The Galway site where bodies of hundreds of babies and children were disposed off should be treated as a crime scene, opposition TDs demanded.
As the outpouring of shock and anger triggered by revelations surrounding events at a Tuam Bon Secours mothers and babies home dominated the political agenda, the Government was again accused of not acting with enough urgency.
Children’s Minister Charlie Flanagan said the Government would decide on what lines of investigation to mount before the end of the month, as he indicated that the probe would not be confined to Tuam.
Independent TD Catherine Murphy said “sanitised” language was being used to describe what had really happened at the Tuam mass grave containing the remains of 796 babies and children, put there between 1925-1961.
“We are hearing references to ‘burials’, when, in fact we are talking about bodies being disposed of in a septic tank,” said Ms Murphy, an Independent TD.
“Clearly, these were not respectful burials — they were disposals, as though these children were subhuman. It is stomach-churning.
“Tuam was not the only mother and baby home where this type of thing happened. If this septic tank was discovered anywhere else in the country other than beside a religious institution, it would already have been declared a crime scene.
“It begs the question of why, in fact, it has not been declared as such, which it should and must be.”
Ms Murphy also asked if drug trials had been carried out on some of the dead children in Tuam.
Sinn Féin’s Sandra McLellan called for a full independent inquiry into the events.
“We simply do not know how many of these mass graves might exist,” said Ms McLellan. “Church and State cannot be allowed to abdicate responsibility in this matter.”
Public Expenditure Reform Minister Brendan Howlin said the discovery of what happened in Tuam was “so shocking that it jarred everyone to their core”.
Mr Howlin side-stepped calls for a full inquiry, stating that nothing could be ruled out, and that an interdepartmental group had met and would report back to the Government in two weeks on how to proceed, and what should be investigated.
Mr Howlin said criminal investigations could follow if deemed appropriate. “It is shocking, unacceptable, and appalling, and we have to meet that in our time, as we have met other awfulness from our past,” Mr Howlin told the Dáil during Leaders Questions.
“Speaking on behalf of the Government, I am ruling nothing out as to how we should proceed.
“We are scoping out how far this went. Whether there are other locations we need to look at needs to be determined.”
In a later debate on the controversy, Independent TD Lucinda Creighton also called for a criminal investigation.
“I consider some of the remarks which have been attributed to An Garda Síochána, where they said that there was no suggestion of impropriety,” said Ms Creighton. “I think that was premature in the extreme, I think it was presumptuous, and I hope you have communicated that to An Garda Síochána.
“There is an abundance of evidence to suggest that there was impropriety and I think it is important there is also a Garda criminal investigation into activities there.”
Mr Flanagan said criminal proceedings were a matter for the Garda.
“The Garda Síochána is an independent State policing and investigative organisation,” Mr Flanagan said. “I do not direct it on matters of crime or seek to initiate criminal investigations.
“The force will be expected to exercise judgment with regard to alleged criminal activity in this case.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved