Human remains of a significant number of babies and infants up to three years of age have been found on the site of a former ‘mother and baby’ home in Tuam, County Galway, confirming horor reports of an effective holocaust against those children at the home run by the Bon Secours order of nuns.
The victims are understood to be neglected infants born out of wedlock and taken under their ‘care’. They died of abuse, malnutrition or disease and their bodies secretly dumped. Up to 800 are thought to have died in this manner over a period ranging from the 1930s to the 1950s.
The find follows work by the Commission on Mother and Baby Homes which carried out planned excavations there, motivated by the concerns of local amateur Catherine Corless three years ago and the scandal which erupted over her claims. Ms Corless spent years researching the home, obtaining death certificates for each child who died there in the hope of rectifying an injustice.
In a statement on Friday, the commission said it was “shocked” by the discovery of remains in an underground chamber and was continuing its investigations.
It significant quantities of human remains have been discovered in 17 of 20 underground chambers which had been constructed out of what had appeared to be a sewage treatment system.
“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 two to three years,” they said.
Minister for Children Katherine Zappone said Friday’s announcement was “very sad and disturbing news”.
“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.”
Decisions have yet to be taken on whether more excavations will be required at other mother and baby home sites.
A Sinn Fein motion was tabled in the Dail calling for a fully independent judicial inquiry into all mother-and-baby homes that operated in the country.
Speaking at Leinster House, Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou McDonald said it was evident that the activities at the home in Co Galway were “not a limited phenomenon”.
“People have known I think and the State has known for a very long time that there were big failures,” McDonald said. “It is our firm view that the only viable mechanism to get to the truth is through the mechanism of a fully independent judicial inquiry.”
The coalition government subsequently announced that a Commission of Investigation into the mother-and-baby homes is to take place.
Ms McDonald said there were questions to be asked of State institutions, and of previous governments as part of that investigation, adding: “For anybody to feign shock at this information I think is to be disingenuous.”