Researchers have made a gruesome discovery at a home for unwed mothers and their children, validating the theory of an Irish historian who has for years been convinced hundreds of infants and children died there.
But although some dismissed Catherine Corless’s theory as a hoax, the Irish government did take her seriously, and launched a commission to study the grounds where the Mother and Baby Home in the Western Ireland town of Tuam once stood.
According to The Washington Post, the home was run by the Congregation of the Sisters of Bon Secours from about 1925 through the 1960s, operating as a temporary boarding house for unwed mothers whose families did not want to face the stigma of an out-of-wedlock pregnancy.
The Washington Post reports that the commission found “significant quantities of human remains” inside a buried structure that appears to be related to sewage or wastewater treatment. Researchers analyzed some samples of the remains and found they belonged to children who died between the ages of 35 fetal weeks to 2-to-3 years. According to the commission report:
Radiocarbon dating of the samples recovered suggest that the remains date from the time frame relevant to the operation of the Mother and Baby Home. A number of the samples are likely to date from the 1950s.
The commission report said there is an ongoing investigation into how the remains got there and who is responsible.
Katherine Zappone, Ireland’s minister for children and youth affairs, responded to the news with a statement:
This is very sad and disturbing news. It was not unexpected, as there were claims about human remains on the site over the last number of years.
Today is about remembering and respecting the dignity of the children who lived their short lives in this Home. We will honour their memory and make sure that we take the right actions now to treat their remains appropriately.
In 2014, Corliss told The Washington Post that she believed the mortality rate at the Mother and Baby Home to be excessively high, and that there were on average two infant deaths per week, typically from disease, malnutrition, and/or neglect.
Responding to the commission’s report, Corliss told The Irish Times that it was “an enormous relief to have the truth come out about what I knew. I can only imagine what the survivors of those who died there must feel, and those who had family connections to the home.
“The Church and State owes them all an apology,” Corliss said.