Galway: A “significant” quantity of human remains has been discovered in “underground chambers” at the Sisters of the Bon Secours in Tuam, Co Galway.
Up to 800 tiny bodies are thought to have been buried at the former home for unmarried mothers and their babies.
The age of children – many of whom are thought to have died in the 1950s – is believed to range from 35 foetal weeks to three years.
Remains were found in at least 17 of 20 underground chambers dug up at the site. The pit where the bodies were discovered is believed to have been used as a sewage tank.
A coroner has been notified. The grisly find was made by the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes – which was set up to probe alleged abuse at the religious “mother and baby homes”.
A statement from the investigation said: “The commission is shocked by this discovery and is continuing its investigation into who was responsible for the disposal of human remains in this way.”
Thousands of unwed mums were locked away in the controversial homes in the 20th century. There babies often disappeared – with deaths recorded but no records of their burial made.
As many as half of children at the homes died – and more than 3,200 are believed to have been buried at the Sisters of the Bon Secours home and three others nearby.
Other “little angels” plots are believed to be at Sean Ross Abbey, Tipperary – where the story of Philomena Lee began – Bessborough, Co Cork, and Castlepollard, Co Westmeath.
Ms Lee’s life was made into the 2013 film Philomena, starring Steve Coogan and Dame Judi Dench. Ireland’s Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone TD described the discovery as “very sad and disturbing news.”
She said: “It was not unexpected as there were claims about human remains on the site over the last number of years.”
“Up to now we had rumours. “Now we have confirmation that the remains are there, and that they date back to the time of the mother and baby home, which operated in Tuam from 1925 to 1961.”