Zappone: Report on mother and baby homes ‘substantial’

Tuam mother and baby home survivor Peter Mulryan — whose mother Delia is buried at the Magdalene plot and who searching for his lost sister — at the remembrance day for the Magdalene women at Bohermore Cemetery, Galway. Picture: Hany Marzouk

A report on burial practices at Ireland’s main mother and baby homes has been described as “substantial” and will be published once survivors groups have been briefed.

The report — the fifth interim report by the Mother and Baby Homes Commission — was submitted to children’s minister Katherine Zappone on March 15.

The report is seen as the most important publication from the Commission outside of its final report which has been delayed until February 2020.

Speaking at the launch of a new art exhibition on Magdalene Laundries, Mother and Baby Homes and Industrial Schools by Alison Lowry at the National Museum of Ireland last week, Ms Zappone described the contents of the report as “substantial”.

“I can confirm that the report is substantial and it includes extensive technical details prepared in the course of the Commission’s investigations into the burial site associated with the former Tuam Mother and Baby Home and the Commission’s assessment of burial arrangements at other institutions within its remit,” she said.

The minister said it was her “firm intention” to seek formal Government approval to publish the report “as soon as possible”.

However, she said this would only be done once she had an opportunity to consider the report and consult the Attorney General. Ms Zappone added she would brief survivor groups before the report is made public.

I have given a commitment to advise representative groups and those who have been in contact with the Department on these matters of developments prior to any public announcement.

"So, with this in mind I can’t comment any further on the contents of this report at this juncture,” she said.

In February, the Commission ordered a test excavation of burial grounds


on the site of Sean Ross Abbey in Tipperary following information received by a member of the public.

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

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.

It is known that some children and former residents of the institution are buried in a number of Cork city cemeteries.

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