No redress for Marie-Thérèse

No redress for Marie Therese

Aged 18 months, Marie-Thérèse O’Loughlin fell into a blazing fire at a Legion of Mary mother-and-baby unit. Now she is seeking compensation under the Residential Institutions Redress Board. Emma Browne reports. For the past eight weeks Marie-Thérèse O’Loughlin has been camped in protest outside Leinster House in Dublin, surviving on only soup and yoghurt.
She gained three stone in weight in advance of her protest (which started as a hunger strike); she has already lost two-and-half stone. She is protesting to persuade the Government to allow her to seek compensation under the Residential Institutions Redress Board for injuries she received whilst in the mother and baby unit at the Regina Coeli Hostel in Dublin in 1952. The unit is not currently on the redress list.At some point during her second year in the Regina Coeli hostel, her mother was admitted to hospital with TB. Marie-Thérèse remained at the hostel under the care of the other mothers living there, some as young as 14. It was common practice for one mother to look after the children while the other mothers worked. When Marie-Thérèse’s mother was ill in hospital, Marie-Thérèse’s high chair fell into an “open blazing fire”. She sustained injuries that have left her with scars on her face, hand and leg. To this day she hides her hand from strangers and covers the scars on her face with her hair. (Frank Duff with children at the Regina Coeli hostel.)
Throughout her life, Marie-Thérèse had no idea what caused her injuries. “I grew up with this imagining that somebody may have been trying to get rid of me.”I never showed my hand to anyone… if anybody wanted to hold hands with me I pushed them away, I didn’t ever tell anyone I had a bad hand.” It was only when she was 29 and met her mother that she discovered the real cause of her injuries. Subsequent to her stay at the mother-and-baby unit, Marie-Thérèse went to Goldenbridge, a childcare home, when she was five years old.
“There was a lot of name-calling (one of the names they called her was “scarface”), children were frightened of me, and deformity was used against me.” During her time in Goldenbridge, Marie-Thérèse  made rosary beads: “nobody ever questioned throughout all my years in Goldenbridge [about] my deformity or whether I should or should not be making rosary beads… no child should be making rosary beads but especially not a child with a deformity… as far as I am concerned it did untold damage to the tissue”. She describes her time in Goldenbridge as very lonely and unhappy, “I don’t remember every getting close to anybody, I just can’t remember… it had a cold atmosphere, I don’t ever remember people saying nice things. “After Goldenbridge she went to work as an au pair in Switzerland. This didn’t work out and she was sent back to Goldenbridge for a few months. She moved to London in her late teens and floated around hostels. “Ironically I was rescued by a woman from the Legion of Mary.”
 
It was in her late 20s, after undergoing counselling, that she began to wonder about her mother. She had grown up believing that her mother was dead as this was what the nuns in Goldenbridge told her. She returned to Dublin to find her mother’s grave. It was then that she discovered that her mother was alive. “I couldn’t understand I said, I am looking for a grave, not a person. I was out of myself, the shock horror, they wanted to get a doctor.” She returned to London where her mother tracked her down: “I got this phone call and this woman with a country accent said ‘I’m your mother’. ‘My mother is dead,’ I said. ‘I’m not that person,’ and she said, ‘you are, you are,’ and she asked me to forgive her, and not to have any recriminations towards her.”

“She [Marie-Thérèse’s mother] found it very hard to talk about [the fire incident], but I did ask questions, and I’m very glad that I did ask questions. I wrote to them seeking litigation, the solicitor told me I was statute barred, I didn’t even have the education to go to a solicitor myself, I still hadn’t adapted to the outside world.”

In 2000, under a Freedom of Information application, Marie-Thérèse got access to her Goldenbridge files, which included details of her medical history. “I’m actually lucky that it was recorded, and then I was lucky too that I got that information from my mother.”

Marie-Thérèse says that she will continue with her protest outside the Dáil until next Christmas if necessary. “When I get bad moments, when I am feeling so isolated and I’m lying down outside the Dáil, I think that 18-month-old baby was never acknowledged, was totally and utterly ignored.” She has written more than 300 letters to members of the Government. A number of them – including Joe Costello, Joe O’Toole, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin and Olywn Enright – are supporting her.

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Photo of Frank Duff with legionaries outside the Regina Coeli hostel.

Mary Hanafin, Minister for Education and Science, came to visit her once outside, to tell her that she will not be adding the unit to the redress schedule. The Department of Education did offer her counselling for the emotional effects of Goldenbridge. “It’s not sufficient for somebody to have half their hand almost taken off and for them to say ‘oh yeah we’ll deal with the psychological aspect of what happened to you in Goldenbridge'”. Thursday 15 December 2005  Emma Browne.

Hanafin wrong on Regina Coeli – mother and baby unit was inspected

A decision by Mary Hanafin, Minister for Education and Science, not to include the Regina Coeli Mother and Baby Unit on the Residential Institutions Redress Board list was based on inaccurate information. A decision by Mary Hanafin, Minister for Education and Science, not to include the Regina Coeli Mother and Baby Unit on the Residential Institutions Redress Board list was based on inaccurate information.
Hanafin said that she cannot include the Regina Coeli Mother and Baby Unit on the list as there are no records of the State inspecting it or having a regulatory function. However, this has been contradicted by information received from the Department of Health and Children. According to the Department, the unit was first inspected in 1947, and the Department provided funding for the unit as far back as 1935.
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Morning Star hostel, North Brunswick St. Dublin 7.
As reported in Village magazine (15 December), Marie-Thérèse O’Loughlin received burns as a baby, after falling into a fire whilst in the Regina Coeli Mother and Baby Unit, and is now asking for the unit to be included on the Residential Institutions Redress Board (RIRB) list. Marie-Thérèse O’Loughlin has been protesting outside the Dail since October.
Mary Hanafin can add institutions to the list under section 4 of the 2002 act, which says: “The minister may by order provide for the insertion in the schedule of any industrial school, reformatory school orphanage, children’s home… in which children were placed and resident in respect of which a public body has a regulatory or inspection function.”
So far, Hanafin has refused to add the Regina Coeli Mother and Baby Unit, based on the fact that she was told by the Department of Health and Children there were no inspection records for the unit.
Group of legionaries outside the Regina Coeli hostel in the past.
In October, Mary Hanafin wrote a letter regarding Marie-Thérèse case to Senator Joe O’Toole, saying: “Officials at that Department (Health and Children) consulted files they held, which did not yield any records that suggested that any public body inspected or regulated this facility and as such it is not possible to include this facility on the schedule.”
Brian Lenihan, minister of state at the Department of Health and Children wrote toMarie-Thérèse O’Loughlin on 23 August 2005 saying: “Section 4 of the Act states that a public body must have had a regulatory or inspection function in relation to the institution concerned for it to be considered in the inclusion. This Department has examined its records concerning the Regina Coeli Hostel and has found no evidence of such a function.”
In a response to questions submitted by Village the Department of Education and Science said it had provided funding for the services at the Regina Coeli Hostel as far back as 1935, and the first record of inspection was in 1947.
The Department said Brian Lenihan gave incorrect information due to a “confusion of references in relation to Regina Coeli, ‘Morning Star’ and a ‘Morning Star Mother and Baby Home’”. They said the Minister was now happy to clarify the matter.
Village asked the Department of Education and Science if Mary Hanafin had a response to the new information regarding the inspection records; how was she not aware of the inspection records through her communication with the department; would she now consider adding it to list; and, if not, for what reason.
The Department replied: “As the redress scheme applies to industrial schools, reformatory schools and other such institutions for children where the State’s duty of care arose from the fact that the children were separated from their families and were placed and resident in institutions over which the State had a regulatory or supervisory responsibility. “This situation did not apply in respect of homes or hostels for mothers and their babies.”
When asked again how the confusion over the inspection records arose, the Department said, “there was no confusion”.
The response given to Village is totally different to a reply Minister Hanafin gave in the Dáil on 14 December. She said: “I assure the House if there was evidence of the State having placed people in these institutions or of having an inspection role, I would have liked and wanted to have them included in the interests of the people who were abused in them, or who believe they were abused in them. The lack of evidence means there is nothing to indicate the State had that role as set out in the legislation.” Thursday 22 December 2005 Emma Browne.

The Regina Coeli Hostel

Regina Coeli HostelThe Regina Coeli Hostel is the sister hostel of the Morning Star and was opened for homeless women and children by Frank Duff because he was particularly concerned with the effects of poverty on women.

In 1927 the Morning Star Hostel for men was opened and in October 1930 the Regina Coeli Hostel for women.

Regina Coeli Hostel gardenNot just women but mothers with young children and expectant single mothers. A novel initiative, this was the first time in lreland that a formal effort had been made to facilitate mothers and their children in the role of a family unit. Both the Morning Star and the Regina Coeli have remained open every single day since their foundation.

The Regina Coeli Hostel in its entirety is comprised of Legion of Mary Members working round the clock and on a voluntary basis. There are 6 working groups each with a complement of up to 20 members.

Regina Coeli Hostel gardenThey keep the place in good order, make beds, serve meals and befriend the residents- Some legionaries have dedicated themselves wholly to this endeavour and live as indoor staff, while others serve on a temporary basis. Then there are those who dedicate all their active days totally to this work. Presently in the region of 100 women and children are catered for in the Hostel.

Regina Coeli dining room

Mothers have facilities for preparing meals in their own units and if they wish can have a mid-day meal in the Hostel’s own dining room. Single women have breakfast and evening meals provided and lunch is available for a token charge. Dinner is available for all children on a daily basis.

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Regina Coeli Oratory

The Hostel has an Oratory with reservation of the Blessed Sacrament and Sunday Mass. Homeless persons of all denominations or none are welcome and full respect is accorded to their religious beliefs. With the residents making contributions there are not the usual public appeals for funds.

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Nonetheless funds are needed from time to time and over the years benefactors have helped at critical moments. The policy is to be of service to those who are most in need. Frank Duff reasoned that if the Hostel were to keep only those of calm dispositions then those most in need would be excluded. He called this, the policy of Values Reversed.

Hostel Refurbishment

Old photograph of the Regina Coeli HostelJust in a like manner to the Morning Star Hostel our hostel needs to have some renovation and upgrading work to be done on it. Part of this work has already been completed and we have a new roof on the hostel.

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“This particular activity has been considered at length because it really concerns the whole spirit of the Legion. In addition, it holds, amongst services done to the Church, a key position. For it constitutes a special assertion of the Catholic principle that even the lowest of human beings hold in relation to us a position which is independent of their value or agreeableness to us: that in them Christ is to be seen, reverenced, loved.”

(Handbook Chapter 37 Suggestions as to works, Section 6 footnote: Work for the most wretched and dejected of the population.)

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