My brushes with officialdom on the subject of this scandal in the last 48 hours suggest that many still feel there is little or no evidence to support the claims the Bon Secours nuns buried 796 infants and children in a disused septic tank.
This is wishful thinking. Although the evidence falls far short of what would be required in court it indisputably makes the case for a Garda or state investigation.
1) The testimony of Frannie Hopkins
Seen here standing on the site of the burials Frannie and his friend Barry Sweeney uncovered the grave in 1975. You can listen to his testimony about three minutes into a podcast of my report on Drivetime from 4/6/14. He is credible, has no reason to lie and is supported by other eye witnesses. It suffices to say his evidence proves there are bodies there. But how many and belonging to who?
2) Births, Deaths and Marriages own records.
Asked to retrieve records like the death certificate above for all the deaths that occurred there while the nuns were running it this state agency came up with a list of 796 names. So this figure of 800 dead babies (which incidentally excludes the stillborn) has been generated, and double checked, by an arm of government.
3) How do we know they’re all buried in the septic tank?
We don’t. But local historian Catherine Corless cross checked the list of 796 with Tuam and other local cemeteries. None of the 796 appear on any other list. So some or all are either on the site of the home or they vanished into thin air. Catherine took me through her documents on her kitchen table this afternoon – her interview is about 6 minutes into the podcast.
4) How do we know the burial site was a septic tank?
Look at the south west corner of the site from this 1892 map. You will see a “Sewage Tank” clearly marked in the south west corner of the site.
And now look at it overlaid with a map of present day Tuam.
That is the same site where Frannie Hopkins and Barry Sweeney made their ghastly discovery in 1975.
This does not prove, as some have alleged, that the nuns negligently let children starve to death. But it does establish what some seek to deny – that there is every reason to believe up to 800 bodies could in the literal sense of the word be unceremoniously discarded there.
That is not the view of the Gardaí though. They have set their faces against an investigation without apparently considering any of this evidence. They sent me the following statement this afternoon, even after the government had made its own announcement about a review of the evidence.
The grounds in Tuam were being surveyed in 2012 and bones were found, they are historical burials going back to Famine times, there is no suggestion of any impropiety and there is no Garda investigation. Also there is no confirmation from any source that there are between 750 and 800 bodies present.
There was a discovery of famine era bones in the vicinity in 2011 as “The Home” was a workhouse up until the turn of the century. The location of that site is about 100 yards away from the septic tank burial site. So the Gardaí are misinformed on this or have decided to find a reason not to investigate any closer. Because to claim that there is no source confirming the presence of any bodies there is to wilfully ignore myriad evidence in the public domain.
More in the coming days.