Catherine Corless and Fr Tony Coote receive university honours

Researcher wants ‘decent burials’ in white coffins for 796 bodies concealed on site

Catherine Corless being conferred with an honorary degree by Trinity. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Catherine Corless being conferred with an honorary degree by Trinity. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

The remains of babies and children at the site of the former mother-and-baby home in Tuam, Co Galway, should be DNA tested so their bones may be accurately gathered together, and each child given a “decent burial on consecrated ground”, historian Catherine Corless has said.

The woman whose research found death certificates for 796 infants buried at the site was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws for her work by Trinity College Dublin on Friday.

In an interview with Prof Aoife McLysaght, before an audience in Trinity, Ms Corless said she hoped the State’s commission of investigation into mother-and-baby homes, due to report in February , would meet calls from survivors for truth and justice.

Minister for Children Catherine Zappone’s proposal for a phased, forensic excavation of the Tuam site was approved by Cabinet in October.

“DNA will show what [the babies and children] died of and help us put their bodies back together again” Ms Corless said. She wanted each child to be given a little white coffin and given a “decent burial”, she added.

Also awarded honorary degrees by Trinity were Irish poet Thomas Kinsella and American physicist Michal Lipson. They received their degrees from chancellor of the university Mary Robinson, who is stepping down this year.

Meanwhile Fr Tony Coote, who was chaplain at UCD for almost ten years, was conferred with an honorary doctorate of science by the college on Friday evening.

Fr Tony Coote was conferred with an honorary doctorate of science by UCD. He is pictured here with Archbishop of Dublin Dr Diarmuid Martin and his mother Patricia. Photograph: Colm Mahady/Fennells
Fr Tony Coote was conferred with an honorary doctorate of science by UCD. He is pictured here with Archbishop of Dublin Dr Diarmuid Martin and his mother Patricia. Photograph: Colm Mahady/Fennells

Fr Coote was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in March and completed a pilgrimage from Letterkenny to Ballydehob over the summer, raising €550,000 for motor neurone research.

Touched by the death of a first-year student by suicide during his time at UCD, Fr Coote launched the ‘Please Talk’ campaign, which was designed to encourage students suffering from mental anguish to reach out for help.

He also set up UCD Volunteers Overseas with Prof Frank Monaghan, a student organisation working with communities in India, Haiti, Nicaragua, Tanzania and Uganda.