Fitzgerald seeks Garda report on claims over Tuam babies

Colm Keaveney urges home site to be closed and State Pathologist called in

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald has said  the purpose of conducting any criminal investigation was to convict suspects in cases where evidence of crimes was established. However, the commencement of such investigations in the case of the Tuam mother and baby home was a decision for the Garda.  Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald has said the purpose of conducting any criminal investigation was to convict suspects in cases where evidence of crimes was established. However, the commencement of such investigations in the case of the Tuam mother and baby home was a decision for the Garda. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Sat, Jun 7, 2014, 00:33

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald has sought a report from the Garda on all of the information available to the force about the burial of children’s remains over a period of five decades at a site in Tuam, Co Galway.

She said while there was no Garda criminal investigation into the deaths of babies at a mother and baby home near the burial site where, it is alleged, the children’s remains were dumped in an unmarked communal plot, the Garda was involved in the Government review of what had taken place.

However, Colm Keaveney TD (FF), in whose Galway East constituency the plot is located, called for more decisive action. He urged the closing off of the site and for a team of experts led by State Pathologist Prof Marie Cassidy to examine it.

Mr Keaveney said there was now considerable media interest in the story, with reporters from around the world having arrived in Tuam.

“The failure to take immediate action to seal off the area is further evidence of the Government’s disjointed approach to this issue. We need the Taoiseach to take a strategic leadership role.”

Ms Fitzgerald said an interdepartmental process was taking place and was examining “how this complex, disturbing and tragic situation” could be best addressed.

“The interdepartmental process is gathering information cross-departmentally so that the Government can make informed decisions on how best to proceed,” she said.

“The Department of Justice has also been liaising with An Garda Síochána, so that the information available to them can feed into the interdepartmental process.”

Ms Fitzgerald added the purpose of conducting any criminal investigation was to convict suspects in cases where evidence of crimes was established. However, the commencement of such investigations was a decision for the Garda.

“Consideration will be given by Government on how best to proceed in the interests of all those who were affected by these extremely disturbing events,” Ms Fitzgerald added.

“It is very important that we address these disturbing issues as sensitively as possible. There is no doubt that coverage over the last few days will have inevitably evoked very painful memories for people, many of whom are now quite elderly.”

Gardaí had already been conducting a “scoping exercise” in a bid to gather as much information as possible about deaths at the mother and baby home, which operated from the 1920s to the 1960s.

That review is also trying to chart the history of the plot now at the centre of the controversy, where bodies were buried when the home operated there but also previously when a poor house was run on the same site in Famine times.

Gardaí said the suggestion the remains of young children and babies were buried on the site arose when the land gave way as two boys were playing there in the 1970s. The movement of earth exposed what looked like the skulls of children. The grave was blessed and closed again.

However, recent research carried out locally has gathered records of the deaths of 796 babies linked to the mother and baby home at the site, run by the Bon Secours order.

Garda sources said while it was widely reported all of the deceased children had been buried in the plot and some in a septic tank, none of that detail had been properly tested to date.