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 confirmed they were liaising with the coroner’s office in Galway after the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation said excavations had uncovered “significant quantities” of foetal remains, as well as those of children aged up to three years.
The commission, chaired by Judge Yvonne Murphy, said it was shocked at the discovery.
The remains were contained in at least 17 of 20 underground chambers in what appeared to be a sewage-related structure. It is understood the initial investigation confirmed several hundred bodies located there.
The Irish First Mothers group called on Minister for Children Katherine Zappone to "immediately quantify" the number of bodies to end the "distressing uncertainty".
Kathy McMahon of the organisation, which represents about 60 women, said its members were “very much alive and range in age from late 70s to early 40s” .
“The mothers in the group who were at Bessborough [in Cork] are calling for an examination of the grounds. There are mothers who are now in their 80s, who were told their babies died and they have no evidence.”
Ms McMahon said a home at St Patrick’s on Dublin’s Navan Road also needed to be investigated, as did any home where babies were born on-site.
‘Tip of iceberg’
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.”
Mr Redmond said the survivor community was divided on the issue of excavations and exhumations and that the Government, the Minister and the commission must consider living survivors and their needs before any further excavations were "pursued behind our backs".
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.