Tuam babies: Magdalene survivors call for identification of children

Minister says Garda involvement is likely after the discovery of remains at Tuam home

The State must help identify every woman and child who died at all Magdalene laundries and Mother and Baby Homes, a survivors’ group has said.*

The Government has not 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.

Calling for a wider investigation*, the Justice for Magdalenes research group said it had compiled a list of 180 institutions, agencies and individuals charged with the care of unmarried mothers and their children.

It also appealed for a halt to plans to redevelop two former Magdelene laundries in Dublin until it could be established that neither site contained children’s graves.


“In terms of the identification of remains, a sample isn’t going to cut it. They’re all real people who deserve to be identified and have their final resting place marked,” said Claire McGettrick, the organisation’s co-founder.

Garda involvement

The call came as Minister for Housing Simon Coveney said it was "hard to see that there wouldn't be Garda involvement" in the case of the Tuam home, which was run by the Bon Secours Sisters, a Catholic congregation, until it closed in 1961. Research by local historian Catherine Corless suggests 796 children died at the Tuam institution over 36 years without their burial place being recorded.

“This was a site that was owned by the State and it’s a site that’s still owned by Galway County Council, so there’s a significant responsibility on the State here, as well as the Bon Secours Sisters,” Mr Coveney said.

The Garda could be called in if the local coroner concludes there is reason to believe any of the deaths occurred in a violent or unnatural manner.

At several packed morning Masses in Tuam Cathedral on Sunday, parishioners heard Archbishop Dr Michael Neary express his horror at discovery of the remains. Dr Neary said his priority was to seek, in co-operation with their families, a "dignified reinterment" of the children's remains.

However, residents living in houses on the site of the home have mixed views about reinterment, saying that an areas known as the graveyard had been blessed on a number of occasions.

* This article was amended on March 6th, 2017

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins is the former western and marine correspondent of The Irish Times