Tusla silence on evidence of child graves

Tusla has refused to say if it informed the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of evidence it has held since 2003 that children from the Bessborough Mother and Baby Home were buried in unmarked graves as recently as 1990.

Last month, an Irish Examiner investigation discovered three grave plots in St Finbarr’s cemetery in Cork City which contain the remains of at least 21 children. Two of these graves are completely unmarked, while all three contain the remains of children from the Bessborough Mother and Baby Home.

One of the unmarked plots was purchased by the now- closed St Anne’s Adoption Society. It closed in 2003 and its records have been in the possession of the HSE, and now Tusla, since that time.

The details of 16 of the 21 deaths between 1957 and 1990 were confirmed by Tusla after it accessed the records.

The Irish Examiner asked Tusla whether or not any of this material was notified to the Mother and Baby Homes Commission previously, given that the material relates directly to its area of investigation. 

It declined to answer the question and was unable to provide any details on whether or not it had submitted or informed the commission of the records it held on these deaths, before the Irish Examiner raised the matter.

“Tusla Child and Family Agency is co-operating fully with the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes,” said a statement.

The Mother and Baby Homes Commission has been operational since 2015 and last month made a public call for information relating to the burials of a “large number” of children who died at the Bessborough Mother and Baby Homes between 1922 and 1998. It has declined to comment on the Irish Examiner revelations.

Despite St Anne’s Adoption Society having been a State-accredited adoption agency until its closure in 2003, the Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI) said it was “not aware” that a formerly accredited adoption agency had owned an unmarked grave containing remains of children who died as late as 1990.

The first of the three plots discovered in the Irish Examiner investigation is unmarked and was purchased by St Anne’s Adoption Society. 

It contains the remains of three girls and one boy. Their deaths occurred in 1979, 1983, 1988, and 1990.

In the case of the last burial in 1990, the child’s death certificate notes that while she died in St Finbarr’s Hospital in Cork, she was in the care of the nuns at Bessborough Mother and Baby Home. 

A birth entry for this child in this name could not be located.

The second plot belongs to the former St Patrick’s Orphanage run by the Mercy Sisters. It operated a nursery for St Anne’s Adoption Society, where children were kept until the society could arrange for an adoption to be contracted. 

There are a total of 16 children buried in this plot, their deaths occurring between 1957 and 1978.

This grave is marked but just one name is recorded — that of the final child buried in the plot. The other 15 children in the plot are not named.

Two of these children died in Bessborough in 1976 and 1978, while a third was born in Bessborough but died in St Finbarr’s Hospital.

The third plot is a non- perpetuity plot — indicating it is unowned. It holds the remains of at least one child who was in the care of Bessborough Mother and Baby Home.

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