A Commission appointed by the Irish government to look into the mass burial of infants at a former “mother and baby” home has confirmed “significant quantities of human remains” have been found in the grounds of the home. The Commission was appointed in 2015 after historian Catherine Corless found death certificates for babies born at a home in Tuam, County Galway, but no burial records.
The commission will look at how these babies died, whether they can be identified, and how dead bodies were disposed of, at up to 70 other similar homes. The statement from the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation said test excavations had uncovered a “long structure divided into 20 chambers”, and that human remains were found in “at least 17 of the 20 underground chambers which were examined”.
The bodies found ranged in age from premature babies to children age three. None was considered worthy to be given a funeral or a marked grave. Radiocarbon tests carried out on the human remains suggest that they date from the period the home was operation (1925-1961). Corless came across the graveyard at Tuam when she was researching a history of the Catholic-run home. She wanted to know why graves were not marked on a local map. From local people Corless heard that young boys who were playing at the site in the 1970s discovered some skeletal remains, but the matter was not investigated at the time.
Corless fought long and hard to bring the situation at Tuam to the attention of the Irish government. fallen women The Tuam home and others like it took in unmarried mothers who were regarded as “fallen women”. Tuam was run the Bon Secours order of nuns. A child would have died nearly every two weeks between the mid-1920s and 1960s. It is thought these deaths would mostly likely have been due to malnutrition. But the deaths are just one part of the horror and injustice associated with these homes.
J P Rodgers, who was born in the Tuam home, and has written two books about his experiences, told the BBC in 2014: “My mother was put into care for begging when she was less than three years old and spent most of her life in Catholic Church-run institutions until she ran away to England when she was 34.”
Rodgers was separated from his mother and fostered when he was five. “The day we separated she cut off a lock of my hair as a keepsake and she vowed that no church or state would be able to claim her son as long as she kept his hair. Growing up I knew there was something radically wrong with Irish society. It was wrong for any church to separate a mother from her infant.”
[At the time] “One faith, Christianity and the Catholic Church in particular, dominated so many aspects of life. Sex outside marriage was more than just a sin. The domination of the church was one in which the state and the people at the time willingly colluded.
“The victims were not just women and young girls who got locked up because they were pregnant. We now know from recent state reports they included children — the victims of institutional and clerical child sex abuse.”
And so it seems child victims of starvation. More details about these crimes will follow. It will surely mean further damage to the Catholic Church’s authority in Ireland. Good!