Babies' remains found in sewers of Irish church home

  • 04/03/2017
Tuam home
The shocking discovery was made at Tuam home (Reuters)

A "significant" quantity of human remains has been discovered in "underground chambers" at a former home for unmarried mothers and their babies in Ireland.

A commission set up to investigate alleged abuse at religious-run so-called mother and baby homes has been carrying out an excavation at the former Catholic Church institution in County Galway.

It said it was "shocked" by the discovery of "significant quantities of human remains" in at least 17 of 20 underground chambers being excavated in recent weeks.

"A small number of remains were recovered for the purpose of analysis," the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes said.

"These remains involved a number of individuals with age-at-death ranges from approximately 35 foetal weeks to two or three years.

"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."

The Tuam home operated from 1925 to 1961. A number of the samples are likely to date from the 1950s, according to the commission.

"The Commission is shocked by this discovery and is continuing its investigation into who was responsible for the disposal of human remains in this way," it said in a statement.

"Meanwhile, the commission has asked that the relevant State authorities take responsibility for the appropriate treatment of the remains."

Tuam home

A coroner has been notified.

Ireland's Children's Minister Katherine Zappone described the discovery as "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," she said.

"Up to now we had rumours. Now we have confirmation that the remains are there, and that they date back to the time of the mother and baby home, which operated in Tuam from 1925 to 1961."

The minister urged a sensitive and respectful response to the discovery.