Proceed with exhumation, says Catherine Corless after national honour

Human Rights Commissioner Emily Logan (right) presents Catherine Corless with a People of the Year Award, alongside her grand-daughter Aoife Moriarty.

Human Rights Commissioner Emily Logan (right) presents Catherine Corless with a People of the Year Award, alongside her grand-daughter Aoife Moriarty.

Tuam historian Catherine Corless has called for a full exhumation of the remains of the hundreds of babies on the site of the former Tuam mother and baby home, after being honoured at the People of the Year Awards.

It was as a result of her research into the former Tuam mother and baby home, run by the Sisters of Bon Secours, that the remains of hundreds of babies were discovered. Presented with her award by Human Rights Commissioner Emily Logan, Catherine was recognised for her passionate advocacy on behalf of survivors and their families and for her persistence and dedication, without which the extent of the scandal would never have been exposed and the truth revealed.

Following Ms Corless’ extensive research, the Government established a commission in 2015 to investigate the conditions and mortality rates at 14 former mother and baby homes, including Tuam. In March 2017, the investigation of the Tuam site confirmed that a “significant” number of children’s remains had been found in underground chambers in a former sewage area.

“There are some suggestions to memorialise the site, but I think that is disrespectful and not acceptable. A full exhumation is now needed. We need to remove the remains of these innocent children – it is no place for them – and give them a respectful burial. \

“It would be part of the healing process for all of the families involved. The only thing stopping a full exhumation is money, and that is not good enough,” she said.

She was recognised with a People of the Year Award, alongside the Galway senior hurling team, who were awarded the Sports Person of the Year award, at the 43rd People of the Year Awards, organised by Rehab. The Awards were broadcast live on RTÉ One from Dublin’s Mansion House on Sunday.

The Galway Senior Hurlers, led by bainisteoir Micheál Donoghue and captain David Burke, were awarded the Sports Person of the Year Award for turning more than 29 years of history on its head last year when they lifted the Liam MacCarthy cup. The award was presented by sports broadcaster Michael Lyster and by the late Tony Keady’s daughter, Shannon Keady, with senior star Cyril Donnellan accepting the award on behalf of the team.

Galway had suffered heartache defeat in six All-Ireland finals during their 29-year drought, but their day of reckoning came last September when they gave an accomplished and controlled performance against Waterford.

In a moment that brought together a community, over 25,000 people gathered at Pearse Stadium in Salthill to welcome home the Tribesmen, while more than 10,000 people came together in Ballinasloe to start the celebrations.

Micheál Donoghue said that they are honoured and humbled to accept this award.

“We are overwhelmed with the reaction everywhere to what we achieved in 2017 and we are happy that this had such a positive and uplifting impact on so many people, especially Galway people at home and abroad.”

Mo Flynn, Rehab Group Chief Executive, organisers of the Awards, said they have services throughout Ireland that support thousands of people with disabilities.

“Every day our teams in communities across the country meet people who are also doing great work, but they do not seek the limelight or get the recognition they deserve. The Awards serve to highlight all that is good about Ireland and honours those whose courage, resolve and bravery is boundless.”

Ireland’s longest-running and most prestigious awards event, the People of the Year Awards are widely recognised as one of Ireland’s highest accolades. Nominated by members of the public, and finalised by a panel of adjudicators, a total of ten awards were presented at the ceremony which was hosted by Gráinne Seoige and Aidan Power.

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