Criminal investigation into mother and baby home 'graves' is likely

Calls for Garda role after discovery of bodies dumped in septic tanks

The site of a mass grave for children who died in the Tuam mother and baby home, Galway. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Alan O'Keeffe and Sarah Mac Donald

Gardaí are liaising with the coroner investigating the Tuam Mother and Baby Home deaths as a full criminal investigation looks increasingly likely.

Last week, a large number of human remains in a septic tank was confirmed at the site, which was run by the Bon Secours nuns. Some relatives of children who died at the home now want full Garda involvement in the probe being undertaken by a State Commission of Investigation.

Tuam-based Minister of State at the Office of Public Works Sean Canney said it was open to the coroner for north Galway to call on the support of the gardaí and any other authorities as he may deem necessary.

"If there is to be a Garda investigation, so be it. Whatever is required," he said.

Housing Minister Simon Coveney also said on RTÉ it was "difficult to see" why gardaí would not be involved.

"I mean you look at the way in which children's bodies were literally discarded in the way what they were," he said.

Read more: 'We hang our heads in shame' - Citizens' Assembly hears response from Catholic Bishop over Tuam babies

Referring to the old septic tank and waste water installation on the site of the now demolished home, he said: "Seventeen of the 20 chambers had remains in them. It's hard to see that there wouldn't be gardaí involved in the case.

"People shouldn't only be talking about the Bon Secours sisters, although obviously they do have questions to answer, but this was a site that was owned by the State," he said.

"And it is still owned by Galway County Council."

A Garda spokeswoman said yesterday that An Garda Síochána is liaising with the coroner on this matter.

Meanwhile, the Catholic Archbishop of Tuam, Michael Neary, said he was "horrified and saddened" at the "extent of the numbers" of children buried at the site of the institution.

He pledged to obtain "a dignified reinterment" of the remains in co-operation with families of the deceased.

In his homily yesterday, he said the commission's finding pointed to a time of great suffering and pain for the little ones and their mothers, which had left him "very upset".


The commission's work was "another necessary step on the path to the truth".

"I can only begin to imagine the huge emotional wrench which the mothers suffered in giving up their babies for adoption or by witnessing their death.

"Some of these young vulnerable women may already have experienced rejection by their families. The pain and brokenness which they endured is beyond our capacity to understand. It is, then, simply too difficult to comprehend their helplessness and suffering as they watched their beloved child die," Dr Neary said.

Dr Neary said the archdiocese did not have any involvement in the running of the home and so he had "no specific information on the manner of interment of remains" and that any material related to the investigation had been handed over in full to the commission.

Read more: 'I ended up in hospital covered in scabs' - abuse survivor Rosemary Adaser on life in a mother-and-baby home

The Association of Catholic Priests said the Tuam babies revelations provoked a sense of both sadness and shame.

"Sadness that the very precious, elemental relationship between mothers and their children could be so disrespected by institutions of Church and State in Ireland; and shame because as priests we are part of an institution that has played a central role in this sorry saga," said the priests' group.