Tuesday 23 January 2018

What will happen next after shocking discovery?

The Bon Secours Sisters, whose nuns ran the home from 1925 until its closure in 1961, said it couldn’t comment on the find Picture: PA
The Bon Secours Sisters, whose nuns ran the home from 1925 until its closure in 1961, said it couldn’t comment on the find Picture: PA
Catherine Devine

Catherine Devine

What is the Commission? The Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation is currently probing how unmarried mothers and their babies were treated between 1922 and 1998 at 18 State-linked religious institutions.

It was established on February 17, 2015, to establish the circumstances and arrangements for the entry of single women into mother and baby homes and the living conditions they experienced. It has also been asked to examine mortality amongst mothers and children.

Deaths

A Small number of the remains discovered in Tuam were recovered for the purpose of analysis.

"These remains involved a number of individuals with age-at-death ranges from approximately 35 foetal weeks to 2-3 years," said the commission.

"Radiocarbon dating of the samples recovered suggest remains date from the time-frame relevant to the operation of the mother and baby home. The homes ran from 1925 to 1961."

Burial of remains

A stratigraphic survey of the site in October 2015 identified a particular area of interest and a number of sub surface anomalies considered worthy of further investigation.

Test trenches were dug revealing two large structures in November 2016. One appears to be a large sewage containment system or septic tank filled with rubble and debris. The second is a long structure divided into 20 chambers.

The commission has not yet determined what the purpose of this structure was but it appears related to the treatment/containment of sewage and/or waste water.

Survivors

A committee, which meets survivor groups and those who worked in the homes, was set up to shape the commission's work.

More than 6,000 adoptions were recorded as having taken place in six mother and baby homes between 1950 and 1973.

The children went to a range of destinations including the US, Britain and Germany, as well as Ireland.

Reaction

Children's Minister Katherine Zappone said yesterday's revelation was "very sad and disturbing news".

"Up to now we had rumours. Now we have confirmation," she said.

The Bon Secours Sisters, whose nuns ran the home from 1925 until its closure in 1961, said it couldn't comment on the find.

What's next?

The Department for Children has brought together all of the key departments and agencies to set out a way forward.

This will include:

The commission will continue its work, including post-mortem practices and procedures, reporting and burial arrangements.

The coroner for north Galway will take the steps he deems necessary under his independent statutory functions.

Galway County Council will engage with the commission and local residents on what should happen next in relation to the remains.

There will be an information line for factual information, and a service for those who feel personally affected by the news.

Irish Independent

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