Cyprus Mail

Ireland urged to excavate more Church sites after baby remains found

The Catholic Church ran many of Ireland's social services in the 20th century, including mother-and-baby homes where tens of thousands of unmarried pregnant women, including rape victims, were sent to give birth

Ireland’s government should widen an inquiry into former Church-run homes for unmarried mothers and excavate more sites after the discovery of significant quantities of baby remains at one home, opposition lawmakers and advocacy groups said on Monday.

The remains of babies, ranging from new-born to three-years-old, were found in the sewers of one of Ireland’s so-called “mother-and-baby homes”, government-appointed investigators said on Friday following an excavation it described as “shocking”.

The government ordered the inquiry in 2014 after research by a local historian’s suggested up to 800 children may lie in an unmarked grave at the home in the western Irish town of Tuam. The investigators’ survey discovered human remains in at least 17 of the 20 underground chambers which were examined.

The commission is investigating 17 other church-run homes but advocacy groups say there were many more such institutions where little is known of the conditions and practices – including burial practices and grave locations.

“We are aware of over 180 institutions, agencies and individuals who were involved with Ireland’s unmarried mothers and their children,” the Justice for Magdalenes Research group said in a statement.

“We reiterate our call for an expansion of the Commission’s terms of reference to include all institutions, and to include investigations of burial practices at all of these locations. It is well known that the systematic abuse extended far beyond the homes the Commission is investigating.”

The Catholic Church ran many of Ireland’s social services in the 20th century, including mother-and-baby homes where tens of thousands of unmarried pregnant women, including rape victims, were sent to give birth.

Government records show that in the 1930s, 40s and 50s, the mortality rate for “illegitimate” children was often more than five times that of those born to married parents. On average, more than one in four children born out of wedlock died.

While run by nuns, the homes received state funding and, as adoption agencies, were also regulated by the state. The church’s dominance of Irish society has declined sharply after a series of scandals over its abuse and neglect of children.

Ireland’s Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone called the discovery “sad and disturbing” but said the commission would continue its work under the terms of reference it was issued with.

“It is now imperative that the terms of reference of the Commission are extended to include all institutions,” Mary Lou McDonald of the opposition Sinn Fein party said in a statement.

“This is the only way to get to the truth.”

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