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Med schools 'conscious of distress' experienced by families of infants whose remains were sent to universities

Some 474 unclaimed infant remains were transferred from mother and baby homes to universities from 1940 to 1965.

Image: Shutterstock/aquatti

THE ORGANISATION REPRESENTING the anatomy departments of Irish medical schools has commented on the remains of hundreds of “unclaimed infants” previously being used by the facilities for study pruposes.

Yesterday, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone told the Dáil:

“We must accept that between 1940 and 1965 a recorded 474 so-called unclaimed infant remains were transferred from mother and baby homes to medical schools in Irish universities.”

The Anatomical Committee of the Irish Medical Schools (ACIMS) said it is “very conscious of the distress experienced by the families involved”.

In a statement to TheJournal.ie, the ACIMS said: “We have always attempted to the utmost of our ability to assist any individuals or families who have made enquiries about the transfer of family members’ remains.

“All Irish anatomy departments gave full cooperation to the government’s Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes and certain related matters since it was first established. Helplines were established and all queries thoroughly investigated.

“During the first half of the 20th century, the practice of transferring remains from institutional settings to anatomy departments was in accordance with the Anatomy Act (1832).

The purpose was for the study of anatomy; the study of the structure of the human body. The receipt of all human remains was then reported to the Inspector of Anatomy and the Department of Health. We can confirm that infant remains from that time were interred in local cemeteries and in Glasnevin Cemetery.

“By today’s standards this practice of those former years would be unacceptable. Since the late 1960s donations to the anatomy departments have been made with fully informed consent and family support and approval are essential,” the statement said.

Inquiry

This morning on RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke, Zappone said that she was looking at ways to ”provide victims with a public forum for which to speak their truths”.

“Is it enough to have a legal process of commission of investigation?

“It’s very important we have that, but in other countries, when they try to move from what are considered to be repressive regimes into a new era, they know that there may be other ways in which there are opportunities for people to tell their truth, to remember what happened.

[An example would be] a national remembrance day and perhaps the State ought to acquire some of the properties of where unmarried mothers were effectively put in against their will, and to use them in other ways.

She acknowledged the requests for the mother and baby home inquiry to be expanded to include all institutions (currently it includes 14) but made no commitment to implementing them.

The Coalition of Mother and Baby Home Survivors said they “strongly recommended” that the inquiry should extend its use of the sampling method already in place.

The priority at this time has to be including all living survivors while there is still time before our ageing community passes away. The survivor community have been proactively presenting workable solutions for the inquiry from before it even began.

The interim report into the mother and baby homes will be published by the end of this month.

Anatomy departments

Below is contact information for anatomy departments, for anyone who wishes to contact them about the transferred remains of deceased family members:

  • University College Dublin: 01 716 6617
  • RCSI: 01 402 2260 or anatomy@rcsi.ie
  • Trinity College Dublin: 01 896 4577 or anatomy@tcd.ie
  • NUI Galway: 091 49 3361 pressoffice@nuigalway.ie
  • University College Cork: anatomy@ucc.ie

With reporting by Órla Ryan

Read: John Halligan wants gardaí to interview surviving Bon Secour nuns over Tuam burial site

Read: ‘She sent my child away, I never saw him again’: Mother tells how nun told her to ‘forget’ about child

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