In a startling find, investigators from Ireland have confirmed the discovery of a mass grave that they say contain remains of “hundreds” of babies and young children.
According to ABC News, the mass grave was found at a site that was home to a former Catholic orphanage. The discovery was made by government-appointed investigators following the efforts of local historian Catherine Corless, who launched an investigation to trace the fates of more than 800 children who she believed perished at the Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home located in Tuam, Galway County.
The investigation was spearheaded by the Mother and Baby Homes Commission, which commenced excavating the site of the former orphanage starting in November of last year. After more than three months of careful excavations, the Commission announced that they have come across conclusive evidence that hundreds of children were buried over the course of several decades at the orphanage. The mass grave was found within an underground structure that was divided into 20 chambers. Each of these chambers had “significant quantities of human remains,” authorities confirmed.
Meanwhile, DNA analysis of several remains found from the mass grave revealed that the ages of the dead children ranged from infants as young as 35-weeks-old and toddlers of ages up to 3-years-old. Officials also estimated that most of the children were buried in the mass grave back in the 1950s. Back then, the orphanage offered shelter to orphans and unwed mothers and their children. While several people had suspected that a large number of children have died at the orphanage with most of them interred in unmarked graves, no one had conclusive evidence of this happening. According to the ABC News report, back in the 50s, the practice of disposing of the bodies of orphans at Catholic-run facilities was fairly common.
According to Catherine Corless, she became interested in the fates of hundreds of faceless children whose death certificates she tracked down. Upon further investigation, she could only find the burial record for one child. Following her efforts, in 2014, the government okayed a full-fledged investigation to find out what happened at the Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home six decades ago. Corless said that all the evidence suggested the presence of a mass grave near the plot of land near the orphanage. She also revealed that back in the 70s, several children playing in the area had reported the discovery of a pile of bones in an underground chamber. However, no further investigation was carried out by authorities back then.
Meanwhile, the discovery of the mass grave in Ireland has been described as “sad and disturbing” by Ireland’s commissioner for children, Katherine Zappone. She added that all efforts to identify the remains and to contact the descendants of the children would be made so that they could be provided proper burials.
“We will honor their memory and make sure that we take the right actions now to treat their remains appropriately,” Zappone said.
According to investigators, initial impressions are that several of the bodies were placed in underground chambers that were used as septic tanks. However, the tanks were not used after 1937, when the orphanage was connected to a modern water supply and waste disposal network. Indications are that workers modified the old septic tank, filled it with rubble.
An investigation is also underway to find the identities of the people who were behind the disposal of human remains in such a way. The Bon Secours Sisters order of nuns that ran the orphanage until its closure issued a statement in which it clarified that all records pertaining to the closed facility were given to the government back in 1961. They, however, pledged full co-operation with the ongoing investigation. Corless wasn’t happy with the response and said that the organization should take responsibility for what happened at a facility that was once under their care.
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