Tuam Mother and Baby Home

  • An announcement could be made today on whether the remains of hundreds of young children feared buried in a mass grave in Tuam will be exhumed.

    According to today’s Irish Independent, Children's Minister Katherine Zappone is expected to brief Cabinet members after considering legal advice on what action to take in relation to the remains, discovered at the site of the former Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home.

    An international Expert Technical Group (ETG) report, which was prepared for Minister  Zappone last year, gave a menu of five options for the site, ranging from memorialisation with no further excavations to exhumation, forensic examination and further investigations.

    The ultimate decision is expected to take into account advice received from Special Rapporteur on Child Protection Dr Geoffrey Shannon, who was asked by the minister to examine human rights issues raised by the ETG.

    It is anticipated that ministers may agree on the best way forward at today's Cabinet meeting.

    Minister Zappone will then brief the various parties involved in the campaign to remember the Tuam babies, before making a public announcement.

    The decision is described as  "extremely sensitive" and financial implications are likely to be down the list of priorities.

     It’s thought to be be "impossible" to take an option that will please all of the interested parties.

    Should the exhumation option be taken, it is likely to be a difficult task.

    The ETG report found the site in Tuam would test the boundaries of forensic investigation.

  • An art installation inspired by the Tuam Mother & Baby Home will go on display this Friday at the Linenhall Arts Centre in Castlebar.

    Katie Moore, a visual artist from Foxford, has created the installation, based on a conversation she had with historian Catherine Corless, before visiting the site of the former Mother & Baby Home in Tuam.

    Katie, who has cystic fibrosis, received an Arts & Disability bursary last year, and has used the award to create this installation called “Entropy”, which will be exhibited at the Linenhall Arts Centre from 4th May to the 2nd June.

  • The author of a new book about the Tuam Mother and Baby Home says time is running out for truth and justice.

    'My Name is Bridget' documents the life of one woman who entered the home in her twenties, in 1946.

    Journalist Alison O'Reilly says Bridget Dolan died without answers - and delays to the final report of the Commission of Investigation are unacceptable.

  • Minister for Children Katherine Zappone will bring proposals to cabinet about the prospects of identifying babies in a mass grave in a former religious-run institution in Tuam.

    This news has been confirmed by the Taoiseach, who said a report on the issue previously filed to the state did not say it was “impossible” to identify the nearly 800 remains at the former mother and baby home.

    Meanwhile, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs said a report from UCD and TCD scientists, which argues that DNA advances means that the remains can be identified, will be examined.

    Ms. Zappone told the Irish Times that she was very interested to see that other experts in the field of forensic archaeology and genetics have a different view to the experts she appointed.

    The Expert Technical Group which she had appointed will inform her of their opinion on the submission, and this would be part of her decision-making process she said.

  • Campaigners say the state could be in breach of international law for its involvement in the Tuam Mother and Baby Home.

    The Irish Council for Civil Liberties says the crime of 'Enforced Disappearance' involves a state refusing to disclose the whereabouts of people who've been abducted.

    It's thought hundreds of children were secretly buried on the Tuam site.

    Thousands of children were also thought to have been illegally adopted through homes nationwide.

  • Hundreds of babies buried in a mass grave in a former religious-run mother and babies’ home in Tuam, Co Galway can be identified because of major advances in DNA testing, a team of scientists have declared.

    According to today’s Irish Times, the University College Dublin-Trinity College team has challenged the findings of an expert group set up by Minister for Children Katherine Zappone, which cast doubts on hopes that DNA testing could identify remains.

    The expert technical group had highlighted difficulties with the exhumation and identification of the remains held in an underground chamber and an adjoining, disused septic tank, because remains are “commingled”.

    However, the UCD-TCD team, who are all experts in genomics, argued that the analysis “is viewed through the prism of a technology that is at least 20 years old”, traditionally used to build DNA banks for use in criminal cases.

    New techniques, including those used to identify the remains of the Easter 1916 rebel Thomas Kent in 2015, have “dramatically changed the genetics landscape” and would address many of the concerns outlined by the ETG report.

    In March 2017, the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation confirmed the discovery of juvenile human remains in “significant quantities” in the chambers at the former home run by Bon Secours nuns.

    The commission was set up in 2015 after historian Catherine Corless published research that revealed death certificates for 796 children at the Tuam home from 1925 to 1961 with no indication of where they had been buried.

    The submission to Galway County Council is written by four leading genomics experts.

    Disagreeing with the “pessimistic and guarded tone” adopted in the ETG report, the UCD/Trinity group said a small sample taken from a part of the base of the skull would yield good-quality DNA .

  • Tuam historian Catherine Corless has criticised the Government for failing to commit to excavation, exhumation, and DNA testing of the children’s remains found at the site of the former Tuam Mother and Baby Home.

    It’s now a year since the Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone confirmed that a substantial amount of children’s human remains had been discovered at the Tuam site.

    An expert group published its report in December outlining five possible options on how the situation should be handled.

    These ranged from no further investigate work at the site and that it be turned into a memorial, to exhuming the human remains and burying them elsewhere.

    A consultation process is now underway, and Galway County Council has arranged an independent facilitator to meet with locals in Tuam tomorrow and Friday as part of this process.

    Submissions can also be made online before 16th March, but historian Catherine Corless has objected to the voting system put in place by Galway County Council, where people can indicate their preferred option.

    Speaking to Midwest News, Catherine Corless said the least that should be done is that the children’s remains be exhumed and buried in a proper burial ground.

    She says it’s disappointing that so little has happened over the past year, despite the public outcry at the time.

  • The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone is to visit Tuam on Monday evening next.

    During the visit she is expected to take time listening to the views of people on the future of the site of the Tuam Mother and Baby Home.

    Speaking ahead of the visit Minister Zappone said:

    “As I prepare to make a recommendation to Government on the future of children’s remains and the site of the former Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, I am anxious to have another opportunity to hear first-hand the views of people affected.

    The consultation by Galway County Council as well as legal and expert advice will help inform my decision. However I do firmly believe that all voices must be given an opportunity to be heard.

    The Minister will hold a meeting at 7pm at the Ard Rí House Hotel, Milltown Road, Tuam, Co. Galway next Monday.

    Minister Zappone has extended an invitation to all those who believe they have yet to be heard and those who wish to support previously express views, to attend.

    Minister Zappone said that notwithstanding the complexities surrounding the future of the site, it is important that the decisions which are taken are just, credible and transparent.

    Next Monday’s gathering is another step to ensure we achieve those goals.”

  • Minister for Children Katherine Zappone has said she is assessing whether to fully excavate the site of the former Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, or to limit the search for human remains to areas where burials are strongly suspected to have taken place.

    Ms Zappone was speaking on the matter at a meeting in Tuam last night. 

    The consultative meeting convened by Ms Zappone attracted former residents of the Catholic-run institution, as well as Catherine Corless, the woman who uncovered the scandal of burials in a septic tank on the site.

    Ms Zappone told those gathered at the private meeting that she is assessing whether to fully excavate the Tuam site or to test all the land for out-of-the-ordinary soil patterns and then excavate those pinpointed areas along with the current memorial Garden and a series of underground chambers.

    Ms Zappone also warned that many urgent legal issues remain to be dealt with.

    Such issues include making sure the Government has the legal authority to exhume the human remains, examine them, carry out successful DNA tests where possible and to reinter them in a place to be agreed.

    She added that she hoped to bring proposals to Government by early autumn.

    Over 100 people attended last night’s meeting.

  • Children's Minister Katherine Zappone wants the Vatican to contribute up to €2.5m as part reparation for its role in the Tuam mother and baby home scandal, according to today’s Irish Independent.

    In a two-page letter to Pope Francis, the minister did not ask for a specific sum ,but rather asked the Church to "contribute substantially" to one of five potential options for dealing with the Tuam home's legacy.

    The Government is said to be weeks away from deciding on the future of the Tuam site, with options ranging from a simple memorial to a full-scale forensic and archaeological excavation.

    The latter could cost between €3m and €5m and involve the exhumation of close to 800 remains over a two-year period.

    Minister Zappone briefed the pontiff on the story ofTuam in Italian when they met at Áras an Uachtaráin on Saturday last.

    She then handed over a letter which gave greater detail about the hundreds of "little ones whose remains are in a sewage system".

    The memo also asked that the Church contributes to the cost of giving the babies some "dignity in death".

    Although she didn't put a figure on her demand, the Irish Independent understands she wants at least half of the costs to be covered by the Catholic Church.

  • The Children's Minister is to visit Tuam later today.

    She is expected to hear the views of people on the future of the site of the Tuam Mother and Baby Home.

    Katherine Zappone says she's preparing to make a recommendation to Government on the future of children's remains and the site and  says the consultation by Galway County Council as well as legal and expert advice will help inform her decision.

    However, she has stated that all voices must be given an opportunity to be heard.

  • Pope Francis said last night he would “study” a memo given to him by Minister for Children Katherine Zappone about the Tuam mother-and-baby home. That’s according to today’s Irish Times.

    “It touched my heart, that is why I wanted to repeat it during my speech [at Dublin Castle],” he told journalists on the plane back to Rome following a 32-hour visit to Ireland. On Saturday the Minister told him of the case involving more than 700 babies buried in a septic tank in Tuam.

    Pope Francis said the proposal to ask for forgiveness during the Mass at Dublin’s Phoenix Park came from meeting survivors. They had expressed shock he knew nothing of Magdalene laundries and mother-and-baby homes.

    The pope told reporters last night: “I had never heard of these mothers, they call it the laundromat of women where an unwed woman is pregnant and goes into these hospitals, I don’t know what they call them, schools, run by the nuns and then they gave children to the people in adoption.”

    “It was for me painful [to hear] but with the awareness that I have could help clear these things up.”

    He was speaking at the end of his visit to Ireland during which he publicly raised the issue of abuse on four occasions.

    Francis found “much faith in Ireland. Irish people suffered for scandals, but there is faith. People can distinguish from truth and half truths. It is in process of healing... but Irish people have faith, lots of faith,” he said last night.

    Some 500,000 people were expected at the Phoenix Park Mass but the crowd appeared far smaller and is being estimated this morning as under 200,000. Medical director of the site field hospital Dr Patrick Plunkett said he believed 130,000 people attended.

     Asked about LGBT issues, the pope said: “What do I say to a father if the son or daughter has this tendency. Pray, don’t condemn. Understand, make space to let them express themselves,” he said. “ Silence is not a remedy.”

    Francis also met Ireland’s Catholic bishops yesterday and told them they must address clerical child sex abuse with honesty and courage.

    Last night he confirmed he had read the communiqué in which a retired Vatican diplomat called on him to resign, claiming he was aware of abuse allegations against a prominent church figure from 2013 but failed to act. “I believe the communiqué speaks for itself,” the pope said.

  • Pressure is building on the Bon Secours Sisters to increase its contribution towards the cost of exhuming and identifying the remains of children buried at the Tuam mother and baby home.  

    According to today’s Irish Independent, company accounts reveal that the order receives almost €4m annually from the private hospital group bearing its name for the leasing of buildings and interest on loans.

     

    The Irish Independent reports that the hospital group itself, Bon Secours Health System Ltd posted profits of €2m last year and €5.38m in 2016.

    It is currently in the middle of expanding its facilities.

    Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has revealed that a higher contribution was sought from the Bon Secours Sisters by Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone during negotiations earlier this year.

    The remains of hundreds of young children are feared buried in the former home’s sewage system and are set to be exhumed and identified as part of a major project, expected to cost between €6m and €13m.

    The €2.5m offer has been heavily criticised by historian Catherine Corless, whose work helped to expose the scandal. She told the Irish Independent that Bon Secours was a very wealthy organisation that could well afford to cover the whole cost of the project.

    Although t he €2.5m offer has been accepted in principle by Government, it is thought the issue will be revisited once the Commission of Investigation into the Mother and Baby Home reports next February.

    The Bon Secours Sisters would not comment to the paper on whether it intends to revisit the offer made.

    In a statement the order said that, at a meeting in September, Minister Zappone outlined that although it had not been established what happened in Tuam, and there was no legal or financial liability applying, she was it to make a contribution towards the cost of dealing with the remains.

    The statement says that the Sisters considered the request and decided they would make a contribution. They offered one sum and it was deemed too low. They offered a second sum and it was accepted.

  • The site of the former mother and baby home in Tuam, Co Galway, is to be fully excavated and forensically examined.

    The government decided a full excavation was the best way forward at its cabinet meeting this morning.

    A forensic examination will aim to identify the remains of all children buried at the site.

    Arrangements for reburial or memorialisation of those children will then be arranged.

    Children's Minister Katherine Zappone says every reasonable effort will be made to locate and recover the remains of all children buried in Tuam and her Department will lead the process.

  • Survivors and relatives of infants from the Tuam Mother and Baby Home are planning a vigil to coincide with the Pope’s Mass in Dublin.

    The vigil will take place in Tuam on Sunday week, to coincide with the Papal Mass in the Phoenix Park.

    Historian Catherine Corless will join relatives at the vigil.

    Ms Corless told today’s Irish Times that Pope Francis needs to make a public statement saying he is sorry for what was done in the name of the church in the past, rather than meeting with victims in private.

    Ms Corless traced the death certificates for 796 infants at the former home in Tuam.

    The State’s Commission of Investigation confirmed in March 2017 that it had discovered significant quantities of infant bone at the Tuam site.

    Ms Corless and members of the Tuam Babies Family Group will light candles and place a special sculpture made by Flemish women in the shape of a baptismal font at the grave site of the former Bon Secours home.

    They will also read out the names of those who are believed to have been buried there.

    The event has been timed to coincide with the Pope’s Mass in Dublin. He is also due to spend 55 minutes at Knock Shrine that morning. Ms Corless said she would not be travelling to Knock. She said there had been a groundswell of support for the Tuam event.

    Minister for Children Katherine Zappone said a recommendation on the future of the burial site of the former mother and baby home in Tuam is expected to be announced in early autumn.

     

     

     

     

     

  • Survivors and family members of the 800  ‘Tuam babies’ warned yesterday that the Irish authorities can expect public protests if they fail to carry out a full forensic excavation, exhumation, and DNA testing at the site of the former Mother and Baby Home in Co Galway.

    According to today’s Irish times, the survivors were given a special welcome at the seventh annual flower-laying ceremony to remember the women of the Magdalene Laundry in Galway City.

    The names of all of the former Magdalene Laundry detainees buried at Bohermore Cemetery were read out during the ceremony attended by former residents and members of their extended families.

    Campaigners on behalf of the Tuam Mother and Baby Home families said there were clear parallels between their search for justice and that of the survivors of the Magdalene Laundries and other institutions throughout the country.

    Some mothers from the Tuam home were incarcerated in the Galway city centre laundry after having their children taken from them.

    Confirmation that the bodies of babies were contained in a mass grave in Tuam, some at the site of a disused septic tank, generated headlines across the globe last year.

    But now campaigners are fearful that they will be denied justice, or full knowledge of what happened to the babies, on the basis of the cost involved.

    Galway County Council is currently seeking submissions from members of the public regarding what to do with the site.

    The deadline for submissions is this Thursday, March 16th.

    Campaigners are concerned that the local authority may decide to put a memorial in place at the site of the former septic tank rather than the more costly option of a thorough examination.

  • The women who brought global attention to the Tuam Mother and Baby home will today receive an honorary patronage from the Trinity College Philosophical Society.

    Thusly been bestowed on John B Yeats, Oscar Wilde and Bram Stoker will now extend to Anna Corrigan who investigated her mother's experience in the home, and Irish Daily Mail journalist Alison O'Reilly who broke the story.

    The announcement comes just days after confirmation that the site where childrens' remains were discovered, will be fully excavated and forensically examined.

  • The failure of the Catholic Church to intervene in the controversy that continues over what should happen to the more than 800 infant remains, found buried in an unmarked grave in the grounds of the former Mothers and Babies Home in Tuam has been highlighted today by campaigner and historian Catherine Corless.

    Catherine was among a number of west of Ireland recipients last night of the 43rd annual Rehab National People of the Year Awards.

    She was recognised for her work in uncovering the secretive burials.

    Catherine took the opportunity last night, and again on Midwest News today, to highlight the need to have the remains exhumed and identified and buried in consecrated ground. She insists it would be part of the healing process for all of the families involved and said the only thing stopping a full exhumation is money.

     She said all of these children were baptised and she believes it's everyone's right to have a Christian burial and asked why the Church has not intervened in insisting for the same.

  • The latest DNA testing will be used to try to identify bodies buried at the site of the former Mother & Baby Home in Tuam.

     The Government yesterday confirmed that the area will be fully excavated, and a forensic examination will aim to identify the remains of all children buried at the site, while arrangements for reburial or memorialisation of the children will then be arranged.

    It's believed hundreds of bodies may be found at the site.

    The Children's Minister Katherine Zappone said she could not give a timeline for then work would start, as legislation needs to be passed to allow it to happen, adding that sich a task has never been undertaken or contemplated previously.

    The Bons Secours nuns, who ran the Tuam home, have offered to pay €2.5 million of the expected 6 to 13 million euro cost of the excavation.

    Minister Katherine Zappone says the Government has made this decision in the hope it will shed light on what happened and provide closure for families..

     

    Tuam historian Catherine Corless, whose research led to the discovery of the children's remains, says she's delighted that, of five options presented to Government for the Tuam site, they chose the option to fully excavate and forensically examine the area.

    Catherine Corless told Midwest News that this decision will be welcomed by survivors and the families of those involved...

  • The publication yesterday of the contents of a letter by Minister Katherine Zappone, which she handed to the Pope at the weekend was a publicity stunt, according to a statement today from Tuam Home Survivors Network.

    Kevin Hegarty of the Network told Midwest News today that the most senior member of the government involved in the Tuam case for over two years, went running to the Pope on Saturday with a letter asking him to sort out the Tuam situation for this country.

    Minister  Zappone said she told the pontiff that she hopes the Catholic Church will make reparation to the women and babies who lived in the Co Galway home, where the remains of 796 infants were buried in a septic tank.

    Mr Hegarty says that Minister Zappone wrote in a preamble to the letter that she handed Pope Francis : I am the Minister responsible for the Tuam Mother and Baby Home.

    He describes that as “an absurd statement”. Describing Minister Zappone instead as “merely the Minister to which the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes is to report. In a different country, such a Commission would be reporting to a Justice Minister”.