Ireland’s Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone TD, above, has described the find of ‘significant quantities’ of human remains at a former Catholic institution in Tuam, Co Galway, as ‘very sad and disturbing news’.
Zappone said in this report:
It was not unexpected as there were claims about human remains on the site over the last number of years. Up to now we had rumours. Now we have confirmation that the remains are there, and that they date back to the time of the mother and baby home, which operated in Tuam from 1925 to 1961.
The Minister urged a sensitive and respectful response to the discovery.
A commission set up to investigate alleged abuse at religious-run so-called mother and baby homes has been carrying out an excavation at the site of the home. It said it was “shocked” by the discovery of “significant quantities of human remains” in at least 17 of 20 underground chambers excavated in recent weeks.
The Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes said:
A small number of remains were recovered for the purpose of analysis. These remains involved a number of individuals with age-at-death ranges from approximately 35 foetal weeks to 2-3 years.
Radiocarbon dating of the samples recovered suggest that the remains date from the time frame relevant to the operation of the mother and baby home.
A number of the samples are likely to date from the 1950s, according to the commission, which said in a statement:
The Commission is shocked by this discovery and is continuing its investigation into who was responsible for the disposal of human remains in this way. Meanwhile, the commission has asked that the relevant State authorities take responsibility for the appropriate treatment of the remains.
The commission was set up two years ago by the Irish Government to probe state sanctioned, religious-run institutions used to house pregnant mothers. It was charged with investigating high mortality rates at mother and baby homes across several decades of the 20th century, the burial practises at these sites and also secret and illegal adoptions and vaccine trials on children.
An inquiry was ordered after massive national and international focus on the story of the Sisters of the Bon Secours in Tuam, where the remains of 796 infants are believed to be buried. Documents discovered by local historian Catherine Corless show the children may have died of starvation and neglect. It states the children died from malnutrition, measles, convulsions, TB, gastroenteritis and pneumonia.
Outside of Tuam, three other mother and baby homes have little angels plots believed to hold the remains of another 3,200 babies and infants.
Infant mortality rates ranged from 30-50 per cent in some of the homes in the 1930s and 1940s.
Joan Burton, Labour Party TD, said the findings at Tuam are:
Truly gruesome and no doubt deeply upsetting to anyone associated with the Tuam home.
The grim discovery also highlights the important work of local historian Catherine Corless in bringing this case to light. It now appears as though these children were interred in some kind of mass grave, possibly without normal funeral rights, and maybe even without their wider families having been made aware.
There have also been allegations that there may have been similar instances with other mother and baby homes around the country.
I believe the government should resource the commission so that all such allegations can be included.
It is now incumbent upon the Catholic Church to assist in whatever way they can, so that the truth should be set out in relation to these matters.
Hat tip: Angela_K & Matthew Carr