NUIG challenges finding that it paid for Tuam infant remains
Digital exhibition launched to tell stories of survivors of mother and baby home in Galway
Site of a mass grave for infants who died in the Tuam mother and baby home in Galway. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire
NUI Galway has challenged a finding in an interim report of the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation that its medical school had received and paid for 35 infant remains from the Tuam mother and baby home.
In its fifth interim report, published in April of last year, the commission found that between 1949 and 1964, Galway Medical School “received and paid for 35 infant anatomical subjects”.
The university, in what it described as “provisional findings of a report into its historical links to donations of infant remains”, said on Thursday it had “embarked on a project to try to identify these children and develop a memorial to them”.
“Research led by Dr [Sarah-Anne] Buckley and Dr Lorraine Grimes has found that these infants who died in the Central Hospital Galway could not have come from the Tuam institution and, moreover, there were not in fact 35 infants, but nine.”
It continued that “the researchers also examined transfers from workhouses and a psychiatric institution and, as part of the project announced today, their full report will be published in September 2020”.
The public was invited “to submit their views as to how the infants can be honoured and memorialised by the university”.
NUI Galway president Prof Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh said: “Like many other State organisations, NUI Galway – or UCG as it was then – was part of a society that did not sufficiently value the lives of some of its most vulnerable citizens.”
He said that “by memorialising these men, women and children, we wish to at last honour their legacy and acknowledge their sacrifices. We invite our community to submit ideas as to how we can embody our value of respect in commemorating this period in our past.”
He was speaking at a launch of a digital exhibition of the Tuam Oral History Project, which features biographies of some of the survivors of the Tuam mother and baby home. It includes a podcast series narrated by actor Cillian Murphy, patron of the Unesco Child and Family Research Centre at NUI Galway.
At a virtual event on Thursday, the university also invited survivors of the Tuam mother and baby home, their families, advocates and members of the local community to share their memories in an oral history archive, which will provide an independent resource for a history of the institution.
Led by Dr Sarah-Anne Buckley and Dr John Cunningham, the Tuam Oral History Project is currently collecting and archiving the oral histories and life stories of survivors, and over the coming year will be involving survivors in artistic projects inspired by their stories. Details can be found at nuigalway.ie/tuam-oral-history/
The Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation’s final report is to be submitted to the Department of Children, Disability, Equality and Integration in October.