Friday 24 May 2019

'Let us know where they are buried' - Katherine Zappone appeals for information about children at former Mother and Baby Homes

Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins

Cormac McQuinn Political Correspondent

CHILDREN'S Minister Katherine Zappone has appealed to anyone with information on burial arrangements for children at former Mother and Baby Homes to come forward.

She appealed to those with knowledge of the practices at the institutions to “let us know where they are buried”.

It comes as the Commission of Investigation into the institutions published its fifth interim report on its probe of Mother and Baby Homes.

The report examined burial practices in a number of institutions including Bessborough, Bethany Home, Castlepollard and Sean Ross Abbey.

The Commission also concludes that there is little basis for the theory that rather than having died, the children were 'sold' to America.

Hundreds of children are believed to have died in Bessborough over the years it was in operation, particularly during the 1940s.

The Commission found no physical or documentary evidence of systematic burials within the grounds.

However, it considers that it is highly likely burials took place there.

The Commission did not consider it feasible to excavate the full 60 acres involved.

Ms Zappone made an appeal for anyone with information about burials at Mother and Baby institutions to come forward.

She said: “Let us know where they are buried.

“Please come forward, tell the truth.

“Let us acknowledge the truth that they lived and died”.

She said the information would allow the deceased children to be treated with dignity.

The Commission's report says that many of the children that died in the former Tuam home are buried in underground chambers that were not recognised burial ground or purpose built burial chambers.

It found that this did not provide for the dignified interment of human remains.

The report says that the Sisters of Bons Secour who ran the Tuam Home were unable to provide any information about the burials there.

The Commission also said it was surprised by the lack of knowledge about the burials on the part of Galway County Council and the Sisters of Bons Secours.

"Galway County Council members and staff must have known something about the manner of burial when the Home was in operation.

The Commission found that there was a designated child burial ground at Sean Ross Abbey.

A geophysical study and test excavation has been carried out and are currently being examined. The Commission is to outline the findings in its final report next year.

During his visit to Ireland last year Pope Francis told Mother and Baby Home survivors that it was never a sin for adopted children or their birth mothers to seek one another.

He later wrote to Ms Zappone saying he is praying that efforts by the Government and the Catholic Church here will help “face responsibly this tragic chapter in Ireland’s history”.

Ms Zappone was asked if the Pope has a role in encouraging members of religious organisations who may have information on burials at the institutions to come forward.

She referred to how he has spoken of the Mother and Baby Homes issue and said: "He is their leader or the leader of the religion which they ascribe to now as well as during this period... I think that it would be helpful and wise for them to again consider his words."

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