The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr James Reilly, has announced the appointment of Judge Yvonne Murphy as chair of the Commission of Investigation into mother and baby homes.
Making the announcement yesterday afternoon, Minister Reilly said: “I am delighted that a widely respected person of the calibre of Judge Yvonne Murphy has agreed to head up this investigation. Judge Murphy has a very strong track record in effectively establishing the truth in relation to important and sensitive matters. She is ideally suited to this challenging role. The Government may give consideration to the appointment of further members to the commission, but I believe Judge Murphy’s agreement to undertake the role of chair of the commission is a very positive development in the process to establish an effective and independent investigation.”
The announcement was made alongside the release of the report of the Inter-Departmental Group on Mother and Baby Homes. The report is the product of work undertaken by the group established in early June.
The report confirmed that the General Register’s Office has identified the deaths of 796 children at the Tuam mother and baby home while it was run by the Bon Secours Sisters from 1925 to 1961, averaging 22.2 deaths a year but ranging from one in 1958 to 53 in 1947. The number of births identified came to 1,101 during the 36 years that the Tuam home operated.
Debility from birth was recorded as the biggest cause of death, with 193 or 24 per cent of the 796 deaths. This was followed by respiratory diseases (120 deaths or 15 per cent ), measles (82 deaths or 10 per cent ), influenza (77 deaths ), premature birth (60 deaths/eight per cent ), whooping cough (46 deaths/six per cent ), and a number of other causes.
In relation to lawful burials, the report states: “There are no conditions applying to burial sites attaching to religious homes and no onus to report or give notification of burials therein to any authority.”
The report also confirmed that NUI Galway received the remains of 35 infants in total for the purposes of anatomical study. The remains of seven infants were received during 1940 to 1949, one during 1950 to 1959, and 27 remains between 1960 and 1964.