"Significant quantities" of baby remains have been discovered in an apparent makeshift crypt at the site of a former Catholic home for unmarried mothers in Ireland, an official commission said on Friday (Mar 3).
The discovery, announced by investigators Friday, follows a probe by a historian in 2014 who found the death certificates for almost 800 children who died at the home in Tuam, County Galway, between its opening in 1925 and closure in 1961.
The age-at-death of the remains is believed to be between 35 foetal weeks and 2-3 years.
The commission is examining deaths and burial arrangements at 14 homes including Manor House in Castlepollard and Sean Ross Abbey in Roscrea.
The Commission of Investigation examining the issue says the shocking discovery was made in 17 of 20 underground chambers meant to be used as part of a sewage system.
Catholic institutions ran many of Ireland's social services in the 20th century, including mother-and-baby homes where tens of thousands of unmarried pregnant women, including rape victims, were sent to give birth.
The commission's admission that it was "shocked" by the scale of the discovery reflects the disturbing circumstances of what has the hallmarks of inhuman burial.
'A small number of remains were recovered for the objective of analysis, ' the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes said.
"Radiocarbon dating of the samples recovered suggest that the remains date from the timeframe relevant to the operation of the Mother and Baby Home". 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'.
Zappone said the county council for the region was securing the site for now, and had not yet decided how to handle the human remains.
"Up to now we had rumours", she added.
Children's Minister Katherine Zappone says it's very disturbing, confirming worst suspicions, and she promises an appropriate and respectful response by authorities now.
The Minister said her Department had brought together all of the key Departments and agencies to set out a way forward.
There was no immediate reaction from the order or the local Archdiocese of Tuam. "We will honour their memory and make sure that we take the right actions now to treat their remains appropriately".
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