State should take over Mother and Baby Home burial sites, Dáil Committee told

Known about 800 bodies in Tuam since 2017 and no progress in identifying the children

Bessborough in Cork city. Photograph: Provision

Bessborough in Cork city. Photograph: Provision


There has been a call for all burial grounds at Mother and Baby Homes to be taken over by the state.

A hearing of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Children, Disability, Equality and Integration was told on Tuesday that “the state should take ownership of all burial grounds, both those identified and those yet to be identified, by means of compulsory purchase order,” said Maree Ryan-O’Brien of Aitheantas (Adoptee Identity Rights).

More generally she said “as a recognised key stakeholder group our primary objective is that reform of the law in this area should be victim-survivor led.”

She was speaking during a discussion on the Certain Institutional Burials (Authorised Interventions) Bill.

Alice Coughlan, a survivor of Bessborough Mother and Baby Home, “as a mother whose child was taken”, called for the Bill to be passed into legislation “as soon as possible.”


She continued “I can say from experience that to lose a baby – to not know whether your child is alive or dead – is the worst experience you can ever imagine. I know my child survived, but so many didn’t, and for far too many women, the question remains.

“We’ve known about the 800 bodies in Tuam since 2017, and yet, 4 years later, we’ve made no progress in identifying the children – in providing closure for the survivors who fear that their child, their brother, their sister is among the bodies. Four years later, and these babies have yet to receive a proper burial,” she said.

“The longer we wait to excavate the bodies, the more women will die without knowing whether their child is rotting in the ground, or in a septic tank,” she said.

She was “very aware of a lot of women who haven’t come forward, who for reasons that their families, their children, their new husbands etc. don’t know.” The women were “ living in a small town in Ireland and nobody knows anything about (them) and then you ask them to come forward. Surely there should be some way of giving them the right without having to make their name pubic.”

These women were “scared stiff sitting in a house wondering who’s going to knock at their door. I’m aware there was incest and everything else in Bessborough,” she said.

Amanda Larkin, whose mother is a Tuam survivor, described the Mother and Baby Home there as “a crime scene. It’s not down to public opinion. The law does not go with public opinion. The law is the law.”

Children in Tuam “were let down when they were let die, when they were lowered into a septic tank, but back in the 70s they were let down by the State, by the coroner and by the Garda Síochana who came with the church and covered it up in Tuam,” she said.