Calls for an urgent inquiry into the deaths of nearly 800 children at a Tuam mother and baby home continue, and pressure mounts on the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, to take the lead into the investigation and apologise on behalf of the State.
The existence of a mass grave, containing a large number of unidentified remains, and the discovery that up to 796 children may have died at the mother and baby home run by the Bon Secours order during its period of operation from 1925 to 1961 has received national and international attention in recent weeks.
The site had previously been considered a graveyard for unbaptised babies or Famine victims. However, in 1975 two boys had been playing when they discovered partially broken concrete slabs covering a disused septic tank which was found to contain bones. It is believed that these remains were those of children disposed of without proper burial or records of their interment. Research was later undertaken by local historian and genealogist Catherine Corless through records in the possession of the Galway County Council revealing the large number of deaths at the mother and baby home. Ms Corless set up a committee and a campaign to erect a memorial has gained momentum in recent months.
Fine Gael Galway East TD and Minister of State for Training and Skills, Ciaran Cannon, has this week called for an urgent inquiry, including a Garda investigation, into the unexplained deaths. Minister Cannon raised the matter over the weekend with the Minister for Justice, Frances Fitzgerald, and the Minister for Children, Charlie Flanagan, with a meeting due to take place by today and an official announcement to follow.
Minister Cannon said: “This is turning into a horrific account of maltreatment, neglect, and a complete abdication of responsbility for the care of these very vulnerable young children. With each passing day more and more questions emerge, questions which cannot be ignored and need to be answered. Doing nothing is simply not an option for us in Government when presented with details of this nature. We need to proceed with sensitivity but also with efficiency to determine as best we can what happened to these children. They were citizens of this State, they had the same rights as other children, yet they were denied those rights and much more.”
Speaking yesterday Galway East Fianna Fáil TD Colm Keaveney urged the Taoiseach to make an apology on behalf of the State for the hurt and distress caused to the mothers and other relatives of the dead infants. Deputy Keaveney also blasted Enda Kenny for not outlining what the nature of any investigation planned by Government would be, adding that the Taoiseach being on a visit to the US was “no excuse for silence”.