Tuam Mother and Baby Home

  • A report into burial practices at mother and baby homes is to be brought before Cabinet this morning.

    The Irish Times reports that it's expected to focus on burial arrangements made for women and children who died while living in the institutions.

    The fifth interim report from the Mother and Baby Homes Commission was received by Children's Minister Katherine Zappone last month.

    The report includes extensive technical reports prepared in the course of the commission’s investigations into the burial site associated with the institution formerly known as the Tuam Mother and Baby Home and the commission’s assessment of burial arrangements in respect of a number of other institutions within its remit.

    It also reports on burial arrangements in circumstances where the remains were initially transferred to educational institutions for anatomical examination.

  • 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.

  • There are calls for the latest report from Ireland's Mother and Baby Homes Commission to be published as soon as possible.

    The Children's Minister confirmed yesterday that she's received the 5th interim report which is focused on the burial arrangements of those who died while living in the homes.

    It brings the Government a step closer to approving the excavation of the Tuam site where almost 800 children are believed to be buried.

  • 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.

  • The Taoiseach says digging at the site of the mother-and-baby home in Tuam won't start until the end of next year, as legislation is needed before work can begin.

    In October, cabinet approved proposals by Children's Minister Katherine Zappone to excavate the site, after the work of historian, Catherine Corless, uncovered that 7-hundred-and-96 babies were buried there in an unmarked grave.

    Taoiseach Leo Varadkar says that measures need to be put in place to allow the government excavate the property.

  • Experts are looking at whether there's any legal block to gathering DNA from survivors of the Tuam Mother and Baby Home.

    Survivors want DNA collection to start as soon as possible given the age and health profiles of some of the women involved.

    It's hoped the information may help identify the remains of the children buried at the site when excavation begins.

    The government has commissioned Dr Geoffrey Shannon to look at whether it's legal to gather DNA from survivors - and how to manage privacy issues.

    Excavations at the Tuam site are due to begin late this year if the government passes the necessary legislation on time.

     

  • The fifth interim report on Mother and Baby Homes is expected to focus on burial arrangements for the women and children who died in the institutions.

    The report from the Mother and Baby Homes Commission was brought to cabinet by Children's Minister Katherine Zappone yesterday and is to be published today.

    The commission has been investigating 14 mother and baby homes - including the former home in Tuam - as well as four 'county homes' which were in operation between the years 1922 and 1998.

    Meanwhile, an annual day of commemoration could be approved for former residents of mother and baby homes.

    It's one of a number of proposals put forward by a forum of former residents that will be brought to government in September. 

    The proposals also include a new package of health measures which would see women gain access to GPs services, counselling and mental health supports. 

    The Tuam Mother & Baby Home Alliance - which represents survivors of the institution and their advocates - has welcomed the proposed health measures, and have reiterated the need for full medical cards and fast-tracking through the system as a number of survivors are over 80.

  • 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 .

  • The Commission investigating Mother and Baby Homes will not deliver its final report until 2020, after the Government today extended the Commission's deadline for another year.

    Children's Minister Katherine Zappone has confirmed that the Cabinet has given the Commission until February next year to complete its report on a sample of eighteen institutions, including the site of the former Mother & Baby Home in Tuam where death records of 796 children have been found and where the commission has already discovered a substantial number of human remains.

    The Commission published its fourth interim report today, in which it says that, since the Government's decision last October to conduct a forensic excavation of the burial ground in Tuam, a number of people have come forward with further information about burial practices at a number of the institutions under investigation, and these people are currently being interviewed.

  • 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.

  • Minister Katherine Zappone says that she is determined that every possible option is examined in addressing the concerns of those most impacted by the discovery of juvenile remains at the site of the former Mother and Baby Home in Tuam. 

    The Minister has updated representative groups on a number of actions now underway.

    In response to the requests to begin collecting the DNA samples of survivors and relatives, Minister Zappone has asked Dr Geoffrey Shannon to examine whether it is possible to meet this request within the current legislative framework. She says the examination will be done in the context of what is scientifically possible. 

    The preparation of legislation is a priority within the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, she insists,  with a new unit established for this task. Additional staff from other Departments are expected to be assigned to the unit in the coming weeks.  

    Scoping of the legislation has commenced and the Minister says that the approach taken will be further informed by the forthcoming report in March by the Commission of Inquiry into Mother and Baby Homes into burials at these institutions. In parallel to the legislative project, work will also be carried out on sourcing appropriate expertise to carry out the works.

  • 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.

  • The Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes is to seek an extension of one year before publishing its final report, which was due next month.

    The Irish Times reports the request for an extension has gone to the Government and is expected to be discussed by the Cabinet next week.

    It is believed the request is a result of the workload involved in investigating such institutions over the period from 1922 to 1998.

    The commission was set up following revelations in 2014 by local historian Catherine Corless about the deaths of almost 800 children at the Tuam mother-and-baby home.

    Its remit was extended to examine the records of and practices at an additional 13 such homes as well as four county homes.

    The commission was originally due to publish its final report last February but it was granted a one-year extension by the Government.

    In an interim report in 2017, the commission said “significant quantities of human remains have been discovered in at least 17 of the 20 underground chambers which were examined” at the Tuam site.

     

  • 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.