Tuam babies: Discovery of remains truly appalling - Kenny

Taoiseach says next step in mother-and-baby inquiry is for local coroner to get involved

The site  where  “significant quantities” of foetal remains, as well of those of children aged up to three, were found in Tuam, Co Galway. File photograph: PA

The site where “significant quantities” of foetal remains, as well of those of children aged up to three, were found in Tuam, Co Galway. File photograph: PA

 

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said the discovery of “significant quantities” of foetal remains, as well of those of children aged up to three, during excavations at the site of a former mother-and-baby home in Tuam, Co Galway was “truly appalling”.

The next step in the investigation was for the local coroner to become involved, Mr Kenny told reporters in Castlebar on Monday.

Last week the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation said its excavations at Tuam had uncovered “significant quantities” of remains in at least 17 of 20 underground chambers in what appeared to be a sewage-related structure on the site.

The commission, chaired by Judge Yvonne Murphy, said it was shocked at the discovery.

The Taoiseach on Monday said there were potential difficulties in extending the investigation.

“The big question is, what do you do to attempt to identify the remains of a substantial number of babies between three weeks and three years which have come to light in this case ... and are there others in other locations who were treated in the same fashion?”

Catherine Corless

Mr Kenny said when the matter first came to light in 2014, following an analysis by local historian Catherine Corless, “I described the way the babies were treated in this country as akin to being some kind of sub-species. It is appalling, truly appalling.

“Obviously the coroner and everybody involved has to see how best we can proceed with the next step in this case, and possibly others.

“This is not something that happened way back in the dawn of history.

“So we need to follow through here as quickly, as effectively and as sensibly as possible because it’s a horrendous situation for those whose siblings were treated in this fashion.

“So this is another issue - one of many which we have come across in the last number of years which were left lying in the shadows of an Ireland that we hoped was gone.”

Asked whether he was shocked by the commission report, Mr Kenny replied “Absolutely. To think you pass by the location on so many occasions over the years.”

He said there had been some comments and allegations, “and now it is beginning to come to light, the scale of what actually happened”.

Women who were in mother-and-baby homes as recently as the early 1990s have called for investigations into at least two other sites where children were buried, after the remains of “several hundred” infants were found at a former home in Tuam.

Gardaí have confirmed they were liaising with the coroner’s office in Galway.

Full excavation

The Government has not yet said whether a full excavation will take place at the former grounds of the Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, Co Galway, where a commission of inquiry looking into the religious-run homes for unmarried mothers has found the remains of a “significant” number of children aged under three.

Paul Redmond, chairman of the Coalition of Mother and Baby Home Survivors, said Tuam was “the tip of the iceberg”. At least 6,000 babies and children across the nine homes had died, he claimed.

“The worst is yet to come as details of the huge behemoths of St Patrick’s, Bessborough and Sean Ross Abbey have yet to be revealed, but it is likely that the total for these three homes alone will be well over 4,000 babies and children buried in shoeboxes and rags.”

Galway-based researcher and historian Catherine Corless said the announcement had vindicated her work, which uncovered death certificates for 796 children at the Bon Secours-run Tuam home.

“This is only the start. The truth has been revealed,” she said.

The Bon Secours sisters said they were “fully committed” to the work of the commission, but that all records were returned to Galway County Council when the home closed in 1961. They could therefore make no comment on the commission’s announcement.