Dublin: A grave containing the mortal remains of allegedly over 800 babies and children has been discovered at a former Catholic care home in Ireland, said government-appointed investigators on Friday.
According to a media report, excavations at the former Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, County Galway, unearthed an underground structure with 20 chambers holding “significant quantities of human remains’.
The judge-led mother and baby homes commission also said that most of the dead had been buried in the 1950s, when the home was one of the many places providing shelter to orphans, unmarried mothers and their children.
They also said that a selected analysis of the bodies had revealed that age of dead ranged from 35 fetal weeks to three years old. The home closed its shutters down in 1961.
The Tuam home was run by the Bon Secours Sisters, who facilitated unwed pregnant women to deliver their children. After delivery, the mothers were separated from their infants, who were raised by nuns at the home until they could be given for adoption.
The revelation confirmed suspicions that a majority of children who died at the shelter were buried on site in unmarked graves. According to the report, this was a common practice at such homes in early 20th century Ireland that had high child mortality rates then.
The commission was set up after a local historian found death certificates for around 800 children but only two correlating burial certificates at the facility. The historian, Catherine Corless, also mentioned instances where boys playing in the field had sighted bones in a hidden chamber underground in the mid-1970s.
Shocked at the findings, the government’s commissioner for children, Katherine Zappone, said it was “sad and disturbing” and promised that the children’s families would be asked for inputs to provide proper burials for them.
Earlier, Corless had requested for home’s records for years 1925-1961 from the Galway county council. However, she was given documents only from the 1970s including an official map of the present-day estate that was built on the location.
“There is an area across the map marked ‘burial ground’. First, the houses were built, around that area. Finally a playground was built on part of the burial ground itself,” Corless was quoted as saying.