Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin is urging help for authorities as they seek out the truth about the remains of hundreds of young children recently discovered near a former home for unwed mothers.
“The Gospel message is that authentic faith is measured by how we treat children who represent Jesus Christ,” the archbishop said, adding that he was sickened by the emerging details of the reports.
Archbishop Martin’s statement comes in the wake of reports that the bodies of nearly 800 young children had been “dumped” in a septic tank nearby St. Mary’s “mother and baby” home in Tuam between the years 1925 and 1961.
According to the Irish Independent, the Bon Secour sisters, whose order ran the home during the period in question, have said they are “deeply saddened” by the recent reports. The sisters have said they welcome the initiative of the authorities to help establish the truth of what happened to the children.
However, the veracity of certain details of the story as it has been reported was recently called into question after the historian, whose research sparked the initial reports, said she was misquoted.
“I never used that word ‘dumped’,” said Catherine Corless in an interview with the Irish Times. “I never said to anyone that 800 bodies were dumped in a septic tank. That did not come from me at any point. They are not my words.”
Corless, a local historian in Co Galway, has been going through records associated with St. Mary’s. In her research, she discovered that most of the 796 bodies discovered were those of infants who had died at the home.
Between 2011 and 2013, Corless paid a total of €3,184 to get the children’s death certificates, saying she had obtained all of them by last September. “If I didn’t do it, nobody else would have done it,” she said.
Although the children’s names, ages, places of birth and causes of death had been recorded, there were no burial records, and no sign of them having been interred in local cemeteries. In an article entitled “The Home”, published in the Journal of the Old Tuam Society in 2012, Corless concluded that the children had been buried in an unofficial graveyard near the home. For years, the site was attended to by local people who planted flowers and erected a grotto nearby.
According to the Irish Times report, Corless has been “upset, confused and dismayed” by the speculation surrounding the story.
“I just wanted those children to be remembered and for their names to go up on a plaque,” she said. “That was why I did this project, and now it has taken [on] a life of its own.”