Tag Archives: Tuam Mother and Baby Home

From top: Tuam Mother and baby burial site: James Charity, Cathaoirleach Galway County Council

This morning/afternoon.

Galway County Council has issued a formal statement including an apology by the Chief Executive Kevin Kelly and Cathaoirleach James Charity for the failings of the local authority in the operation of the Tuam mother and baby home.

Via Galway County Council:

“As Cathaoirleach of the County of Galway, on behalf of the Members, the Chief Executive and staff, I offer a sincere and humble apology for the failings of this local authority.

We are deeply sorry that this Council did not do enough to ensure appropriate care, compassion and protection to the mothers and babies who passed through the threshold of the Tuam Mother and Baby Home, and to those children who were born and died there.

We further deeply regret that Galway County Council did not ensure there were enough safe- guards and measures in place to guarantee and ensure that children boarded out from the Home were better cared for, protected and cherished.

To the shame and sorrow of all of us, this Council did not ensure that those who died in the Tuam Mother and Baby Home were afforded the dignity of an appropriate place of rest, which was the very least that they deserved.

We are profoundly sorry, that as a local authority, this Council did not have the foresight or courage to at all times to ensure the welfare of those entrusted to its care was paramount, and to be kinder, more compassionate, and more charitable.

To all those with a personal connection to the Tuam Mother and Baby Home, in particular, the frightened mothers and innocent children, to their families and to the people of County Galway, Ireland and beyond, this Local Authority is humbly sorry.”


“The Council acknowledges the commitment by Government to advance burials legislation to support the excavation, exhumation and, where possible, the identification of remains together with their dignified reburial. The Council has and will continue to actively assist the ongoing work to implement the Government’s agreed course of action and response for the Tuam site.

Kevin Kelly, Galway County Council CEO

Galway County Council issues apology following report on Tuam mother and baby home (Galway Bay Fm)


Thanks Breeda

The Space Between Lace exhibition

St. Fursa’s Hall, Headford, Co. Galway

An international exhibition of lace, comprising artwork selected from 34 artists, from 11 countries across 4 different continents, including Ger Hasset, whose A Black Mark (above) commemorates the 796 children who died at Tuam Mother and baby Home.

Ger writes:

‘796 black marks in a watery grave. A strip of white bobbin lace commemorates mothers, all interconnected by their experience of the home. Marked for life as ‘fallen women’ yet where are the fallen men?

A strip of pink/blue bobbin lace remembers the babies denied their true identities robbed of their childhoods and their mother’s love. The white lace envelopes them now as they never knew a mother’s embrace. The pink lace represents turmoil.

The crossing and twisting of threads illustrates the controlling conditions under which the mothers were detained and restrained. The purple vein signifies the authority of the Church.

Did they ever recover a thread of self? All are united on this canvas.’

Headford Lace

Thanks Breeda

This afternoon.

Government Buildings, Dublin 2.

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone has published the General Scheme of the Certain Institutional Burials (Authorised Interventions) Bill 2019 – to ‘ensure that respect and dignity are afforded to the children who are buried at the site in Tuam’.

Via the Department for Children and Youth Affairs:

Taking into account the Government decision of 23 October 2018, that there would be a legal basis to carry out a programme of phased, forensic standard excavation, exhumation and re-interment of remains at the site of the former Mother and Baby Home in Tuam.

          There would be a legal basis for a programme of forensic analysis of any recovered remains, providing for samples to be taken from the remains as well as from family members of the deceased for the purpose of identification of the remains.

–          As no appropriate oversight structures are currently in place for such a complicated and unprecedented project, there would be a legal basis to establish an Agency to manage intervention at the site and act as a dedicated and responsive authority. Such an Agency would operate for a specific and limited duration and would cease to exist as soon as the work was complete.

–          Government could authorise interventions of a similar nature to take place at current or former institutional sites other than the Tuam site, if it deemed that necessary in specific circumstances.

…In addition, the Government has approved the arrangements necessary to facilitate the transfer of the €2.5 million offered by the Sisters of Bon Secours Ireland towards the cost of implementing this course of action. I will now proceed to finalise matters with the Congregation so that this money can be transferred as soon as possible.

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine  Zappone said:

The drafting of this legislation is a priority for me, and I am delighted that Government supports the approach outlined in the General Scheme to deal with the various sensitive and complex issues at hand.

“I know that family members of the children interred at the site in Tuam have been eagerly awaiting this development and I am pleased that agreement on a General Scheme marks a significant milestone on our journey to afford those buried there the dignity and respect that they deserve.

“I am also mindful that local residents will be impacted by action taken at the site and I am confident that the General Scheme strikes an appropriate balance between doing what is right for the deceased, while minimising negative effects for those living nearby.

“The Certain Institutional Burials (Authorised Interventions) Bill will now be drafted along the lines of the General Scheme and I hope to publish it in Spring and bring it through the Houses of the Oireachtas as soon as possible.”

More as we get it.

Full report here


Tuam, County Galway.

Al Jazeera reporter Laurence Lee talks to Tuam survivors and supporters who are threatening to take the government to court over its ongoing failure to exhume the bodies of hundreds of children – as many as 796 – five years after the existence of a burial pit under the former Mother and Baby home in the town was revealed.

Last week: Misleading Survivors And The Dáil

Thanks Kevin Higgins

At the site of the Tuam Mother and Baby Home in Co Galway; Dr Geoffrey Shannon’s report on the collection of DNA from the survivors of the Tuam Mother and Baby Home; Dr Shannon

More as we get it.

Zappone to seek Cabinet approval to publish Tuam DNA report (RTE)

Tuam Mother and Baby Home Alliance and Rollingnews


From his report:

“There is no doubt that in the longer term, it is preferable that the process of collecting and matching DNA samples at the Tuam Mother and Baby Home should be underpinned by a robust statutory mechanism or framework.

“The question of whether the creation of an interim administrative scheme is legally possible is a question of constitutional law: does the executive branch enjoy the power to establish a scheme of this nature?

“The Constitution is silent as to the extent of the executive power. The Executive has been held to have certain inherent powers, some of which are possibly derived from royal prerogative powers.

“For present purposes, the most relevant example of inherent executive power is that the superior courts have recognised that the Executive enjoys an inherent power to establish ex-gratia non-statutory schemes to implement desired policy objectives.

In the case of C.A. and T.A. (a minor) v. Minister for Justice and Equality, Minister for Social Protection, the Attorney General and Ireland, the High Court considered a claim that the system of ‘direct provision’ was unlawful in the absence of enabling legislation.

“In part, it was argued that the establishment of the scheme usurped the power of the Legislature. The State argued that the direct provision scheme was a lawful use of inherent executive power under the Constitution, and in the course of legal argument pointed to a variety of other administrative schemes that existed in diverse fields.

In finding that the establishment of the direct provision scheme was a lawful exercise of executive power, Mac Eochaidh J. made the following helpful comments:

The Constitution does not require that the legislature must establish principles and policies in order for the Government to exercise its executive powers. The Government may exercise executive powers independently of the legislature. In exercising its constitutional executive powers, the Government may not trespass upon the exclusive law making function of the legislature. If the Government establishes a scheme in pursuit of a policy which contains rules and conditions, though the rules may be regarded as a form of ‘laws’, this would not involve the executive usurping the law making function of the legislature within the meaning of Article 15 of the Constitution.

“He further commented that “The mere fact that ‘direct provision’ could have been placed on a legislative footing does not mean that this must happen.”

Mac Eochaidh J. further observed that there were many executive schemes that operated with no statutory basis, and that the legitimacy of these had never been called into question.

“These included the system of primary school education, and the Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal. He also noted that the Irish Born Child Scheme had been approved by the Supreme Court in Bode v. Minister for Justice16 as a valid use of inherent executive power.

“The case-law on the executive power, scant though it is, strongly supports the existence of an inherent executive power to establish administrative schemes to achieve a policy end.

“Importantly, it should be noted that some emphasis has been laid on the fact that such schemes are usually ex gratia schemes which confer a benefit on given individuals, rather than make determinations as to the legal rights of individuals.

“In the relevant sense, this would appear to apply to the proposed administrative scheme in the Tuam context.

“This scheme would not make any determination as to the rights and duties of individuals. It would, in a sense confer on them a benefit, i.e. inclusion in the DNA matching scheme.

“Most crucially, the scheme would be entirely voluntary in nature, and also designed to exist only on a short-term or interim basis.

“It seems therefore that an administrative scheme of this nature would likely be constitutionally permissible.”

Dr Shannon’s 98-page report can be read in full here

Possible to collect Tuam DNA samples before legislation – report (RTE)


Breeda Murphy, PRO of the Tuam Mother and Baby Home Alliance, said:

“We are particularly pleased to see that Dr. Shannon proposes the opportunity to take DNA samples in a timely fashion via a voluntary administrative scheme. Such biological samples from relatives would then be stored securely until legislation is in place. This is essentially what our members, namely Sana Tansey and Emer Quirke proposed and which Taoiseach Varadkar admitted was a reasonable request.

It is comforting to note that no DNA profiles can be constructed arising out of the samples until legislation is in place and we are assured it is possible to generate DNA from the remains of the lost children. The DNA is being collected for that sole purpose.

The safe storage of DNA is paramount and we are provided with an assurance it will not be available or used for any purpose other than matching. If the possibility is not there to match for any reason, then the DNA will be destroyed. It is valuable data and must be treated as such.

Advises we have received suggest the possibilities of advancing technologies providing new opportunities all the time; only a couple of months ago another victim of 9/11 was identified some eighteen years later.

DNA collection being voluntary, open to the individuals concerned who will provide informed consent. Ownership rights and compliance with GDPR legislation underpin the process – with ownership of their own DNA as recommended by Dr. Shannon remaining the property of the participant who has the authority to withdraw consent and therefore from the process at any stage.

This is a most welcome suggestion. Further the opportunity for the participant to nominate a person in the event that they pass away prior to completion of the process ensures the opportunity for matching continues for a period.

The Minister on speaking to us yesterday mentioned that she would request her Department officials to put in place a voluntary administrative programme.

Our Alliance with two experts working in the field who initially proposed this model hope to contribute in an advisory capacity as we suggested this to the Minister. Also advised and welcome is the recommendation to communicate throughout the process with those most affected.

Finally, we are grateful to Dr. Shannon for this report, which looks favourably on our request to begin the process of banking DNA from concerned family members and survivors without the necessity of awaiting a lengthy legislation process and thank him for the person-centered approach he has undertaken, advocating for those who are the most vulnerable.”


Tuam, County Galway.

Survivors, family members and supporters remember the 796 Tuam Babies whose remains at the site of a former Mother and Baby home  have still to be exhumed.

[Historian] Catherine Corless said the exact location of the buried children was known since the publication of the Fifth Interim Report of the Commission of Mother and Baby Homes in April, and that campaigners had mapped out the burial chambers before the ceremony.

Anyone that walks in here today cannot but be moved by the love and the care that was put into these exhibitions here. People care so much about the babies who were put into the sewage tank, and if only the Government and the Church could show a bit of care, just as the people have here today.

Tuam mother and baby home protest calls for site to be fully exhumed (Irish Times)

From top: Anne Rabbitte; Katherine Zappone and Sr Marie Ryan; Ciaran Tierney

Why bother writing about the struggle for justice of those who were treated so appallingly by the Irish State?

Why not move on?

Why bother going to events organised by the families and survivors of the “Tuam Babies” when many media outlets don’t bother?

Why spend an hour or two with them on a Sunday afternoon when a news editor shrugs and proclaims, “Arragh, sure, didn’t we cover that event last year?”

(Even though they didn’t – as you can remember how few journalists there were among the small number of people who congregated in that lonely graveyard 12 months ago).

One of the most striking aspects of the scandal of the 796 ‘Tuam Babies’ is the widespread belief among survivors and family members that “official Ireland” has no interest in granting them the truth and justice they crave.

And the story of Tuam is replicated for the survivors and children of those who were incarcerated in dozens of other institutions all across the island of Ireland.

In Tuam, business people express regret that the scandal unearthed by local historian Catherine Corless has damaged the image or reputation of the town.

They have made it known to her, via third parties, that they wish she would have left well enough alone.

It’s not good for business, you see, to be the subject of scandalous headlines from San Francisco to Sydney when the economy is in “recovery” and there’s money to be made.

People whisper to Catherine on the street when they talk about “the home”, and she can sense shame, fear, or guilt in their voices when they approach her to applaud her for the research which has made headlines across the globe.

Only for her determination, the story might never have been known.

When it comes to the victims, though, the perception in some quarters is that these people are getting old now and it’s time to move on.

Forget about the fact that the mortality rate in the Tuam Home – where up to 796 babies may or may not be buried in a cesspit – was five times that of the general Irish population or that 126 of the 796 babies died within the first six months of life.

Forget about the fact that 35,000 women and girls were locked up in Mother and Baby Homes between 1904 and 1996 – hardly ancient history – and that those who are still living have never received a proper apology for how they were imprisoned for their “crimes”.

Or that some of them were asked to produce time sheets for the hours they worked in laundries where they were imprisoned and forced to work as slaves, with the collusion of the state, by cruel and judgemental nuns.

Forget about the fact that some older people still know what went on in these institutions, but are too afraid or too ashamed to come forward.

Or that a local councillor in Tuam, Cllr Donagh Killilea, has berated the current Minister for Children, Katherine Zappone TD, for daring to suggest that people with some memory of what happened should come forward with information, even at this late stage.

He’s offended by the idea that anyone in the town might still know why these bodies were discarded or disposed of in such a heartless fashion.

Forget about the fact that the Bon Secours nuns, in their infinite wisdom, hired a prominent PR person and paid her handsomely when the scandal of the “Tuam Babies” first broke in the Irish media.

“If you come here, you’ll find no mass grave, no evidence that children were ever so buried, and a local police force casting their eyes to heaven,” wrote Terry Prone, still the Goddess in Chief of “communications” for “official Ireland”.

And still she coaches or grooms our richest and most powerful politicians in terms of how to deal with our media.

And still she hasn’t apologised to the families for the hurt she has caused.

Forget about the fact that the Bon Secours nuns run private hospitals for a handsome profit and have never dealt directly with the families of their victims.

Forget that the pain of the survivors was compounded by a Fianna Fail TD, Anne Rabbitte, when she stated that the estimated €13 million cost of excavating the site of the “Tuam Babies” home could not be justified when it could be spent on the children of today.

It’s a wilful waste of public money that could be spent on the children of today,” Deputy Rabbitte told The Sunday Business Post last weekend.

The FF spokesperson on children, who is running for the European Parliament this month, seemed to have little concept of the anger these remarks would ignite among survivors and family members who are finding it so hard to obtain the truth from “official Ireland”.

For them, the story of the “Tuam Babies” is very much alive.

Bad enough to discover only in your 70s that you had a brother or sister you never heard about, only to find it next to impossible to find out what happened to them.

Forget about the fact that Ms Rabbitte’s party, Fianna Fail, was in power for most of the lifespan of the Mother and Baby Homes and Magdalene Laundries, when a harsh and judgmental Irish State asked religious orders to imprison and enslave thousands of Ireland’s most vulnerable women.

Let’s just forget that these poor women were locked up with the full knowledge of both the Irish State and their own families.

Or that the fathers of these children could get on with their lives while the mothers spent decades washing the dirty laundry of the elite of Irish society.

Peter Mulryan, Chairman of the Tuam Home Survivors’ Network, contrasts the reverence of the Bon Secours nuns for their own members, removing their bodies from the Grove private hospital before being re-interred with dignity, with how callously the bodies of up to 796 babies and children were discarded at the home.

They sold the building for €4.1 million in 2001 but, as so many survivors have discovered, religious institutions in Ireland have no interest in compensating victims and their families for the terrible times they put them through.

Mr Mulryan claims the “full horror” of what happened in Tuam has yet to be exposed.

Forget about the fact that survivors and family members, including Peter and Dublin woman Anna Corrigan, have no idea what happened to their siblings.

They still believe, rightly or wrongly, that their brothers and sisters could have been adopted (illegally) by families in the United States and cannot be persuaded otherwise until they have some proof of what happened to these children and babies.

Criminal acts were carried out to their family members and now they feel that there can be no closure to this terrible story until the full truth of what happened to the “Tuam Babies” is revealed to the world.

If the families believe that this can only be achieved through a full Inquest, isn’t it time “official Ireland” gives them the truth and the justice they have been calling out for?

Otherwise, we are compounding a terrible injustice and we are still betraying the dead children of Tuam (and their mothers and surviving family members) in the much more “enlightened” Ireland of 2019.

Compounding the injustice of Tuam (Ciaran Tierney)

The former Mother and baby Home in Tuam, County Galway; Map showing full extent of burial ground by Galway County Council in 1970

The publication this morning of a report into burial arrangements at Mother and baby homes was compiled by a commission of investigation formed after historian Catherine Corless’ revelations at the site of the former Mother and baby Home in Tuam (above).

Concerning Tuam, the commission writes:

Two structures were discovered. The location of the first structure discovered corresponds with the location of what is described as the “Sewage Tank” on the older Ordnance Survey and title maps.

This structure had at some point been deliberately filled with a large deposit of stones, almost to the upper edges…

The second structure discovered proved to be of greater significance. It is a long structure built within the boundaries of the old sewage tank.

It is divided into 20 chambers. Initially, a structure with two lids was discovered. One of the lids was completely intact and the other was partly broken.

These lids were carefully removed and were found to have covered a chamber with a small division between two sections of the chamber.

Human skeletal remains were immediately visible. Further excavations revealed more lids and, when they were removed, more human skeletal remains were found in the chambers underneath.

Samples of the remains were retrieved from within the chambers using customised telescopic equipment from the surface openings.

The Commission did not consider physically entering the individual chambers because the size of the surface access points was very confined, there was a danger that any attempt at physical entry would have compromised the many skeletal remains and entry was, in any event, not considered to be safe.

An archaeologist on the team appointed by the Commission considers that the logical intended use of the first structure discovered (described in the reports as “cesspool” or “sewage tank”) was to receive sewage from the culverts and pipes found coming from the direction of the former Home.

…Without a full excavation it is not possible to conclusively say what was the exact engineering purpose of the structures but the Commission considers that it is very likely that it was sewerage related. This view is corroborated by some of the scientific testing carried out at the request of the Commission and described below.

‘The Commission has established that a total of 973 children from the Children’s Home died either in Glenamaddy [nearby workhouse] in the Tuam Home itself or in a hospital or institution soon after they were transferred there from Tuam.

Of these, 79 children died in Glenamaddy. The Glenamaddy workhouse had its own burial ground so it is likely that the children who died there are buried in that burial ground. However, there is no burial register available for the period in question so this cannot be verified.

The vast majority, 802, died in the Tuam Home itself.

This number includes a significant number of “legitimate” children who are within the Commission’s Terms of Reference because they were not accompanied by a parent and a small number of “legitimate” children who are outside the Commission’s Terms of Reference because they were accompanied by a parent. (The children who were accompanied by a parent are less likely to be buried in the Tuam burial ground and are more likely to have been buried by their parents.)

The details of the deaths of the children were established by the Commission from the records compiled in the Home and from a list provided by the General Register Office (GRO) and already in the public domain.

There are six children whose deaths are recorded in the records compiled within the Home and who are not on the GRO list. The Commission has been unable to find any mention in the Tuam Home records of six children who are included in the GRO list.

When analysing the records, the Commission noted that a significant number of children who were resident in the Tuam Children’s Home were transferred to the Central Hospital, Galway when they became seriously ill.

The Commission checked the Register of Deaths and found that 86 children who had been transferred there died soon after the transfer.

Six other children died soon after leaving the Tuam Home: two children died in the County Home, Castlebar; one died in Crumlin Children’s Hospital; one in St Bridgid’s Industrial School for Girls, Loughrea; one in Clifden District Hospital and one died at home.

The old Galway workhouse became the Galway Central Hospital in the period 1922 – 1924. It was subsequently rebuilt and renamed the Regional Hospital. It is now the Galway University Hospital.

The Commission has found burial records for 50 of the children who died in the Central Hospital, Galway – they are recorded as being buried in Bohermore Cemetery.

Twelve mothers who were resident in the Tuam Home died, the majority from complications of childbirth; some died in the Home itself and some in the Central Hospital, Galway. It is not known who took responsibility for the burial of these mothers.

If the Central Hospital took responsibility for the burials it would be expected that they would be recorded in Bohermore cemetery but the Commission did not find any record of these burials there.’

More as we get it.

Earlier: Mother And Baby And Burials

 RTÉ TV Graphics Department model of the Mother and baby Home in Tuam with sewage tank marked


A Prime Time special by journalist Mark Coughlan on the mass grave at the former Tuam Mother and baby Home.


The bodies of babies from the Tuam institution have lain beneath the ground in what is now a suburban housing development since some time before 1961, when the Mother and Baby Home closed. They are in what has been officially termed a “substructure” in the corner of what is now a playground at the back of the estate.

A Commission of Investigation is looking into why they are buried there and what exactly is this ‘substructure’. But its deadline was recently pushed back by a further year. It is the second such extension. With no clear end in sight, Prime Time has been trying to find out what is known so far about what happened in Tuam.

Prime Time  on RTÉ One at 9.35pm.

Previously: Tuam And DNA


This afternoon.

In the Dáil.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaks about yesterday’s announcement by the Minister for Children Katherine Zappone that there will be an exhumation and forensic examination of the remains found at the site of the former Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, Co Galway.



Fianna Fail TD Anne Rabbitte also asked Mr Varadkar about the necessary legislation.

They had this exchange:

Anne Rabbitte: “With the announcement yesterday about the mother and baby home with the site in Tuam, it is understood, what you said was bespoke legislation would be required. Now is that amending some of the legislation or is that drafting new legislation?”

“And do you foresee that in the first quarter of next year, fast-tracking that legislation so as it can run in tandem with, sort of, outsourcing the work that needs doing? And also have the legislation running parallel so as that the people who are at the centre of all these, because they’re ageing, so as they don’t have to wait much longer for results. Thank you.”

Leo Varadkar: “It will be new primary legislation which may of course amend some existing legislation. What we want to avoid, of course, for the reasons that the deputy says, we want to avoid a situation where nothing happens until the legislation is passed. So the things that can be done without legislation, we’ll try and do. What requires legislation will obviously have to wait.

“Unfortunately fast-tracking any legislation in the world of new politics is difficult. A lot of legislation is being held up because we don’t have a majority Government. But that is the will of the people.”

Yesterday: Exhumation But No Inquests