Tuam: What lies beneath?

A firm specialising in the use of Ground Penetrating Radar surveyed the site this morning. Locals assumed that this was the start of the states investigation. But I contacted The Department of  Justice who said, “no, it’s not us”, and the Gardai who haven’t responded yet – but it turns out that it was the Mail on Sunday who paid for this team to be there.

TST

This morning Frances Fitzgerald gave teh Gardai a very public nudge to go and do something. She said she wants a report on the sum of their knowledge. And at the very least they appear to have moved to sort out in their own minds that the grave is not the “famine era” dig which was excavated back in 2012.

A Garda Detective did visit the site of the septic tank and what is believed to the burial location of some or all of the 796 children who died while in the nun’s care. While there the he interviewed Frannie Hopkins and Barry Sweeney who in 1975 found scores of corpses in a disused septic tank, but all of this was understood by those two men to very “unofficial”.

But somewhat incredibly although this scoping excercise was announced on Wednesday nobody anywhere in officialdom has yet contacted the local historian Catherine Corless who has all the documents that indicate the possibility of as many as 800 burials there. She’s done a lot of groundwork, why not learn what she knows you’d have to wonder?

So so far it would seem that this scoping excercise doesn’t extend to establishing facts on the ground. And nobody in government is still able to tell me how it is going to be conducted. Are they just going to look at documents in their possession or are they going to interview members of the Bon Secours order and former residents of the home?

Yesterday the Bon Secours nuns broke their silence to issue a statement that neither confirmed nor denied they knew anything about the burials.

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I have sent them a list of questions – asking them what they knew about the site and about any possible burials? Was it a registered burial site? And if the 796 children and babies who died whi8le in their care weren’t put by members of the order in the disused septic tank where did they put them?

They haven’t responded to any of those questions … but what has turned up today is their records from the Mother and Baby Home in Tuam. I was passing fruitlessly around the houses yesterday to see what if any records the nuns had kept. Today though the new Child and Family Agency Tusla told me that they had found them.

It would have been hoped that they would give an indication of who was sent there, who was born there. And then when they left did they go to a foster home, adoptive parents or an early grave? But I gather from a first look the records are incomplete, handwritten, patchy and will give a far from comprehensive overview of the Nuns activities.

So as things stand the Government’s scoping excercise of the paper trail doesn’t look like it is not going to uncover anything new. The only way now to find out whose are the bodies in the septic tank will be to exhume them. The only way to find out what the nuns did with the bodies of 800 children will be for the Gardai to interview any who may still be alive.

Meanwhile some people have started tying children’s dolls to the gates of Leinster House to register their protest at what they see as insufficient action to date on the part of government.

 

 

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Update to the update
As of six this evening the official Garda position has changed from “there is no investigation” to “we will provide any information and assistance we can to the Government’s interdepartmental group set up to investigate the issue.”

Minister Frances Fitzgerald’s polite instruction has had the desired effect.

13 Comments

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13 responses to “Tuam: What lies beneath?

  1. Ralph Tindal

    Cracking good article Philip; carry on the good work.

    Regards,

    Ralph TINDAL.

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  2. Caroline

    Where is the famine grave that was excavated in 2012, especially in relation to the babies one? Are they metres apart or a reasonable distance that the famine grave could have had so many people working at it while the babies remained ‘undiscovered’?

  3. cheyeoh3

    Hi Philip,

    Did you ask, or did Frannie Hopkins and Barry Sweeney say whether the bones they found in the tank were adults or children?

  4. john lynch

    A waste of time and money. Are we supposed to wring our hands and rend our garments for every story of past hardships.
    We would be better off dealing with to-days problems – like being a bankrupt country that has to take medical cards off to-days sick children

    • Do a bit more research John. It is very relevant. As you mention medical cards, The Bon Secour sisters who made their money then invested it well. They are the largest private healthcare providers in Ireland with millions in profit yearly and have hospitals worldwide. . Two sisters are on the board of directors in Cork, ( assets?? ) As public healthcare quality deteriorates, more are pushed to private insurers and these private hospitals. Double taxation by stealth – social welfare deductions from salaries are worthless. The elites rule, the people are cowed and the poor little sisters are still at it in the guise of ‘service’ .

  5. The mothers that were so appalling treated deserve answers, apologies and decent burials for their children. Keep up the good work!

  6. Tom Hogan

    Philip, is there any obvious peak in the distribution of the deaths at the Mother & Baby Home in Tuam during the time period up to 1961?
    Anti-biotics and other medicines seem to have become widely available during the 1950s. If a significant decline in infant mortality rates can be established which correlates with improving medicinal resources, it would support the argument that the nuns did their best with the resources available to them.
    Of course, that would still not absolve the Order or the State for possible system failures including overcrowding.

  7. Toni Maguire

    Well done Phillip, you have presented a more balanced approach to this issue than most of the articles I have seen to date. I find it more than a little disconcerting that ‘The Mail’ are allowed to proceed with testing of this site without proper investigation of the documentation and cartography first. I would potentially expect to find two areas of burial for the Workhouse phase, one inside the origional boundary of the site (Which may have changed over time) and one just outside the boundary relating to the later phase of the workhouse. The septic tank burials represent further physical evidence and must be excavated in an effort to identify as fully as possible, aspects of the life and death of the babies concerned, there is also the potential for a Cillini associated with the site and the geophys to date looks like it has only focused on one spot while there are a number of areas which interest me on the map.
    I have been working in Northern Ireland for a number of years to highlight the issue of such burial grounds across Ireland, including the Milltown Cemetery site in Belfast were we recovered the remains of 11,000 infants, children and adults in mass inhumation graves located in The Bog Meadows.
    The sale of the land by the Sisters for redevelopment is a stark warning to us all of the fragility of these burial grounds and the need to identify their presence in the landscape and protect them from inialiation with the total loss of so much social history.
    I have to ask myself, who is running the investigation down there?

  8. Pingback: The truth behind Ireland’s dead babies scandal: Five questions

  9. Pingback: The truth behind Ireland’s dead babies scandal | NEWS.GNOM.ES

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