‘Difficult to establish facts’ on burials at homes

The Mother and Baby Homes Commission has admitted it will be “difficult to establish the facts” surrounding the burials of children who died in all of the homes it is investigating.

The revelation is contained at the end of the Commission’s third interim report and comes as the Government has granted the inquiry a one-year extension to complete its work. The Commission will now publish its final reports in February 2019.

In its latest interim report, the Commission notes that while there are “detailed death records available” in relation to mother and baby homes, there are also “significant gaps” in the information available about the burials of babies who died in a number of the institutions it is examining.

“The Commission is continuing to make inquiries about burials and burial records but it appears that this is an area in which it will be difficult to establish the facts,” states the report.

It also acknowledges that it has spent “considerable time” trying to establish the burial practices at Tuam Mother and Baby Home.

The report states that the collection and analysis of information about entry and exit pathways for mothers and children; living conditions, mortality rates, post-mortem practices, and vaccine trials in the institutions; and practices in relation to placement for fostering and adoption has proven to be “very time consuming”.

The commission has already collected a “vast range” of material relating to 11 of the 14 institutions under investigation and is electronically scanning or photocopying the relevant records.

However, the report also reveals there is one institution for which records are “probably not available” and another whose records may be available but are “very difficult to extract from a larger collection of records”.

Orders for discovery have been served on the relevant religious congregations and State authorities. Extensive material has been provided but this process is not yet complete.

However, “significant gaps” exist in the material. The report states that the records of some of the various health authorities are proving “difficult to find” and it is “not clear if they have been lost or destroyed or simply that no one knows where they are”.

Meanwhile, Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone announced her intention to establish a collaborative forum to support former residents in developing solutions to the issues of concern to them. This will run in tandem with the investigation.

Ms Zappone also said that the Government has decided to invite the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, reparation, and guarantees of non-recurrence, Pablo deGreiff, to visit Ireland.

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