Belfast Telegraph

Burial sites for hundreds of babies that died at Tuam home 'unknown'

Members of the public at the site of a mass grave for children who died in the Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home in Tuam
Members of the public at the site of a mass grave for children who died in the Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home in Tuam
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

By Cormac McQuinn

The final resting place of the "vast majority" of hundreds of children that died at a mother and baby home in the Irish Republic is not known.

And many of the just over 800 children who died at the institution in Tuam are likely to be buried in underground chambers built within a decommissioned sewage tank.

These findings are contained in the fifth interim report of the Mother and Baby Home Commission of Investigation, which Taoiseach Leo Varadkar described as "gruesome reading".

He said Irish society inherits a "deep shame" for what was done at the institutions at a time when women and babies were "appallingly treated", often for being unmarried or poor.

Children's Minister Katherine Zappone appealed to anyone with information on babies that died at the homes to "let us know where they are buried" so they can be "treated with dignity in death". The commission's report contains criticism of religious orders that ran institutions and Galway County Council which owned the home at Tuam.

The Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary owned and ran three institutions - Bessborough, Co Cork; Castlepollard, Co Westmeath; and Sean Ross in Co Tipperary. It provided the commission with an affidavit about burials generally and specifically about those at Castlepollard and Sean Ross.

The report says that the affidavit was "in many respects speculative, inaccurate and misleading".

The commission said that more than 900 children died in Bessborough - or in hospital after being transferred from the institution - over more than seven decades. Many of the deaths took place in the 1940s.

The report said that the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary do not know where the children are buried.

The commission considers it likely that some of the children are buried in the grounds of Bessborough but has been unable to find physical or documentary evidence of this.

It's not considered feasible to excavate 60 acres or the rest of the land that makes up an estate that was once 200 acres.

A statement from the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary last night insisted that the commission "has had and will continue to have our fullest co-operation".

The commission, chaired by Judge Yvonne Murphy, was set up in 2015 after the revelations about burials at the Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home in Tuam.

The interim report says that 802 children died at the Tuam institution. Many of the children are said to have been buried in a chamber structure built within a large decommissioned sewage tank. The report says that the Sisters of Bon Secours which ran the Tuam home were "unable to provide any information about the burials there".

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