Catherine Corless hits out at Tuam home process

Catherine Corless

Tuam babies campaigner Catherine Corless has hit out at the Government for focusing “on cost” rather than committing to a full forensic excavation, exhumation, and DNA testing of the remains at the Tuam site.

The historian, who found the names of the 796 children who died at the home, expressed her anger at the “callous and cold voting system” put in place by Galway County Council as part of an independent consultation process on the five options presented by the expert technical group advising the Government in how to manage the site. She has also written to Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone on the matter.

The options range from doing no further investigative work to a full forensic excavation and analysis of all human remains.

Ms Corless expressed her “dismay” that “it has come to this” but has called on people to show a preference for a full forensic excavation, exhumation, and DNA testing, stating that this “will bring the long-awaited justice to the families of the babies buried in this tank”.

She said she “tried in vain to stop this callous and cold voting system” to decide what is to be done at Tuam.

She hit out at the Government, saying it had become increasingly focused on cost rather than truth. She accused the Government of handing the problem back to the council rather than simply directing the site be fully and forensically excavated.

“There was a public outcry this time last year from the Government of their shock and horror that the Tuam Home babies were buried thus, but their shock is somewhat dwindling at this stage, with the focus now on cost,” she said.

“The Tuam babies deserve a decent burial in consecrated ground alongside their relatives. Memorialising them with a statue planked on top of the septic tank is only a further slight adding to the way their little bodies were discarded in the first place.”

Writing in this newspaper, she said she had spoken to “many experts in the field of DNA” who can see no reason not to go ahead with the fullest possible examination of the site, adding: “It does not cost the earth as the Government are stating.”

Speaking in the Dáil last month, Ms Zappone acknowledged that a number of families and representative groups had expressed concern about the use of the approach and methodology used to gather information.

“It appears that some have likened it to a simplistic popular voting process,” said Ms Zappone. “The process is far more comprehensive than that. I have raised these concerns with Galway County Council.

“I would like to assure the House that there is no intention to trivialise the memories or feelings of those wishing to partake in this process by using such a document.The key part of this process is to offer those with an interest to express their opinion and collate this information.”

On the forms issued by Galway County Council, interested parties are asked indicate their preferred option “by placing an X in the appropriate box” out of the following five options:

  • Memorialisation;
  • Exhumation of known human remains;
  • Forensic excavation and recovery of known human remains;
  • Forensic excavation and recovery of known human remains with further evaluation/excavation of other areas of interest;
  • Forensic excavation of the total available area.

Mr Corless’ concerns come after an Irish Examiner investigation revealed that children from the Bessborough Mother and Baby Home were buried in unmarked graves in a Cork city cemetery as late as 1990.

Meanwhile, the Justice For Magdalenes Research Group urged the Government to honour two of the key recommendations of the Magdalene redress scheme by helping bring survivors together for a special ‘Dublin Honours Magdalenes’ event.

The two-day gathering on June 5 and 6 will see several hundred survivors of the Magdalene Laundries will be honoured and celebrated by the City of Dublin.

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