Historian Catherine Corless, whose tireless research has shed light on the deaths and burials of hundreds of children at Tuam’s Mother and Baby House, has been honored with the Irish Red Cross Ensemble Award of his achievements.
s Corless joins a prestigious list of past winners, including the late Pat Hume and WHO Executive Director Dr Mike Ryan.
Ms. Corless’s persistence in dragging the dark past into the light saw her life transformed into one where she tirelessly defends the survivors and loved ones of those who resided in the house.
Speaking to Independent IrishMs. Corless is adamant that the award, which she cherishes, is not about her and her accomplishments.
“It’s fantastic and I’m delighted, but everything for me is about the Tuam babies and the spread of their story. This is justice for the poor innocent little babies and the survivors who seem to mean very little to those in power.
“Being a voice for them is my main goal. So it’s a great price in that regard.
Ms Corless grew up next to the institution and went to school with some of the children who lived there.
After taking a local history class at NUI Maynooth, she became interested in the history of the house.
Additionally, she was haunted by a shocking tale of two little boys who, while playing in a field one day near the house, fell into an underground chamber filled with bones.
“It was just by accident that I heard about what the boys found. Just for these two little boys, I wouldn’t have known. I have a feeling they were supposed to find them.
“It’s almost something powerful that I can’t explain, is trying to rectify what happened around that time.
“There has been so much injustice and suffering in these decades that something had to give way.
“I am just a cog in the wheel bringing this terrible story to light in the hope that justice will be served.
“The glory in the end, hopefully, will see the most vulnerable, poor and neglected in our society securing their rights to a decent burial, and the past will be kind of healed.”
Ms. Corless’s work culminated in the creation of the Commission of Inquiry into Mothers and Babies Homes.
She hopes her Red Cross award will prompt the government to act faster to exhum the babies.
“The Red Cross are just lovely people, they enjoyed my work so much. Honestly, I find it hard to take compliments, I’ve always been that way. But they are so good to reward me for that.
“The Red Cross award is so powerful I know it will get the government moving.
“This is my main thought.”
Commenting on the award, Irish Red Cross Secretary General Catrina Sheridan said: “The inspiring work of Catherine Corless to uncover the real story behind the deaths of children at Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, the dedication to ensure that these children receive the respectful burial they deserve is a vitally important and continuing contribution to Irish society that serves as a powerful example to all of us.
She added that Ms. Corless’s “steadfast efforts” align with the “core value of the International Red Cross Movement of alleviating suffering wherever it may be”.