Campaigners have called on the Government to start excavations at other mother and baby home sites after Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone said she is in favour of such a move.

The delay in moving the excavations to other sites has baffled campaigners given that ample evidence of large numbers of infant deaths having occurred in other institutions has been in State hands since 2011.

The Irish Examiner has previously revealed that the McAleese inquiry, the HSE, and two government departments were aware of the “disturbing” issue of infant deaths at Tuam as early as 2012.

The full details of almost 800 children who died in two of the country’s largest mother and baby homes — Bessborough, Cork City, and Castlepollard, Co Westmeath — were also given to the HSE by a religious order in 2011.

In a joint statement, the Adoption Rights Alliance and Justice For Magdalenes Research (JFMR) stressed that “Tuam is not an isolated case” and that it was aware of more than 180 institutions, agencies, and individuals involved with Ireland’s unmarried mothers and their children.

“Little is known of the conditions and practices — including burial practices and grave locations — of these institutions, most of which are not on the commission’s terms of reference,” they said. “Moreover, JFMR has consistently publicised the fact that many women who died in Magdalene laundries also remain unidentified and in unmarked graves.”

Paul Redmond of the Coalition of Mother and Baby home Survivors also hit out at the Government’s decision to view the issue of infant deaths only in terms of Tuam when it has been established that large number of children died in other institutions.

“Once again the minister has acted without the consultation she promised in the Dáil and on the record,” he said. “Minister Zappone has also ignored the basic fact that Tuam is only one of nine mother and baby homes and yet she continues to pretend the rest don’t exist and never mentions them.”

The Irish First Mothers group said the living also deserve the independent forensic examination which the current commission of investigation “failed to provide”.

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