There are not many people who still live and work in the 1960’s, yet sometimes I feel that I am one.  I work in baby homes as well as older children’s homes and beyond, mostly still as they were many years ago.  Myself and my team spend most of our life defending orphans, minding, protecting, funding and helping children who were both taken from their parents for social reasons or abandoned, just like in Ireland in the past, mainly social orphans.  Our Russian orphanages were built in the 40’s and not much has really changed in provincial Russia, outside of the big cities.  I am not writing this simply to score goals with Russia, I am writing this to say how ashamed I am to be there and to be Irish.

Of course Putin has made huge changes and of course he has improved numbers, but he still has a lot to do.  I avoid politics and religion at all times, as we only think about one thing, the welfare of the children in our care.  I sat in my hotel room in Russia, with my head in my hands when the Murphy report came out and I would do the same this week because, for the second time, I was deeply ashamed of being Irish.  Russia gets beaten up on a world platform for everything they do, some justified, some not.  Ireland needs that beating up this week.  Someone needs to guide our leaders, train our TDs how to solve problems with empathy and how to communicate as, clearly, they are not looking after the weakest and the most vulnerable in society.

Initially, these women were not vulnerable, they were feisty, strong, beautiful, sexual beings, but, sadly, to their detriment, our treatment of them has made many of them vulnerable victims of abuse now, drug addicts with many mental health issues, amongst many other issues caused by their past.  Some but not all were strong enough to survive the horrors.

We Irish, have been in Russia, on an invite from the State, for the past 22 years and I can only thank God that I ended up in Russian orphanages and not Irish ones, even though at times I feel that I still work in the past.  We are allowed through every door, nothing is hidden from us, we see it all.  We can sit with any Director, mediate, complain, and discuss.  We have solved hundreds if not thousands of problems over our years, no secrets, no hidden files, no savage abuse. 

Do not get me wrong, it is not Nirvana.  We deal with bullying, fear, low self-esteem, illness, and broken hearts all the time.  An unloved child is hard to watch, in fact, I’m not sure which is sadder.

I am a very ordinary person, as are my team.  We all share a love for these abandoned children, and we all dedicate ourselves to them every hour of the day, possibly because we know what was done to our own orphans and single mothers.  Thank God we have no religious perverts in our Russian orphanages, as they are all State run, religion is prohibited.  I take my hat off to them for allowing me/us in, as I am the type to shout if I see injustice and they know it.  Few people have stood beside Putin on a stage with a live audience of 600 million and had a microphone to tell him we need to improve things.  He accepted it with decorum.  Of course, I do not approve of some of their decisions on other issues, but they are not our issues.  We stay focused on our issues, the lost unloved, unsold, children.  We do not do adoptions by the way, we never did, we mind the ones left behind.  The ones no one wants.

I am not an advocate for change there, although they have given us awards for it and they have included my voice in new legislation, but I am not a lobbyist.  We are childminders, minders right through their lives, as they have no one else.  We are dedicated to the same children, hundreds, and hundreds, if not more, a massive weight on all our shoulders, but a weight we are all prepared to carry.  We, from a country that starved, abused, raped and sold our own orphans by the planeload are very happy to work to the bone for these children, we stand beside local people and administrations that watch everything, if only ours had done the same. 

If Vladimir Putin had any sense, he would prohibit the Irish from any of his institutions.  What in God’s name could we bring from our own shameful situation that exists to this very day?  He should throw us out because of our history, instead they allow us in, allow us make change , allow my voice on their national stage about care, love and the need for closure of every orphanage.

Look at what we have done to these Irish people.  I have tried to follow the details, it was not easy as social media did its usual drama.  I spoke at length to a survivor this week, a beautiful woman, to try to understand the whole picture – Higgins’ decision, the seal, the redacted information, the horror of Tusla being involved, the rushed vote that came from nowhere it seems.  No one seemed prepared for it, including our Ministers and TDs, it is their job to be prepared, they are paid to be prepared.  I listened back to Catherine Connolly, to Rose Conway Walsh breaking down in her speech and I also watched the incompetence of some of our TDs and Ministers, who had no clue about the depth of pain here, rushing through a decision by October 30th that was not the decision of the survivors.  They were not even considered in this decision because our TDs knew better than them.  Really?

This is our Holocaust.  These people have been abused by our State, our Church, our society.  Every one of them should be given the keys of the city, along with massive compensation, never mind being abused further to this very day by the leaders of this country.  After a lifetime of pain, thousands of files are given to an organisation that cannot cope daily as it is.  In Tusla, it takes 18 months to get to see a social worker, a place where files go missing, a place where “cut and paste” as we saw with Morris McCabe, by invisible staff, ruins lives and no one is answerable.  This is where their precious information ends up?  Really?  Is that good enough?  No is the answer.  No wonder they freaked over that decision.

We work with children every day who dream about having a Mama.  Mostly their mothers have lost their parental rights and have disappeared.  We work with broken hearts every day, we mop up tears, we tuck them in, we go to every graduation, every wedding, every childbirth, every prison that we can.  Our last day in a Russian prison was last Wednesday with one of our boys who has no family and no access to them.  He only has us.

Yes, we have less and less now, as most help stays at home now.  Yes, we are making a huge difference on a thread, but if we saw Russians doing what we saw the Irish doing this week, we would be the first to lash them out of it.  It would be on CNN, Sky, our own news, etc.  The Irish were a disgrace this week when they broke the hearts of people already on their knees with exhaustion, anxiety, and a new phrase I heard today from a survivor, “genetic bewilderment”.  Think about that phrase. they have no idea who they are.

I want to be proud of my country.  I want to be able to work in Russia and let them know that we know what best practise is.  I want them to think that we come from a place of care, of excellence, of efficiency and of heart.  Well, I am glad that I am locked down and not in my normal place of work this week, our orphanage, because I would be ashamed to stand in front of those staff in Russia today and say that I am Irish.

All of those who were guaranteed confidentiality will get it and every child needs to read about this in school so that it never ever happens again.  Just imagine if they had sealed the information on the holocaust.  Why seal anything other than personal files requested to be kept secret by the person who gave evidence?  What are they hiding by sealing other information do you know?  I certainly do not.

An outrageous vote, ignoring the main stakeholders, taken by highly paid people, unprepared for something that seemed to come from nowhere to their desks, and most of them seemed under researched, shame on them all.  An apology? They need far more than an apology.  Let us watch now and see do they get what they deserve.  Most of them feel they won’t as they have lost faith in the system and who can blame them?  Today we see more politicians lining their own pockets.  When will we ever have leaders that we can feel safe with, that care about our weakest and most vulnerable?

Catherine Connelly was a light in the Dail darkness this week.  She looked exhausted, but she had her facts and empathy out on the table.  How do we get to a place where we can stand proud of those we vote in and know they are there for us?  I’m at a loss.  I genuinely do not know the answer.  But I, for one, have taken down the list of voters who voted to seal, they have not only lost my respect, they have lost my vote.

And worse than anything, those babies’ bones still lie in a septic tank to this very day, hard to believe.  It could have been our own mothers, fathers, uncles, aunts.

Letterfrack in Connemara, another orphanage of massive abuse, also had many who ‘disappeared’.  Now they have a quiet, leafy graveyard with little stone hearts for every child who ‘disappeared’.  Go and sit sometime, names and ages on little stones, it is a very, very special place.  A little bit of dignity, that is the least we owe those little bones in Tuam. 

Debbie Deegan,
Founder To Children With Love

If anyone wishes to help us with our own plight with lost and abandoned children please go to to donate to our international programme and ongoing work with orphaned children.  It is my job to add that, but it is not the reason I wrote the above.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *