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Archbishop of Tuam "horrified and saddened" to learn of mass child burials

Archbishop Michael Neary has welcomed the Government’s announcement that a number of departments will examine the issue.

The site of the mass grave for children in Tuam.
The site of the mass grave for children in Tuam.
Image: Niall Carson/PA Wire/Press Association Images

THE CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP of Tuam has said he was “greatly shocked” to learn of the extent of the number of children buried in a mass grave on the grounds of a former mother and baby home in the Galway town.

Archbishop Michael Neary has said he welcomes yesterday’s announcement by Children’s Minister Charlie Flanagan that a number of Government Departments will look into how best to address the issue.

Flanagan said last night in a statement that “active consideration is being given to the best means of addressing the harrowing details emerging regarding the burial arrangements for children who died many years ago in mother and baby homes, and the many questions raised regarding these deaths”.

The death records for 796 children, ranging in age from newborn babies to children up to the age of nine, were discovered by local historian Catherine Corless who was researching the history of the children’s home in Tuam which was run by the Bon Secours order of nuns from 1925 until 1961.

The Archbishop said in a statement that he was “horrified and saddened” to hear of the large number of deceased children involved and that “this points to a time of great suffering and pain for the little ones and their mothers”.

Michael Neary’s statement in full: 

I was greatly shocked, as we all were, to learn of the extent of the numbers of children buried in the grave-yard in Tuam. I was made aware of the magnitude of this situation by media reporting and historical research. I am horrified and saddened to hear of the large number of deceased children involved and this points to a time of great suffering and pain for the little ones and their mothers.I can only begin to imagine the huge emotional wrench which the mothers suffered in giving up their babies for adoption or by witnessing their death. Many of these young vulnerable women would already have been rejected by their families. The pain and brokenness which they endured is beyond our capacity to understand. It is simply too difficult to comprehend their helplessness and suffering as they watched their beloved child die.Regardless of the time lapse involved this is a matter of great public concern which ought to be acted upon urgently. As the diocese did not have any involvement in the running of the home in Tuam we do not have any material relating to it in our archives. I understand that the material which the Bon Secours Sisters held, as managers of the Mother and Baby Home was handed over to Galway County Council and the health authorities in 1961.I welcome the announcement today by Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Mr. Charlie Flanagan, TD to establish a Cross-Departmental examination for the burial arrangements of Children in Mother and Baby HomesThis will have the legal authority to examine the situation and to determine the truth. While the Archdiocese of Tuam will cooperate fully nonetheless there exists a clear moral imperative on the Bon Secours Sisters in this case to act upon their responsibilities in the interests of the common good.

The Diocese will continue to work with the Sisters and the local community to provide a suitable commemorative prayer based memorial service and plaque and to ensure that the deceased and their families will never be forgotten.

It will be a priority for me, in cooperation with the families of the deceased, to seek to obtain a dignified re-interment of the remains of the children in consecrated ground in Tuam.

May the Lord’s infinite mercy console all who have suffered and bring healing to their loved ones.

Read: Allegations about mass grave of 800 babies ‘being taken very, very seriously’ >

Read: ‘It’s time to do something’ – The forgotten mass grave of 800 babies in Galway >

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