Teddies, babygrows and children's shoes were the poignant tributes left at the gates of the Irish Parliament last night during a candlelit vigil marking the deaths of 796 babies in a mother and baby home in Co Galway.
One message inked on a tiny babygrow read: “For the babies we hold in our hearts, and not in our arms.”
A march took place from outside the Department for Children in Dublin under banners demanding justice. Earlier, two seven-year-old girls, Dasha Dlyaritskaya-Hilliard and Juliette Bruce Merzouk from Dublin, delivered a petition to Irish Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald.
Signed by 30,000 people from more than a dozen countries, it urged the Irish Government to escalate investigations into mother and baby homes.
Around 250 people turned up for the rally, which began with song and verse, before a minute's silence was observed for the young lives lost.
Colm O'Gorman of Amnesty International said the voices of those who had passed through the mother and baby homes had been “silenced for years”.
And organiser Gary Daly questioned why the site at Tuam had not been excavated. “We need to find out what's down there and to see if there's any truth in the rumours,” said the solicitor.
Survivor Con Carroll, who was born at Sean Ross Abbey in Roscrea, Co Tipperary, in 1964, said the revelations had brought flashbacks of his institutional childhood. He suffered a stroke at birth, had never met his mother and was never adopted, he said.
Ken Purcell from Dublin was adopted from an institution, which he believes to have been in Blackrock, Co Cork, but has been unable to find out for certain, although he met his birth mother.
Meanwhile hundreds of people gathered in silence in Galway last night to express their horror at the deaths of the children in the Tuam home.
Tiny white paper cut-outs of 796 children, starkly labelled by number, were draped along the gates of the children's playground in Eyre Square.
The vigil was addressed by historian Catherine Corless who discovered the records of the deaths.