Saturday 27 December 2014

President appalled at terrible reports of tragic Tuam babies

Caroline Crawford and Tom Brady

Published 07/06/2014 | 02:30

Specialist engineer's apply Ground Probing Radar to the burial site at the former Mother and Babies home in Tuam; inset, historian Catherine Corless (inset). Photo: Ray Ryan
Specialist engineer's apply Ground Probing Radar to the burial site at the former Mother and Babies home in Tuam; inset, historian Catherine Corless (inset). Photo: Ray Ryan

GARDAI are preparing an initial dossier for Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald on reports of an unmarked grave at a former Catholic Church-run home where almost 800 children died.

But it is not clear when they will be in a position to determine if a criminal investigation is warranted.

Two local senior officers, Chief Supt Tom Curley and Supt Patrick McHugh, visited the site in Tuam, Co Galway, yesterday along with 51-year-old Frannie Hopkins, who found what he believed to have been a mass grave there when he was 12 years old.

Separately yesterday, President Michael D Higgins said he was "appalled" at the terrible reports that have been appearing, in particular in relation to the high death rates in Tuam.

GRAVES

Mr Higgins said the structure of any inquiry into these deaths was a matter for Government.

Yesterday, Mr Hopkins, who first found the graves, described in detail to the gardai where he discovered the suspected bodies of the children who died in the home between 1925 and 1961. "They brought me up to the site and I showed them where it was and how we came across it. It was all quite informal and only took about 15 minutes," he said.

Gardai said officially last night they were feeding into the inter-departmental process that was now under way, with a view to providing any information and assistance.

Mrs Fitzgerald had earlier indicated she had requested the garda report and said her department had been liaising with the gardai.

She said it was important that they addressed those disturbing issues as sensitively as possible. "There is no doubt that coverage over the last few days will have inevitably evoked very painful memories," said Ms Fitzgerald.

A decision on a criminal investigation was an issue for the gardai, the minister said, and pointed out that the purpose of a criminal investigation was to lead to the prosecution of people where the commission of offences had been established.

She promised consideration would be given by the Government on how best to proceed in the interests of all those who were affected by these extremely disturbing events.

A number of markings have now been laid on the small site, where a septic tank is located.

However, the director of the Adoption Rights Alliance Susan Lohan accused the government of lagging behind the church and public opinion in relation to the discovery there.

She said it was inconceivable that anything but a criminal inquiry would be launched into the discovery of the grave.

Alliance chairman Paul Redmond said he had given Mrs Fitzgerald, when she was Children Minister, an 8,000-word report on the home but she had failed to take action.

He also revealed that he held three meetings with Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmaid Martin in 2012.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has asked Children's Minister Charlie Flanagan to put together a team of officials to establish what was involved and determine whether this was an isolated incident.

He said he understood the situation had been known about since 1972 and there were Dail records relating to inspections, dating back to the 1930s.

Several hundred people are expected to join a candlelit vigil at the Dail this week.

A group, "Justice for the Tuam Babies", will march from the Department of Children and Youth Affairs on Mespil Road to the gates of the Dail.

Irish Independent

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