The entrance to the site of a mass grave of hundreds of
children who died in the former Bons Secours home for
unmarried mothers in Tuam, County Galway. REUTERS/Stringer
Ireland is considering an inquiry into what the
government called a "deeply disturbing" discovery of an
unmarked graveyard at a former home run by the Roman Catholic
Church where almost 800 children died between 1925 and 1961.
Ireland's once powerful Catholic Church has been rocked by a
series of scandals over the abuse and neglect of children,
and the government is concerned that research carried out by
a local historian in county Galway has revealed another dark
The graveyard was discovered in the former grounds of one of
Ireland's "mother-and-baby homes" run by the Bon Secours
order of nuns. Researcher Catherine Corless said public
records show that almost 800 children died at the home before
it was closed just over 50 years ago.
Children's Minister Charlie Flanagan says consideration is
being given to the best means of addressing the "harrowing
details" emerging on burial arrangements for children at the
institutions that housed unmarried pregnant women.
"Many of the revelations are deeply disturbing and a shocking
reminder of a darker past in Ireland when our children were
not cherished as they should have been," Flanagan said in a
The Catholic Church ran many of Ireland's social services in
the 20th century, including mother-and-baby homes where tens
of thousands of unwed pregnant women, including rape victims,
were sent to give birth.
Unmarried mothers and their children were seen as a stain on
Ireland's image as a devout, Catholic nation. They were also
a problem for some of the fathers, particularly powerful
figures such as priests and wealthy, married men.
Like the Magdalene Laundries, where single women and girls
were sent because they threatened Ireland's moral fibre, the
mother-and-baby homes were run by nuns but received state
funding. They acted as adoption agencies and in that capacity
were overseen by the state.
In a synopsis of the research published on her Facebook page,
Corless said some mothers who gave birth in the Western
Ireland home told her of long unattended labours, mostly
without help from a sister or midwife, and that they were
examined only once by a doctor when first admitted.
The Bon Secours order which ran the home was not available
for immediate comment. Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin
was quoted by the Irish Examiner newspaper as saying that
work was needed to get an accurate picture of what happened
at the homes.
Opposition parties and government members of parliament said
an immediate inquiry was required.
"How can we show in Ireland that we have matured as a society
if we cannot call out these horrific acts of the past for
what they were? They were wilful and deliberate neglect of
children, who were the most vulnerable of all," junior
minister for education Ciaran Cannon told Reuters
"They were deserving of love and nurturing, but they received
the exact opposite. They were shunned by society at the time.
The only way we can address that injustice is to tell their
story, to determine the truth."