The report on burials practices in mother and baby homes is to be referred to An Garda Síochána to see if any of the issues raised warrant criminal investigation.
The fifth interim report from the Mother and Baby Homes Commission, published last week, revealed a number of issues in relation to the Bessborough and Tuam institutions primarily.
The Department of Children and Youth Affairs has now said that the report is to be referred to the gardaí.
“Criminal investigations are a matter for An Garda Síochána (AGS),” said the department in a statement.
“The Fifth Interim Report will be referred by the Minister for Justice and Equality for appropriate attention by AGS.”
The commission confirmed in the report that some 900 children died in Bessborough or in hospital after being transferred from Bessborough.
However, despite “very extensive inquiries and searches” over the past five years, the commission could only find the final resting place for 64 children.
The burial locations of more than 800 infants — including some 470 infants on the order’s own death register as revealed by the Irish Examiner — remain unknown.
The commission was scathing in its criticism of the order that ran the institution — the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary — stating that the affidavit it supplied on burial arrangements was “in many respects, speculative, inaccurate, and misleading”.
With regard to Tuam, the commission revealed that it was likely that a large number of the infants who died at the institution are buried in the memorial garden.
It said the remains are not in a sewage tank but in a second structure with 20 chambers which was built within a decommissioned sewage tank.
The report said it was unclear what the purpose of this chamber was but it was likely that it was used for the treatment/containment of sewage and/or wastewater.
The commission said it did not believe the chambers were constructed as a crypt or burial chamber.
The commission’s failure to find any burial locations for the bulk of children who died in Bessborough after five years of operation and claims by the order that they have no information on burials has caused considerable outrage among survivors and campaign groups.