Search underway for remains at mum and baby home in Newry
A search for human remains has started at the site of a former mother and baby care home in Newry.
The search was prompted by Northern Ireland archaeologist, Toni Maguire, who helped find thousands of children buried in unconsecrated ground at Milltown Cemetery in west Belfast.
The search is supported by the current site owner, Cuan Mhuire Ltd, which bought the land in 1990.
The Marian Vale home, situated on the Armagh Road, was run by the Good Shepherd Sisters over a period of almost 30 years.
It comes after an underground chamber holding the remains of hundreds of babies were discovered at a mother and baby home run by the Bon Secours order in Tuam, Co Galway.
A spokesman for Cuan Mhuire told the Belfast Telegraph that the Newry search has been commissioned due to ethical concerns.
"The development agents took the view that it was better, especially because there was potential concern given what has been discovered elsewhere, to have the land checked to alleviate any such concerns.
"We believe it is simply the right thing to do," he said.
"It's all based on speculation, not evidence, but we are caught in this position and are following the rules of best practice.
"The mother and baby home operated between 1955 and 1984, well after partition. The practice then was that baby births were to be dealt with by local hospitals," he said.
Ms Maguire, an infant burials expert, made objections to planning applications made by a company that bought land from Cuan Mhuire over concerns that babies may have been buried on the site.
The spokesman for the current site owner insisted there is no evidence of any burials, apart from a legitimate private graveyard on the land. "There isn't even the suggestion that the land was used as a burial ground but because the site was formerly used and owned by the Good Shepherds it was felt there was good grounds for a search," he said.
Although he admitted to sharing concerns about the land he insisted that, based on conversations he has had with Ms Maguire, he does not anticipate any shocking discoveries, despite concerns following initial dip testing of the ground.
The preliminary tests caused alarm but the Cuan Mhuire spokesman said it was due to false readings as a result of the unique nature of the ground.
The search is due to last seven weeks.