International reaction to mother-and-baby home revelations

Media organisations worldwide report on unidentified remains discovered in Tuam

News that a large number of unidentified remains were discovered in a water tank close to the Tuam mother-and-baby home in Galway has made international headlines. Photograph: The Irish Times

News that a large number of unidentified remains were discovered in a water tank close to the Tuam mother-and-baby home in Galway has made international headlines. Photograph: The Irish Times

 

News that a large number of unidentified remains were discovered in a water tank close to the Tuam mother-and-baby home in Galway has made international headlines around the world.

Following research by the local Tuam historian Catherine Corless into the operation of the mother-and-baby home run by the Sisters of Bon Secours congregations there, it has emerged that up to 796 children may have died at the home during the period of its operation from 1925 to 1961.

The Washington Post, which opens with the headline ‘Bodies of 800 babies, long-dead, found in septic tank at former Irish home for unwed mothers’, told readers how unmarried pregnant women in Ireland were “stigmatised” by societal and religious mores during the 20th century and that “special kinds of neglect and abuse were reserved for the Home babies”.

Terence McCoy writes in the paper that many locals remember the children living in the home. “They remember how they were segregated to the fringes of classrooms, and how the local nuns accentuated the differences between them and the others.”

The New York Times underlines the high levels of infant mortality that existed in Ireland at the time, primarily due to widespread tuberculosis. “Church-run orphanages often buried their dead in unmarked graves, reflecting how unmarried mothers were ostracised,” writes the NYT.

Carol Kuruvilla from the New York Daily News writes that “800 skeletons of babies” were “unceremoniously dumped in a septic tank and forgotten for decades”, while the Houston Chronicle reports the Irish Catholic Church faces “fresh accusations of child neglect”.

Emer O’Toole at the Guardian reminds readers how unmarried mothers were “incarcerated in state-funded, church-run institutions” where they worked to atone for their sins.

“We know about the abuse women and children suffered at the hands of the clergy, abuse funded by a theocratic Irish State,” writes O’Toole. “What we didn’t know is that they threw dead children into unmarked mass graves.”

“Do not say Catholic prayers over these dead children,” she writes. “Don’t insult those who were in life despised and abused by you. Instead, tell us where the rest of the bodies are.”

The Guardian also reports that a 1944 Irish government inspection found malnutrition among some of the 271 children living in the home with 61 unwed mothers at the time, writing that “the death records cited sicknesses, diseases, deformities and premature births as causes”.

NPR (National Public Radio) in the US describes the discovery of remains in the water tank as “macabre”, while CBC in Canada writes that “796 Irish orphans” were buried in a “mass grave near Catholic orphanage”.

The New Zealand Herald reported that “hundreds of children’s bodies” were discovered “in a mass grave”.