‘No decision’ to excavate Bessborough despite high death rate

There has been “no decision” to carry out excavations on the site of any other mother and baby home other than Tuam — despite the HSE confirming as far back as 2012 that there had been a higher infant death rate in Bessborough in Cork .

The Mother and Baby Homes Commission is currently carrying out its second excavation of the site in Tuam, where almost 800 children are reportedly buried.

The Irish Examiner put a number of queries to the commission in relation to similar excavations in other mother and baby homes — in particular Bessborough.

A death register for this institution maintained by the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary has been held by the HSE (and now Tusla) since 2011 and records that 478 infants died in the home between 1934 and 1953 — a higher infant death rate than recorded in Tuam.

A statement issued by Ita Mangan from the commission stated that “no decision” had been made to look at potential burial sites in any other institution it is investigating.

“No decision has yet been made about excavations at other mother and baby homes. The examination of the Bessboro documents is continuing and will take several more months. Decisions will be made when all the documentary evidence has been analysed. In Bessboro’s case, that will not be for several months,” said the statement.

In a follow-up query, the Irish Examiner asked if all the documentary evidence relating to Tuam had been analysed as that site has been examined twice. The commission declined to issue a response.

An Irish Examiner investigation in 2015 revealed that the HSE informed the Department of Health and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs of a “shocking” infant mortality rate at Bessborough in 2012.

The unpublished report also expressed concerns that deaths may have been falsified at Bessborough so that children could be “brokered into clandestine adoption arrangements”.

The investigation revealed that the HSE had also reported concerns in 2012 that up to 1,000 children may have been “trafficked” to the US from the Tuam mother and baby home in “a scandal that dwarfs other, more recent, issues within the Church and State”.

Senior HSE officials advised “that this goes all the way up to the minister” so “a fully fledged, fully resourced forensic investigation and State inquiry” could be launched. An inquiry was not launched by the Government until two years later.

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