Wednesday 26 April 2017

Locals are deeply worried about where Tuam babies will be laid to rest

Local historian Catherine Corless. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Local historian Catherine Corless. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Teresa Kelly

I am the chairperson of the Tuam Babies Graveyard Committee.The committee was formed in August 2013. This group of like-minded people wished to do the right thing for the children who were buried in the grounds of what was once the St Mary's old orphanage.

It was known locally as 'The Home'. Our initial aims were simple:

  • Erecting a dignified memorial recognising the children in name, age, and their date of death;
  • We also sought to have the area preserved and maintained in the future as a mark of respect.

These areas had been maintained and looked after by members of this committee for over 40 years prior to the site gaining national and worldwide recognition.

From the outset of this project it was very clear that we wanted these children recognised and remembered.

We felt it was beyond belief that the Bon Secour sisters could have left this area without any sort of memorial or acknowledgement of the children's existence.

It was the ultimate hurt to the women of that time to bury their beautiful children in this way.

There was an immediate need for fundraising and financial management as there were costs associated with getting the copies of each of the children's death records that Catherine Corless needed to obtain.

Now, as the news breaks that Catherine's research has been confirmed, the committee is delighted.

But, of course, there are worries and concerns for the area itself and for the residents who live in the area.

You have to remember that these people have been looking after this area for over 40 years. The plaque at the entrance was erected by these residents.

The upkeep of the area was done by these residents, who were also the ones to erect a statue at the site.

The flowers at the site are also provided by the local people. The people who live in the area have minded this place and have given this area total respect and dignity over a lifetime.

There have been worries from the very start and these worries have persisted in regard to the final resting place of these children.

When the excavations are fully completed, we are deeply concerned about where these children's remains will be moved to after attempts are made to identify each and every single child.

Also of concern is how long this process will take.

There are family members and survivors ready to claim their siblings through DNA identification if that happens.

But there will also be children not claimed because there will be no DNA.

As a result, there will be a situation where there will be no one to claim these children. We also have the worry that if the remains were brought away from Tuam for further tests, would they ever be brought back to Tuam?

This committee started its work in 2013 and we will work with the commission in the days and months ahead regarding this issue.

We are committed to finishing the work that has been started.

All funds raised by the committee are lodged at St Jarlath Credit Union in Tuam.

The funds will not be used until all the work of the commission is completed.

The committee will also work closely with the families and survivors regarding the final decisions to be made on this project.

Irish Independent

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