Ireland to excavate baby remains
The former western Irish mother and baby home where as many as 796 children were buried in the 20th century is to be excavated and the remains buried.
Katherine Zappone, the Irish children’s minister, said she contacted the Roman Catholic religious order, the Bon Secours sisters, which managed the County Galway institution from 1925 to 1961, to request a contribution towards the projected €16-million cost.
The order has offered a contribution of €2.5 million. “It is not a settlement; it is not an indemnity,” said Zappone, who has also asked Pope Francis to “contribute substantially” to address with the organisation’s legacy.
A Manchester woman, whose baby sister vanished from the institution, said she was confident the remains could be identified.
Annette McKay’s mother, Maggie O’Connor from County Galway, was sent to Tuam (pictured) when she was 17 and pregnant.
McKay, 64, said she did not know about her oldest sister for years and believes she could be among the 800 babies children thought to be buried in septic tanks at the site.
Her sister, Mary Margaret O’Connor, is recorded to have died at Tuam in 1943 from natural causes.
Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said: “I’m not sure if anyone knows what we’re getting into, but it was the right decision.
“This is going to be very difficult, this is a mass grave, there are remains of stillborn babies and older children, and there may also be adult remains,” the taoiseach said.
Varadkar said the site was also used as a workhouse and grave during the 19th-century famine, which would add to the difficulty of identifying remains.
“It will be slow and painstaking and it will not be possible to identify all remains, and what we learn along the way will inform us for action at other sites. This is going to take time, we need to build capacity to do it.
“We will do our utmost in terms of identification, but in many cases, it won’t yield answers.”
Varadkar said almost 10 per cent of Ireland’s population at one point lived in some kind of institution “and many terrible things may have happened there”.
Dublin has agreed to a “phased approach” to the forensic examination of remains. “Significant quantities” of bones were found in disused septic tanks at Tuam in 2017.
Niamh McCullough, a forensic archaeologist, said although the government had committed to extracting DNA, it was uncertain whether this would be possible.
She said there were “more than 20 [bodies], perhaps more than 100”.
Tuam, County Galway. Picture credit: Wikimedia