The President hopes the commission into mother and baby homes will “put the truth on the record”.
Describing as “horrifying” the revelation of a grave of more than 700 babies in the Tuam home, Michael D Higgins said “so many questions remain” around the treatment if the mothers and infants who were sent to and born in such institutions.
It came shortly before calls to to test another site in Tuam where the Bon Secours nuns, who ran the mother and baby home, ran a hospital. The HSE has been granted planning permission for a development at the old Grove Hospital, but families have claimed their children or siblings were buried there and have called for tests.
Earlier, at an event to mark International Women’s Day in Áras an Uachtaráin, President Higgins said: “The recent horrifying revelations of a mass grave of babies in Tuam, discovered as a result of the relentless work of local historian, Catherine Corless, is another necessary step in blowing open the locked doors of a hidden Ireland and we are challenged to consider how the reprehensible attitudes that were held towards so called unmarried women and so-called illegitimate babies came to be held.”
He praised Ms Corless for continuing to “ask the questions that are important if we are to face the truth of what prevailed and ensure the rightful question put by women who had direct experience of institutions, and the society they reflected, and their relatives too have questions that cannot be ignored”.
He added: “So many questions remain and I hope the commission of inquiry will serve to put the truth on the record in a way that respects the memory of these children, their families, and their mothers in particular.”
Separately Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin called on the Church to hand over its hospitals, schools and other properties to the State.
He said: “In my view any area in education or health, where fundamentally the State has made a large investment and continued to make the investment for over 30 or 40 years, when that comes to an end — the utilisation of that facility for those purposes — I think those facilities should then revert to the State.”
His comments follow calls from AAA-PBP TD Bríd Smith for the Bon Secours order to disband and give up the private hospitals they own to the State.
Mr Martin yesterday said: “All the hospitals in the State should be given over by the churches to the State.”
He added that handing schools over the State could also be considered.
“If we are all honest we can’t do everything, let’s at least take something positive out of this scandal and make sure priorities children in the next budget and the kind of services that I have outlined there,” he said.
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