in Trinity to do the work. I bet they’ll be a damn sight cheaper and infinitely more useful than the gravy train of an ‘official enquiry.’ Most importantly, they might actually find some truth.