By Susan Gately - 05 June, 2014
The Archbishop of Tuam has welcomed yesterday’s announcement by Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Mr Charlie Flanagan TD, that a cross-departmental examination is to take place to address the issues raised as a result of the allegations of a mass grave on the grounds of a former children’s home in Galway.
Calls have been made for the Government to investigate the details surrounding the death and burial of an alleged 800 babies and toddlers in the grounds of a former home for unmarried mothers run by the Bon Secours Sisters in Tuam from 1925 to 1961. The grave was discovered in 1975.
“Many of the revelations are deeply disturbing and a shocking reminder of a darker past in Ireland when our children were not cherished as they should have been,” said Minister Charlie Flanagan. “I am particularly mindful of the relatives of those involved and of local communities. There are a number of Government departments involved in this process. The cross-departmental initiative underway will examine these matters and report to Government on how they might be addressed.”
Welcoming the initiative, Dr Michael Neary said he was shocked to hear of the magnitude of the numbers of children buried in the grave in Tuam.
“I was made aware of the extent of the situation by media reporting and historical research. I am horrified and saddened to hear of the large number of deceased children involved and this points to a time of great suffering and pain for the little ones and their mothers.”
Dr Neary said he could “only begin to imagine the huge emotional wrench which the mothers suffered in giving up their babies for adoption or by witnessing their death,” and he promised as a “priority” in cooperation with the families of the deceased, “to seek to obtain a dignified re-interment of the remains of the children in consecrated ground in Tuam.”
He said that regardless of the time lapse involved, it was a matter of “great public concern which ought to be acted upon urgently.”
The diocese was not involved in the running of the home and had no material relating to it in the archives, he said. “I understand that the material which the Bon Secours Sisters held, as managers of the Mother and Baby Home, was handed over to Galway County Council and the health authorities in 1961,” he added.
Archbishop Neary said the archdiocese would cooperate fully with the enquiry, and there existed “a clear moral imperative on the Bon Secours Sisters in this case to act upon their responsibilities in the interest of the common good.”
Dr Neary said the diocese would continue to work with the Sisters and the local community to provide “a suitable commemorative prayer based memorial service, and plaque, and to ensure that the deceased and their families will never be forgotten”.
Minister for Children, Charlie Flanagan said that relevant Government departments had been “tasked with working together in preparation for the Government’s early consideration and determination of the best course of action.”
It is understood that Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald has also asked for a report from An Garda Síochána into the matter.