Stolen’ tells the story of how women who had the misfortune to fall pregnant ‘out of wedlock’ were treated in an Ireland that was heavily influenced by the Catholic Church. Over 80,000 unmarried mothers were incarcerated in institutions run by nuns from 1922 to 1998. Most were cruelly separated from their babies shortly after birth. Many of the children were adopted within Ireland and abroad – unaware of their birth story and untraceable by their mothers. Others were fostered out as cheap farm labour from the age of six, often in circumstances abysmally devoid of care and love. 9,000 babies and children died in these institutions from 1922 to 1998, a rate that, on occasion, was five times the national average infant mortality rate.
It was a history that was largely ignored until a local historian, in the west of Ireland, recently discovered that 796 babies died between 1925 and 1961 in the Tuam Mother and Baby Home alone. Shockingly, there were no burial records. The public imagination was captured as suspicions grew that the tiny remains were buried in an underground sewage plant beneath a playground, on the site of the former home, beside a housing estate. When the clamour escalated over what happened in Tuam and other institutions around the island, the Irish government announced an inquiry into Mother and Baby and County Homes.
A vista of horror emerged over what happened at other so called ‘homes’ run by religious orders, such as Bessborough in Cork and Sean Ross Abbey in Tipperary. Thousands of babies died in these institutions.
The film will give survivors’ accounts of their experiences of cruelty and loss and of happier outcomes in some cases, interwoven with historical analysis and artists’ responses to what happened. The survivors’ on-going campaign for the truth includes the demand for DNA testing of found remains in the hope of claiming their loved ones, while others, in the absence of burial records, long to know where their lost relatives were buried. Some even dare to dream they may have brothers and sisters still alive amid allegations that their siblings’ deaths were fabricated to facilitate the adoption of children to America from 1951 onwards.
The film will reveal what happened and ask why?
A Besom Productions / Wildfire Films Co-Production
Funded by Screen Ireland, Northern Ireland Screen, BAI and RTÉ
Director of Photography – Colm Hogan
Composer – Deirdre Gribbin
Editors – John Murphy and Patrick Hodgins
Producer – Martha O’Neill
Producer / Director – Margo Harkin
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