Patrick Counihan — Irish Central June 7, 2014
More than 2000 Irish children in religious run homes were subjected to drugs trials in the 1930s according to a shocking new report.
As the Tuam burial ground scandal erupts, it has now emerged that Catholic Church run homes and state institutions let the children of unmarried mothers be used in medical experiments.
The Irish Daily Mail has published a damning report which outlines how scientists secretly vaccinated more than 2,000 children in religious-run homes in suspected illegal drug trials.
The paper says that old medical records show that 2,051 children and babies in Irish care homes were given a one-shot diphtheria vaccine for international drugs giant Burroughs Wellcome between 1930 and 1936.
The report adds that no evidence exists that consent was ever sought.
Historian Michael Dwyer who unearthed the documentations says that no records of how many may have died or suffered debilitating side-effects as a result are in existence.
Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny, on a trade mission in America, has been made aware of the scandal by the paper and has ordered ministers to see whether there are more mass baby graves scattered across the country.
His move comes after claims that more than 800 infants may be buried in a septic tank outside a former mother and baby home in Tuam.
Kenny confirmed: “I have ordered my officials to see what the scale is, what’s involved here, and whether this is isolated or if there are others around the country that need to be looked at.”
Dwyer, a lecturer at Cork University’s School of History, told the Irish Daily Mail that he found the child vaccination data by trawling through tens of thousands of medical journal articles and archive files.
He said the trials were carried out before the vaccine was made available for commercial use in the UK.
Irish homes where children were secretly tested included Bessborough, in Co. Cork and Sean Ross Abbey in Roscrea, Co. Tipperary, both of which are at the centre of the mass baby graves scandal.
The paper names other institutions where children may also have been vaccinated including Cork orphanages St Joseph’s Industrial School for Boys, run by the Presentation Brothers, and St Finbarr’s Industrial School for Girls, run by the Sisters of the Good Shepherd.
Dublin trials may have involved children from St Vincent’s Industrial School, Goldenbridge, St Joseph’s School for Deaf Boys, Cabra, and St Saviours’s Dominican Orphanage.
Dwyer warned: “What I have found is just the tip of a very large and submerged iceberg.
“The fact that no record of these trials can be found in the files relating to the Department of Local Government and Public Health, the Municipal Health Reports relating to Cork and Dublin, or the Wellcome Archives in London, suggests that vaccine trials would not have been acceptable to government, municipal authorities, or the general public.
“However, the fact that reports of these trials were published in the most prestigious medical journals suggests that this type of human experimentation was largely accepted by medical practitioners and facilitated by authorities in charge of children’s residential institutions.”
A spokesman for GSK -formerly Wellcome – told the Irish Daily Mail: “The activities that have been described to us date back over 70 years and, if true, are clearly very distressing.
“We would need further details to investigate what actually took place, but the practices outlined certainly don’t reflect how modern clinical trials are carried out. We conduct our trials to the same high scientific and ethical standards, no matter where in the world they are run.”
A spokeswoman for the Sisters of Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, the order that ran Bessborough and Sean Ross Abbey, has said that like GSK, they would also welcome an independent inquiry.