'Significant Quantities' Of Human Remains Uncovered In Tuam

"Significant quantities" of human remains have been discovered in a large underground structure at the former mother-and-baby home in Tuam, Co Galway.

Surveys of the site were carried out the Mother And Baby Homes Commission of Investigation in October 2015, identifying two underground anomalies worthy of further investigation.

Excavation works began on November 2016 and completed in February 2017.

One structure appears to be a large sewage containment system or septic tank that had been decommissioned and filled with rubble and debris and then covered with top soil. The second structure is a long structure divided into 20 chambers.

In this second structure, significant quantities of human remains were discovered in at least 17 of the 20 underground chambers which were examined. A small number of remains were recovered for the purpose of analysis.

These remains involved a number of individuals with age-at-death ranges from approximately 35 foetal weeks to 2-3 years. Radiocarbon dating of the samples recovered suggest that the remains date from the timeframe relevant to the operation of the Mother and Baby Home (the Mother and Baby Home operated from 1925 to 1961; a number of the samples are likely to date from the 1950s). Further scientific tests are being conducted.

The Commission said that it is "shocked" by the discovery and is continuing its investigation into who was responsible for the disposal of human remains in this way. Meanwhile, the Commission has asked that the relevant State authorities take responsibility for the appropriate treatment of the remains.

Following the news, Katherine Zappone, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs said: "This is very sad and disturbing news. It was not unexpected as there were claims about human remains on the site over the last number of years.

"Up to now we had rumours. Now we have confirmation that the remains are there, and that they date back to the time of the Mother and Baby Home, which operated in Tuam from 1925 to 1961."

The Minister said that we must respond sensitively and respectfully to the situation.  She said that her Department had brought together all of the key Departments and agencies to set out a way forward.  This will include the following:

• The Commission will continue its work under its terms of reference, including such matters as post mortem practices and procedures, reporting and burial arrangements for residents of Mother and Baby Homes

• The Coroner for North Galway will take the steps he deems necessary under his independent statutory functions

• Galway County Council will engage with the Commission in relation to the immediate next steps on the site

• Galway County Council will engage with local residents and other interested parties on what should happen next in relation to the remains

• There will be an information line for factual information, and a service for those who feel personally affected by the news.

Minister Zappone concluded: "Today is about remembering and respecting the dignity of the children who lived their short lives in this Home. We will honour their memory and make sure that we take the right actions now to treat their remains appropriately."


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