Recognising those wrongly incarcerated by Church and State
Welcome to The Pure Heart Legacy Project.
In 1951, despite high emigration, more than 1% of the population in Ireland was in coercive confinement in Mother and Baby Homes, Orphanages, Psychiatric Institutions, Industrial Schools, County Homes, Reformatories, Borstals, Magdalene Laundries and Prisons. This was more than Soviet Gulags (U.S. being third on the list of Shame.) This rate of incarceration was eight times higher than in 2008.
O'Sullivan and O'Donnell- Coercive confinement in the Republic of Ireland
Following the renewed interest in the Tuam Babies story in 2016, Sadie initiated a public art project entitled, 'Tuam Spirit Babies’ and invited the collaboration of historian Catherine Corless.The six month project culminated with an exhibition in Tuam Town Hall.The official opening on November 2nd 2016 (All Souls Day) comprised a candlelight vigil at the former Mother and Baby Home site followed by a procession to the Town Hall where a concert and the Irish premiere screening of the French documentary, ‘Children of Shame’ took place. The evening was a great success and well attended by many survivors from throughout Ireland and the UK. The exhibition continued for two weeks following the event. The overall emphasis was on healing and recognition.
Sadie does not have a personal connection to the Tuam story and she wasn’t brought up in an orphanage but like many survivors had a turbulent upbringing. Therefore, her insight into their difficulties is central to this work. Coincidentally, she discovered in August 2018 that her own grandmother and her siblings were cast into a workhouse for a number of years when their mother became a destitute widow and one of Sadie's gran aunts died during her incarceration.
When initial stories broke about widespread institutional abuse, Sadie, like everyone else, was deeply horrified and rocked to the core by the facts emerging. Despite having a strong impulse to react, she found it impossible to engage as her own four children were very young at the time. However, by the time the Tuam story re-emerged in 2016 and given its close proximity to where she lives, she was provoked into action. It was, in a sense, a calling. Sadie feels called to this work.
Through the initial project, Sadie has formed strong links with survivors and other advocates based throughout Ireland and abroad. She continues to engage with new groups in order to further the mission.
Given the enormous healing which was brought about by the project as conveyed to her by the survivors and local people of Tuam, it was clear to Sadie that similar events would be of massive benefit to those affected in other areas. Since then, she's collaboratively organised vigils in Belfast City Hall, Letterfrack Industrial School graveyard and an additional rally in Tuam. She would like to extend this work further afield. To that end, in addition to public engagement, she continues her own personal work which in essence is a distillation and interpretation of what presents forming a symbolic monument to those who died and those who survived their time in institutions.
To date, Sadie is sure that her endeavours have made a big difference to the survivors in highlighting their plight to the general public. The candle light vigil is particularly powerful as it offers families who were deprived of the right to bury ‘their dead’, a dignified public ritual and a chance to grieve together. This is of utmost urgency as many survivors are elderly and whilst they continue to agonisingly wait for Church and State to act, it’s vitally important that they receive collective recognition of past wrongs both from each other and the general public.