By Ann Marie Foley - 06 September, 2019
Tuam campaigner Catherine Corless hopes that the Irish government will pass legislation this autumn that will allow DNA identification of babies buried in disused facilities used for sewage.
The woman whose “little bit of research”, as she called it, revealed that 796 babies born in the mother and baby home were buried in this unmarked area, stated that she wants them to have the dignity of marked graves and added: “I will continue to fight.”
Speaking when she was conferred with an honorary degree of Doctor of Literature, honoris causa at a University College Dublin (UCD) autumn conferring, she said that the government and Galway County Council are holding up the legislation and exhumations. She said that the Sisters of the Bon Secours, who ran the home, are silent, and the Catholic Church in Tuam does not care.
She will continue her campaign until those 796 babies and children are exhumed and identified. She said that UCD has the technology and DNA expertise to identify the babies. She expressed the hope that justice will be done.
She stated that the babies and their mothers led a miserable life in the home and she posed the question: “Why were they looked down on?”
The citation said she received the honorary doctorate for the values of humanity she exemplifies and for the difference she has made to the world.
Present at the conferring were Professor Andrew Deeks, President of UCD; Sarah Prescott, Principal and Dean of UCD College of Arts and Humanities; and Dr Emelie Pine, author, who read the citation. Dr Pine told the new graduates and their families present in the O’Reilly Hall to stand up for values and equality and that “skills are nothing without values”.
She concluded “We honor you [Catherine Corless] because you exemplify our values.”
Catherine Corless was interested in local history and wanted to write an article about the mother and baby home in her home town of Tuam.
Over an extended period of time, and with much research, she found death certificates and details indicating that 796 children had died in the home. However, she could not find burial records.
It emerged that the remains of infants and children up to the age of four were buried in chambers underground. These were subsequently identified as disused sewage facilities on the lands forming part of the Bon Secours mother and baby home property.
She sought answers and continued to do so until her research was highlighted in the media and finally a Commission of Investigation into mother and baby homes was set up by the government.
She continues to campaign for official excavation works with the view to exhuming all the remains there, and their possible identification through DNA testing.