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  • 6 June 2014, 14:18

Mass Grave Of Babies 'May Have To Be Exhumed'

An Irish MP says bodies may have to be exhumed to ascertain if a secret grave at Tuam, County Galway, contains the remains of nearly 800 children who died in a home for unmarried mothers.

Local residents had long believed it to be a burial ground from the period of the Irish famine but recent studies have convinced them that the bodies may be those of children from a workhouse.

Colm Keaveney TD, from the Fianna Fail party, said: "If it's established by forensics that there are bodies on site that have been buried there under the auspices of the local authority with the Bon Secours Sisters, that opens up a different degree of investigation because then we have to ask the key question - what were the circumstances in which these vulnerable children died?"

The Bon Secours Sisters, a religious order, ran the St Mary's Home at Tuam. Some 796 babies and infants are known to have died there, with death certificates citing measles, tuberculosis and malnutrition among the causes.

Former resident, JP Rodgers, cannot believe he is not among the dead. He struggled with his emotions when recalling how he had been separated from his mother at 13 months and did not see her for 33 years.

He said: "I can't explain why I was saved and why I was one of the lucky ones.

"I think I inherited that from my mother. She was a very, very determined person. She was very resilient.

"At the same time, she was so ladylike that I wanted to write her story because I knew, as far as I was concerned, I could feel it in my blood and in my bones, that she was a very special person."

It was only when the local community began raising funds for a memorial that authorities came under pressure to explain how the bodies came to be here, even though they had been discovered years ago.

Historian Catherine Corless said: "Two little boys, when they were playing in the early 1970s, came across this massive hollow in the ground here and what they found terrified them. They found some slabs on top of this hollow and one of them was cracked and when they opened the cracked slab, they said it was full to the brim with little skulls and bones."

Some 4,000 children are thought to have died in 10 similar institutions across Ireland and the Tuam community want the names of the 796, whom they believe to be buried here, listed on memorial plaques.

The only indication of the tomb, under a plot of land within a housing estate, was a statue of the Virgin Mary, where an elderly lady was praying for the souls of Ireland's departed children.

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