Government to publish mother and baby homes report

Records show 470 infants and 10 women died at Bessborough.

The Government will publish a key report on burial practices at Ireland’s main mother and baby homes “as quickly as possible”.

The report — the fifth interim report by the Mother and Baby Homes Commission— was submitted to children’s minister Katherine Zappone on Friday.

It is likely to be the most important report published by the Commission outside of its final report which has been delayed until next year.

It will focus on burial arrangements made for women and children who died while resident in the institutions. It includes technical reports prepared on the burial site associated with the former Tuam mother and baby home and the commission’s assessment of burial arrangements at the other institutions within its remit.

It comes a month after the commission ordered a test excavation of burial grounds located on the site of Sean Ross Abbey in Tipperary following information received by a member of the public.

The commission has said it has “no plans at present” to carry out any geophysical survey of the grounds of the former Bessborough mother and baby home.

The Irish Examiner revealed in 2015 death registers containing almost 800 names for both Bessborough and Sean Ross Abbey were handed to the HSE by the Order in 2011 — three years before the Tuam scandal erupted. The list is not the full number of children known to have died at the institutions. In the case of Bessborough, the register shows 470 infants and 10 women died there between 1934 and 1953. A total of 273 deaths took place in a six-year period between 1939 and 1944. However, the Order reported 353 deaths to State inspectors in this period. The principal cause of death in some 20% of the deaths is marasmus (severe malnutrition). It is unclear where all the children are buried.

Last year, an Irish Examiner investigation revealed children from the Bessborough mother and baby home and the former St Anne’s Adoption Society, who died as late as 1990, are buried in unmarked graves in a Cork city cemetery.

Ms Zappone said she will seek Government approval to publish the Commission’s report on burial arrangements “as quickly as possible” after she considers its findings and consults the attorney general. She said she is sensitive to the expectations of their families for an early publication date.

Ms Zappone said the report will inform the legislative work being advanced to support the proposed excavation and exhumation process at the Tuam site and said she would not address speculation on the report in advance of it being public.

A report examining if it is possible to start taking DNA samples from survivors of the Tuam Mother and Baby Home will be completed next month. Special Rapporteur on child protection Geoffrey Shannon has been asked to examine whether it is possible to meet this request within the current legislative framework.

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