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Ireland. Beginning of the identification of 796 bodies buried in a mother and child home in Tuam

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I have always considered Tuam to be a stain on our nation’s conscience, admits Roderic O’Gorman, Ireland’s Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Inclusion, in an interview with the Guardian. During several decades of operation of the local mother and child home, the bodies of several hundred dead children were placed in the sewage tank. Authorities want to exhume them in order to identify them and “ensure a dignified burial”.

Run by the nuns of the Congregation of Our Lady Help of Christians, the Mother and Child House in Tuam in the west Ireland it functioned in the years 1925-1961. They got to him unmarried pregnant women, rejected by their families and society. Catherine Corless, a local amateur historian, in 2014 discovered death certificates showing that about hundreds of children died in the facility, including due to malnutrition and infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, measles and pneumonia, there are no local cemeteries. Several years later, authorities discovered the remains of 796 children in a sewage tank.

They want to identify the remains of several hundred children

Now the bones of those buried in Tuam are to be examined, the Guardian reported on Sunday. A team of investigators led by former International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) delegate Daniel Mac Sweeney was tasked with exhuming and identifying the children’s remains. “It will be one of the most complex operations of its kind in the world,” said Irish Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Inclusion, Roderic O’Gorman, in an interview with a British daily. He noted that the goal is to ensure a dignified burial of all remains. “I have always considered Tuam a blot on our nation’s conscience. The fact that infant remains were treated so callously even after death is deeply troubling, he added.

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A mass grave of children in the former Mother and Children’s Home in TuamAIDAN CRAWLEY/EPA/PAP

O’Gorman acknowledged that the identification process could prove difficult due to the age of the remains and the fact that they had been exposed to water for years. However, he emphasized that an independent team of experts was required to use advanced techniques to help match DNA samples with living relatives of the deceased.

SEE ALSO: Black and White: The Self-Destruction of the Irish Church?

796 children in a mass grave

The Mother and Child House in Tuam was demolished in the 1970s. Skeletons of children in the same decade were found by two teenagers who pushed aside the concrete cover of the sewage tank. The authorities did not take any action at that time. It wasn’t until 2014 that the Irish government decided to set up a commission of inquiry to investigate Catholic homes for unwed mothers, after Catherine Corless discovered that the children whose names she found in death records had not been buried.

During the works carried out in 2017, the commission discovered that in the area formerly belonging to the house of the Congregation of Our Lady Help of Christians, there is an underground tank divided into 20 chambers. Significant amounts of human remains have been discovered in at least 17 of them. DNA tests have shown that these are the remains of children of various ages: from 35-week-old fetuses to three-year-old children. The deaths occurred between 1925 and 1961, with most remains from the 1950s.

SEE ALSO: Newborn body hidden in wardrobe. The Supreme Court overturned the sentence for a mother convicted of murder

The authorities on the “dark and difficult chapter of history”

The house at Tuam was one of a series of similar institutions in Ireland run by both Catholic and Protestant congregations. In all, mortality was very high – the infant mortality rate in Ireland in the first half of the 20th century was among the highest in Europe. But according to Corless, the child mortality rate at the charity in Tuam was 4-5 times higher than average.

Irish authorities in 2021 published a report on the activities of 18 institutionswhere young pregnant women have been hidden from the public for decades. It found that around 9,000 children died in Irish mother-and-child homes in the 20th century. The then Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin said the report described “a very dark and difficult chapter in Irish history”. “As a nation, we must face the full truth about our past,” he said. He added that “we had a completely warped relationship with sexuality and intimacy, and young mothers and their sons and daughters were forced to pay a terrible price for this dysfunction.”

SEE ALSO: She confessed to the murders of her two children. She was supposed to keep the corpses of newborns in the freezer for years

Main photo source: AIDAN CRAWLEY/EPA/PAP

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