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.
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.
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.
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.